January 30, 2005

What the Approval Ratings Look Like




(click on the image to see a larger version) A new poll showing the approval ratings of President Mesa (ind.), Evo Morales (MAS) and the government's, was released in recent days. This poll is conducted by Apoyo, for newspapers La Razon (La Paz), El Nuevo dia (Santa Cruz) and the TV network ATB.

According to the poll, Mr Mesa's national approval ratings has decreased from 56 per cent in December 2004 to 47 per cent in January 2005. Apparently, the drop is even more marked in the city of Santa Cruz, where his approval dropped from 36 per cent to 16 per cent in the same period. Notwithstanding, Mr Mesa retains a favorable rating within the four largest Bolivian cities (La Paz, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz and El Alto).

Among other interesting numbers, we can see the downward tendency of approval ratings of Evo Morales, leader of MAS and the Government in general.

Interesting set of numbers. Give it a read.


January 29, 2005

El Alto voices its opinion about the "Cabildo"

MABB is a registered TM.

After my weekly pondering hour (today's topic was: what do fish do when they are thirsty?), I decided to check email. I usually get regular reports from the Agencia de Prensa Altena through the news group Tribuna Boliviana.

Courtesy of the Agencia de Prensa Altena, here is the promulgation from the civic organizations of El Alto about the cabildo abierto in Santa Cruz.

The text is entirely in Spanish and eventually will be translated, if there is enough demand. Please, feel free to comment. But, remember, lets be civil and leave the hurras and insults out. :-)

Enjoy!





MANIFESTO DE LA ALTEÑIDAD
EL ALTO ESTA DISPUESTO A LUCHAR POR UNA BOLIVIA UNIDA, DIGNA
Y SOBERANA Y NO DE GAMONALES, LOGIAS NI OLIGARCAS

Los alteños que hemos sido protagonistas activos y consecuentes luchadores por la soberanía y la dignidad del país, en momentos en que una descarada arremetida de los gamonales, las logias y oligarcas que amasaron descomunales riquezas en base a la repartija de tierras, subvenciones del Estado y una inmisericorde explotación de los trabajadores, pretenden fraccionar el país a nombre de una supuesta autonomía, tenemos la elemental obligación de manifestar nuestra posición.

1.- LA ACTUAL BOLIVIA EN CRISIS, OBRA DE LOS GAMONALES.- La actual situación de crisis que vive el país, donde miles de bolivianos a lo ancho y largo del país vivimos sofocados por la más absoluta miseria y explotación, ahondada por el modelo neoliberal, no es más que la obra de los actuales gamonales, logias y oligarcas que gobernaron el país bajo el manto del Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionaria (MNR), Movimiento de la Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR), Acción Democrática Nacionalista (ADN), en complicidad con Unidad Cívica Solidaridad UCS), Nueva Fuerza Republicana (NFR) y el Movimiento Bolivia Libre (MBL)

Los alteños con la combatividad que nos caracteriza, señalamos con la más absoluta claridad que en los 23 años de vigencia de la actual democracia, los que gobernaron el país son las logias que ahora están incrustadas en el Comité Cívico Pro Santa Cruz. Los que ahora enarbolan la autonomía que se traduce en separatismo, como los Dabdoub, los Nayer, los Fernández, los Petricevic en fin todos los supuestos paladines de la denominada cruceñidad junto a Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, Hugo Banzer, Jaime Paz Zamora, Jhonny Fernández, fueron autores del descalabro económico que vive el país.

Debemos decir también, los oligarcas, logieros y gamonales en su condición de gobernantes sometidos incondicionalmente a las transnacionales que saquean nuestros recursos naturales, dirigieron la mayor parte de la economía del Estado hacia Santa Cruz. Ahora pretenden precipitar el separatismo en el país. En una palabra, pretender proteger la riqueza que amasaron a costa de la pobreza de las regiones y los recursos del Estado boliviano.

2.- LA DEFENSA DE LOS RECURSOS NATURALES Y LA DIGNIDAD.- En nuestro análisis, los ateños no podemos pasar por alto que nuestras luchas protagonizadas en las jornadas de Octubre han abierto una nueva correlación, donde El Alto se ha convertido en una las regiones que decide el rumbo político del país

Este nuevo escenario que ha ratificado y fortalecido la situación de El Alto por las jornadas de Enero, ha precipitado la petición de la autonomía de Santa Cruz incluso por encima de la integridad del país.

El separatismo que tiene rótulo de autonomía y que en última instancia está dirigido a poner a salvo las riquezas que amasaron los oligarcas de Santa Cruz a costa del saqueo de los recursos del Estado, las cuales se ven amenazados seriamente por los cambios sociales que comienzan a tener su centro en la ciudad de El Alto, a partir de la lucha por la defensa de los recursos naturales y la soberanía del país.

Sin embargo, es necesario también establecer que los prósperos empresarios cruceños y "palandines" de la autonomía y la lucha contra el centralismo altoperuanista, no tienen otro objetivo que la defensa de las trasnacionales, de las cuales reciben sus cuotas de ganancia a costa del saqueo de los recursos del país.

Por esta situación, los trabajadores y los pobladores de El Alto estamos dispuestos a luchar consecuentemente por la integridad del país en el marco de la defensa de los recursos naturales y la soberanía.

3.- APOYO A LA AUTONOMIA.- Los alteños que hemos protagonizado largas jornadas de lucha por nuestra autonomía, consecuente con esta aspiración apoyamos a los trabajadores y pueblos originarios de Santa Cruz. Sin embargo, exhortamos que esa lucha no puede ser encabezado por un puñado de oligarcas, cuyo objetivo más caro es seguir manteniendo sus privilegios e incrementar sus ganancias a costa de la pobreza y seguir permitiendo que las transnacionales sigan saqueando nuestros recursos naturales a través a las transnacionales.

La lucha por la autonomía conducida por los trabajadores y los pueblos originarios, a diferencia de la autonomía que propugnan los oligarcas, gamonales y logieros, no pasa por la creación de otro Estado donde se pretende subastar los hidrocarburos ni seguir monopolizando las extensas tierras a favor de un puñado de ricos.

Sin embargo, los alteños tenemos la esperanza de que rompiendo con ese aparato intimidatorio que ha montado la oligarquia cruceña para controlar la supuesta aspiración de Santa Cruz, nuestros hermanos del pueblo camba harán escuchar su verdadera voz.

4.- CONSPIRACIÓN OLIGARCA Y FASCISTA.- El sector que fue echado del Palacio de Gobierno junto a Sánchez de Lozada por la regia lucha de los alteños en octubre del 2003, bajo el rótulo de la autonomía, en los hechos han iniciado una conspiración contra el país, contra la defensa de los recursos naturales y la dignidad.

No otro nombre de conspiradores y separatistas deben ser nominados los logieros croatas, árabes, eslavos y turcos. Con el más hondo desprecio a los pueblos originarios, los Kukoc, Matkovic, Marinkovic, Teodovic, Petricevic, Garafulic, Dabdoub y otros nuevos oligaracas, pretenden construir su propio estado echando a los bolivianos.

5.- DEVOLUCIÓN DE LOS PRÉSTAMOS.- Por está razón, los alteños a tiempo de repudiar la actitud de los aligarcas, exigimos a los actuales gobernantes que al margen de echar del país a los conspiradores foráneos, inicie todas las acciones legales para que los supuestos prósperos empresarios de Santa Cruz paguen los préstamos que canalizaron a través del Estado.

6.- ASAMBLEA CONSTITUYENTE.- Los alteños no creemos que todos los problemas se resuelvan con la Asamblea Constituyente, sin embargo, como un espacio que permitirá que los pueblos originarios y las regiones del país logren responder a sus demandas, consideramos que se debe discutir en esa instancias, por lo que nos pronunciamos por la convocatoria inmediata de la Constituyente, donde se debe tratar la Autonomía.

7.- CUESTIONAMIENTO DE MESA.- Los alteños seguiremos cuestionando el gobierno del actual presidente de la República Carlos Mesa por las políticas antipopulares que ejecuta bajo su administración, como el decreto que dispone el alza del precio de los carburantes, lo que provocó articular a la oligarquía su plan de conspiración contra el Estado boliviano.

A tiempo de reafirmar que los alteños seguiremos luchando por un gobierno de obreros, campesinos y gente pobre de las ciudades, nos declaramos en emergencia en defensa del actual proceso democrático que ha sido conquistado con la sangre y sudor del pueblo boliviano.

Finalmente, exhortamos a los trabajadores, juntas vecinales y pueblos originarios a unirnos en un solo grito de combate para decir a los oligarcas que el pueblo boliviano no permitirá el separatismo.

¡Bolivia de Pie, Nunca de Rodillas!
¡Autonomía si, separatismo no!
¡Mueran las logias de los turcos, eslavos, croatas y árabes!
¡Viva el poder de los cambas, collas, chapacos, guaranis y quechuas!
¡Jallalla Bolivia.!

El Alto, 28 de enero de 2005

Central Obrera Regional de El Alto (COR)
Federación de Juntas Vecinales de El Alto (FEJEUVE)
Federación de Gremiales de El Alto
Federación de Padres de Familia (FEDEPAF)
Federación Unica de Trabajadores en Carne de El Alto (FUTECRA)
Federación Unica de Comunidades Agrarias de El Alto
Federación de Panificadores de El Alto


January 28, 2005

Santa Cruz's Town Hall

MABB is a registered TM.


Calling it a cabildo alegre, Ruben Costas, leader of the Civic Committee of Santa Cruz, declared victory as he was speaking to the, by some counts, 250,000 crucenos gathered at the Santa Cruz town hall.

Costas spoke of the right to Santa Cruz's autonomy. As I heard him speak through the live feed of Radio Activa, I heard him repeat numerous times the people of Santa Cruz wanted to make their own decisions and elect their own government. He also spoke of similar feelings in other regions of Bolivia (mainly Tarija, Pando, Beni). Costas also made it clear, he and the people he represents, do not like the idea that Evo Morales, one day, may become the president of Bolivia. In Costas words, Santa Cruz doesn't want to concentrate in growing coca (in their opinion for illegal purposes), but they want instead to concentrate in the production of goods and services.

But, in the end, he made it clear, as he asked the people gathered at the meeting, Santa Cruz wanted to make its own decisions, from now on. So, the main task of this town hall meeting was to form an Asamblea Provisional Autonomica (Provisional Autonomic Committee). This committee is supposed to continue the negotiations with the government and the coordination of the road to autonomy. Its task are defined as thus:

  • Continue seeking the implementation of the national referendum about autonomies
  • Coordinate the April 10 election of the new Prefect
  • Continue seeking the elimination of the Diesel and Gas decree 27959 denominated "dieselazo", which raised their prices

In the case that the government is not diligent enough implementing these demands, the Provisional Autonomic Committee will seek to implement them disregarding the central government. At least that is what the people answered yes to when Costas asked them the deciding questions.

According to press reports, though, the negotiations are well advanced and the results are favorable for Santa Cruz. The town hall seems to be just a formality and more like a celebration gathering. The government and the civic leadership have decided to go ahead with the national referendum on autonomies (NRA). The Deputy Chamber's Constitutional Committee has already presented a preliminary law convocating to the NRA. The government has already voiced its willingness to support the referendum. If everything goes to plan, Bolivians would be voting for the NRA the same day they would have to vote for the members of the Constitutional Assembly.

The central government also plans to facilitate the road to the election of the Prefect. President Mesa intends to pronounce a new decree legalizing this electoral process. The new Autonomic Committee, would prepare the legal aspects concerning the new powers of the newly elected head of regional government.

Where the path is not so clear is on the demand to abrogate the decree 27959 or diselazo. The government argues that there are a number of agreements with international organizations that make this demand difficult to abrogate. For the time being, the civic leaders got the government to reduce the price of diesel a further 2 cents of Boliviano.

Well, the cabildo having turned into more like a big party, than a political gathering, my take is, all the decisions have been made and Bolivia is on to uncharted waters. One thing is certain, though, Santa Cruz will get its wishes and will be, along with the rest of the departments, an autonomous region with in, what it look more and more as a Bolivian Federation, rather than a republic.

January 27, 2005

1000 Dollars for 1 Boliviano

MABB is a registered TM.

1000 Dollars for 1 Boliviano, that is the exchange rate during this week in Bolivia's Alasitas fair.

No, don't panic, everything is alright. The dollar has not devalued. It doesn't have anything to do with the US' humongous trade deficit, neither with its equally abysmal hole in the budget. It doesn't really have anything to do with foreign investors dumping US debt in exchange for Bolivian debt. Bolivia doesn't even have debt in the stock markets. The fact of the matter is, it doesn't have anything to do with the world markets at all. It is in a different market that this rate is prevalent.

The Alasitas fair, where the eye-popping exchange rate between the miniature paper dollars and real Bolivianos is being quoted, has opened on January 24, at twelve o'clock pm. Alasitas is a traditional arts and crafts fair where everything for sale is in miniature. You can find anything your heart desires and your imagination allows, from wash machines, buses, houses, toilets, to meat, eggs, and even miniature paper dollars. Of course, these dollars are not real and are not intended to defraud the FED. Don't worry, they are conspicuously fake.






Alasitas, which in Aymara means comprame (buy from me) has been celebrated since colonial times by the natives. Today, it has gradually grown to be the major miniature and real size arts and crafts fair in La Paz and in Bolivia. It is not known when Alasitas actually started being celebrated. We do know, that it is a celebration in honor of the Ekeko. This figure is the central object of the fair and represents "abundance" and "good fortune". According to local legend, if you want, for example, a car, you have to buy yourself a miniature car in Alasitas and have it blessed by the Aymara priests. If you do that, you will be able to buy the car you want, in the course of the year. That is why the Ekeko, a short, chubby and rosy-cheeked man, carries every desirable object possible on his back as well as his chest (click on the photo).




Come January 24, Bolivians and now also tourists from all over the world, come together to experience this unique fair in the hear of La Paz.

Note
Miguel Centellas, who authors Ciao!, has mentioned to me he also wrote an interesting piece about his experience in Alasitas 2003. Here is the link. He has great pictures. Thanks for sharing Miguel.

Note:The photos are borrowed from Bolivia.com

January 25, 2005

Would Anybody Like to be in Mesa's Shoes?

MABB is a registered TM.

Would anybody like to be in Mesa's shoes for just five minutes? Wow, it must be very hot under that collar.

Mr Mesa, not only has to deal with the possible unilateral pronunciation of a new government for Santa Cruz, but there is also the possibility of a confrontation between groups in Unduavi, Yungas.

Talking about tight spots, President Mesa is and has been in one, since a long time. The Santa Cruz problem does not seem to go away. Instead it seems to get bigger and bigger. This Friday, the comite civico de Santa Cruz called for a town hall meeting, where it's supposed to appoint a new regional government for Santa Cruz. I guess I don't need to highlight that this is bad news for Mesa, right?

However, negotiations, conversations, meetings, etc., still go on, trying to de-escalate the conflict. Although, Mesa has gain much strength, due to the secession fears. Several of his former "contenders" (FEJUVE, for example), publicly stated they support his presidency and the Bolivian democratic process. I can't tell you how much of a relief it is to hear this. For a minute there I thought these "social movements" had something against democracy.

While the Santa Cruz problems boils to the point of evaporation, Mesa has another problem to take care of. As if he did not have enough with this one. It turns out that the coca growers in the Yungas region, started a road blockade to stop the government building a military base to control the production of coca, under the drug and coca control program backed by the US government. Everything was normal. The coca growers were blocking the roads (the only way to get to Yungas) and the government was trying to negotiate a solution.

The problem worsened when the inhabitants of the towns, which were inaccessible due to the road blocks, got tired of waiting and decided to do something about it, with any means necessary. Now, they have threatened to lift the blockades with force and have given a dead line.

If the government does not solve this problem fast, it is highly probable this will end in blood shed.

Stay tuned to see what happens next.

January 24, 2005

Back Online

MABB is a registered TM.

Hi, everybody, it's been a long time. I have been off-line since Friday last week. There was a blockage on the DSL lines in the entire Hamburg region. I also want to take this opportunity to thank the Deutsche Telekom for the terrific job they are doing. Really, I am paying lots of €€€€€'s to get top of the line service and they are really delivering.....hm!

Well, now that I am vent out, to better things.

Lots of thanks to El Forastero for including me in his article about Bolivian bitacoras (blogs).

Boy, what a difference two days make. I almost missed the apparent disintegration of the country I was born. Let's see if it comes to that coming next Friday. This is getting really exciting. Will the comite civico push Santa Cruz into a unilateral secession or will they stop short of that? Will the government prostrate to Santa Cruz's feet or will it regain composure and pride and play the ultimate card?

Hold on to your seat, it'll be rocky.

January 19, 2005

Bolivia, From Evo's Eyes

MABB is a registered TM.

by Miguel A. Buitrago

Evo Morales, the leader of the self-defined center-left main opposition political party, Movement Towards Socialism (MAS); one of the protagonist of the many protests, blockades and confrontations used by the so called social movements in Bolivia; and one of the main contenders for the presidency of Bolivia, has a unique vision for Bolivia. What that vision is? We explore it in the following paragraphs.

The MAS has become one of the most important political parties in Bolivia. In 2000, along with Evo Morales, candidate for president, MAS got 20 percent of the national vote. Almost achieving the ultimate victory. So close it was, that the US government felt the need to intervene by way of its ambassador. The then US Ambassador in Bolivia, Mr Rocha, commented in the news that if Evo was to get elected, the US would not see it as a positive development and most probably such an outcome would affect the financial aid Bolivia receives from the US Government.

Well, Evo was not elected, but Sanchez de Lozada was. However, in this historical elections, MAS displaced the more traditional parties like MIR (Revolutionary Left Movement) and ADN (Nationalist Democratic Action), Hugo Banzer Suarez's party, sending them into an identity crisis, which remains alive to this day. Evo's party, as Evo himself, are a recent phenomenon, which is still somewhat of a mystery for everybody.

In the hope to understand more this phenomenon, I take a look into the party's history, significance, background and agenda.

Significance

MAS' flag is made up of Blue, White and black, with the acronym of the party at the center. According to the description on some websites built by sympathizers or members of the party, the blue comes from the word blue in Aymara, larama, which means he who is wise and rebel. In Aymara communities, the laramas used to dress in blue and according to legend, they selflessly worked for the communities. White, according to Aymara culture, represents purity, perfection, cleanliness,transparency and clarity. Black represents energy and power. According to EvoMorales.net, black is not the selfish, destructive, exclusive power of western culture men, but the power to be able to do what the community dictates, to be in harmony with nature and power to do what the wise men in the community say.

Ideology

Since there are no direct sources I could find to draw the MAS' ideology, I draw heavily on other sources which are directly or indirectly related to the party. The Movement's ideological currents emanate directly from the indigenous cultures, with a doses of Marxist/Leninist and even Trotskyist influences. As described in the History section of this article, the political party MAS emerges from two sources. One is the desire to create a, so called, political instrument, by the diverse social movements in the Andean and Chapare region. The other is the Coca Growers Union of Chapare where Evo was the leader. In fact, the origins of MAS can be traced to the emergence of these social movements as they organize themselves and grow in political muscle. The social movements, which comprise of civic, neighborhood, small businesses, social and other kinds of groups, originate from the traditional unions of workers, which in the Bolivian case, not only identify themselves with the blue collar workers (miners, factory workers, and so on) but also with peasant workers and the marginalized indigenous population to which these workers are closely tied. In addition, these movements and the unions have a long tradition and are heavily influenced by Katarismo, which basically refers to one of the first indigenous leaders, Tupac Katari, who led a rebellion in the 18th century, when he closed off the city of La Paz and almost starved its citizens, to fight for the rights of the indigenous peoples.

It is from these social movements that MAS and Evo draw their strength as political party. Its ideology can be characterized as nationalist and socialist. A peculiar mix which innevitably remind us of another time in history. But, the MAS' version has a heavy indigenous character. Primarily, their struggle is one against the exploitation and abuse of indigenous peoples and for the regaining control and ownership of what they call their land. Their struggle is also one of fighting racism, exclusion and domination at the hands of, what they call a, q'ara or blancoide (semi-white) corrupt elite. One other strong current within the party is their anti-capitalist and even more anti-US position. The MAS is against everything the capitalist world is for: globalization, privatization, liberalization, free trade, neo-liberal policies, etc. Another aspect of their ideology is that their concept of nation is not the traditional western concept of nation state. For Evo and the MAS, the nation state resembles and in fact is based on the organization of the ancient Aymara and Quechua state, where Ayllus (communities) play a basic role. The symbolism used is distinctly indigenous (Aymara and Quechua). The main symbol is the flag or wiphala. This is a flag which carries traditionally Andean colors.

A Brief History

According to Antonio Peredo, who is one of the co-founders, the Movement Towards Socialism party, comes alive sometime in 1995 during the peasant union congress First Congress of Land and Territory. In this congress, representatives of communities, mainly from the Bolivian Altiplano, come together to create the Assembly for the Peoples Sovereignty (ASP). At the same time, the discussions at the congress, make it clear that the "communities" needed what they called a "political instrument". This instrument was going to give them a tool with which to further their cause within the Bolivian political system. This political instrument is to be called Movement Towards Socialism.

The party was actually already in existence and registered as a political party. The leader of this party was a former military officer and renegade member of the neo-fascist Falange Socialista Boliviana (FSB), Lucio Anes. He lets Morales and Peredo take the lead of the party and transform it into the political instrument the indigenous communities in Cochabamba were looking for.

Morales was already elected to congress as member of United Left and was known as the leader of the Coca Growers Union from the Chapare region. But, he was unhappy with his party allegiance. According to Peredo, he did not feel comfortable representing the party's interests. Morales immediately took the leadership of the new party and forged it into his own.

In April 2000 Morales and the MAS were key protagonists in the Cochabamba Water War. Notwithstanding though, the leading role of the Coordinadora del Agua, Morales took the opportunity to participate as a protagonist. This war started when in September 1999 the Bolivian Government passed a law prohibiting citizens to tap water from where they previously got it for free and in October of the same year it signed a contract with a private company (Aguas de Tunari) to develop a mega project and take over the distribution of drinking water, which, it was said, it would result in significant price increases. As a result, by the end of the conflict, there were massive demonstrations (about 50,000 people) and a score of wounded and dead people. In the end, the law was repealed and the company was expelled out of Cochabamba. This conflict, served to launch Evo to prominence. He did not waist opportunity to attribute himself the favorable outcome of the conflict. If there was a political winner out of the Water War, Evo was the one.

But, if there was an event which propelled Evo to prominence (nationally and internationally) and made people realize that there was real a chance for an indigenous Aymara (not US educated) to become the president of Bolivia, it was the presidential elections in June 2002. In them, Evo surprised the world and the traditional political parties in Bolivia by getting 20 percent of the national vote, displacing political heavy weights like Jaime Paz Zamora (MIR) and Manfred Reyes Villa (NFR). Evo ended up facing off Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada (MNR) in the second round in parliament. Sanchez de Lozada won and became president later that year, but Evo won as well, because he had achieved what no other indigenous leader had achieved up to then. He put his name at the top of the list of candidates with a real chance to become the next president of Bolivia. To this day he remains at the top of this list.

The events occurred in September and October 2003 known as the Gas War contributed further to the establishment of Evo's name as a legitimate leader and voice of the indigenous population. The Gas War, which once again brutally confronted the indigenous population against government forces and the Government of Bolivia itself, started as a protest to demand the freeing of the leader of a small community in el altiplano accused of taking the law on his own hands. But, thanks to government repression, it quickly escalated into other demands including, not to sell the Bolivian gas through a Chilean port, which was being planned at the time. The plans were already drawn by the government and the private companies. In Cochabamba Evo, once again, took a protagonist role organizing demonstrations and marches to ask not only the nationalization of the natural resources, not selling the gas through a Chilean port, but also to ask for the resignation of President Sanchez de Lozada. The conflict took a turn for the worst after armed confrontations between the police and protestors left almost 80 people dead, mostly civilians. Trapped between the wall and the sword, Sanchez de Lozada decides to resign and leave power to his second in command, Carlos Mesa. Meanwhile, Evo is seen as a key player in Sanchez de Lozada's dismissal and thus a champion of the people's cause.

The Party's Agenda

The party's agenda derives from leftist ideology mixed with indigenous history, culture and tradition. This mixture allows Morales to develop his own brand of politics and thus appeal to voters across traditional political barriers, which traditional political parties could only dream about doing. The main objective of the party seems to stem from the fact that it was created by a grand coalition of "communities", rather than groups with similar political ideas. The underlying idea is to recover Bolivia, or the traditional land of the indigenous people living in it, for the original inhabitants of such land (the Aymaras, Quechuas and Guaranies). That is what various documents drafted as a result of the ASP highlight. Morales himself expresses this desire in an interview in December 2, 2003 (Legalizing the Colonization of the Americas By Benjamin Dangl, Cochabamba, Bolivia).

"After more than 500 years, we, the Quechuas and Aymaras, are still the rightful owners of this land. We, the indigenous people, after 500 years of resistance, are retaking the power. This action is oriented towards the
recovery of our own riches, our own natural resources such as the hydrocarbons. This affects the interests of the transnational corporations and the interests of the neoliberal system. Nevertheless, I am convinced that the power of the people is increasing and strengthening. This power is changing presidents, economic models and politics. We are convinced that capitalism is the enemy of the earth, of humanity and of culture. The US government does not understand our way of life and our philosophy. But we will defend our proposals, our way of life and our demands with the participation of the Bolivian people."


Among the key points of the MAS' programme we can highlight the following:

  • To change the economic model
  • Recuperate the mineral resources (hydrocarbons)
  • Industrialization of Natural Gas
  • Debt moratorium and/or condonation of the debt
  • Reverse privatization process
  • Constituent Assembly to re-write the constitution and change the system to an Aymara, Quechua, Guarani system of Ayllus and communities
  • Land redistribution

One other source lists the programs as follows: Since early 2001, Morales and the MAS have campaigned across Bolivia for the June 30 presidential election. The MAS platform included: the nationalization of strategic industries; price reductions and a price freeze on household goods; the provision of basic services for all; defense of free public health and education; increased taxes for the rich; an end to corruption; the redistribution of land to those that work it; a new political apparatus; an end to neo-liberal economic policies; and opposition to a “flexible” work force.

Bolivia as Evo Sees it

So, if Evo Morales did raise to the presidential office, the world would come to know a very different Bolivia. Evo's Bolivia would first of all be, in pure scientific sense, an interesting experiment. We would see a Bolivia built by indigenous people, for indigenous people.

According to what Evo says, Bolivia, first would change its economic and political system. So far, we know, the economic system would definitely not be of capitalist nature and much less would it follow neo-liberal economic policies. Instead, it would be an economically centralized state, which would own, at the very least, the exploration, extraction, production, distribution and export of the natural gas resources. Stemming from this line of industrial ownership, we could find, and here
is just pure speculation, more related industries. That we don't really know. Building such a mammoth industrial conglomerate is hard enough. But, since one of Evo's goals is to industrialize natural gas, and assuming he has plans to not just produce natural gas, we could allow ourselves to assume he will attempt to produce gas derived products.

On the debt, Evo is even more aggressive. It seems he wants to declare a moratorium and renegotiate the debt with Bolivia's creditors. He may even try to negotiate the condonation of the debt.

Here is a quote from Evo speaking about how to solve the economic crisis in Bolivia:
"Necesitamos seis mil millones de dólares. La única forma de resolver la crisis económica de Bolivia es hacer un nuevo polo de desarrollo en base a la industrialización del gas. En este sentido, estos expertos dicen que es importante que las Naciones Unidas aporten 500 millones de dólares para empezar a hacerlo."

The translation: "We need 6 billion dollars. The only way to solve the Bolivian economic crisis industrialize the natural gas. On this topic, our experts say it is important that the United Nations contribute with 500 million dollars to start."

It's in the political arena where the fog sets down and Evo's plans get murkier. So far, he has not laid out a plan of how Bolivia would look like politically if he were president. We know he has repeatedly said he wants to go back to the basic Aymara system, where the basic political division is the Ayllu. The Ayllu is a community based unit in which Aymaras have lived for centuries. However, questions remain about how democratic this state would be? And what would be the fate of the branches of government. These are certainly intriguing questions and for some, outright scary.

Another thing we know is that the privatization process would be reversed. So, we would probably see the revival of the National Airline Company (LAB), the National Railway Company (ENFE), the Bolivian Mine Company (COMIBOL), The National Electrical Company and the National Telecommunications Company (ENTEL).

As for Evo's foreign policy, it looks like he will be making many enemies around the world. If not outright enemies, at least non-friendly nations. We can be sure, if all of this carries on, the first country to strain relations would be the US. Given that it was the US who, in a very public way, warned Bolivians not to elect Evo, or else..... We can also pretty much assume all the other nations with economic interests in Bolivia would not be very friendly to an Evo government. What is interesting though, is to think, what countries would be willing to forge ties with Evo. At the moment I have to thing of Hugo Chavez, whom, I think, would be eager to gain one more friend within the region. Although, I would tend to say that he would probably misjudge Evo. It is somewhat fun to think of other countries willing to forge ties with Evo. One such country could be, North Korea (perhaps). But, this is just pure speculation, as I don't know much about North Korea. Another country that I think would be interested to increase its ties with Bolivia is China. The Chinese government is currently in an aggressive drive to try to gain access to primary resources, which it needs desperately. Even now, we can see the Chinese government pursuing this policy. Besides, we also know that the Chinese government has approached Evo in order to start some kind of relationship.

Lastly, Evo's land redistribution would be, to say the least, problematic. This policy, if carried out, would devolve the ownership of the territory to the indigenous people living in the rural areas of Bolivia. What about the current owners? What would they say about it? More importantly, what would they do? That is yet to be seen. For the moment, Morales has declared that if the demands of the MAS supporters are not seriously addressed by the next president and parliament, then they will be won on the streets. However, the MAS wants to exhaust all peaceful methods before resorting to mass action.

The resources consulted for this article.

http://www.counterpunch.org/dangl12022003.html
http://www.prensarural.org/bolivia20031027.htm
http://www.po.org.ar/po/po764/bolivia.htm
http://www.angelfire.com/rnb/17m/Bolivia/comosurgioMAS.html
http://www.evomorales.net/
http://www.aymara.org/index.php?subaction=showfull&id=
1102339701&archive=&start_from=&ucat=5&
http://www.cedib.org/dac/?module=displaystory&story_id=13594&format=html
http://www.monografias.com/trabajos16/guerra-gas-bolivia/guerra-gas-bolivia.shtml
http://www.cne.org.bo/proces_electoral/marcos.aspx?var1=
subizquierdaTot&var2=generales/elec_gral2002/indice
http://www.bolivia.com/especiales2002/elecciones/
http://www.nadir.org/nadir/initiativ/agp/free/imf/bolivia/txt/
2002/0712analisis_elecciones.htm
http://bolivia.indymedia.org/es/2003/04/1233.shtml
http://www.cedib.org/pcedib/?module=displaysection&section_id=
131&format=html

January 16, 2005

The Bolivia Conflict: Looking Beyond

MABB is a registered TM.

As a matter of short commentary, taking into account last week's events, one cannot help but thinking what will the effects be on the whole region. We have, a water services company, daughter firm of a transnational company, being ejected by social and civic organizations because they thought the company was not meeting the needs of the citizens.

Aguas del Illimani, servicing the cities of La Paz and El Alto, was driven-out by protests organized by civic and social organizations. All they had to do was to pressure the government into canceling the contract binding the company and the government.

The precedent is already set. People just have to organize themselves in social and civic organizations and stage protests, block roads, march through the street and the like, and eventually the government will have to listen and do what the protestors ask. It's a dangerous game, but it can be played.

The tactic is not new, but now it is being used with much more lethality. Regional coordination is much better than before and this factor brings a specially dangerous element to these measures.

One question arises. Can or will similar events arise in other parts of Latin America? Places like Ecuador, Peru, or Argentina?

Theoretically, the same tactics can be applied in any other country. We have even seen them in Seattle. Not many conditions are needed. We have already seen protests of a similar nature in the countries mentioned. The novel idea is to use these tactics against transnational corporations. Surely the anti-globalization movement must be observing events in Bolivia with a keen eye. All they need is organization and coordination.

Argentina, Ecuador, Peru, Seattle, watch out!

January 14, 2005

Bolivian Political Crisis: Round Two

MABB is a registered TM.

To the relief of president Mesa, FEJUVE and its member organizations in El Alto called a recess to their general strike, which achieved the expulsion of the water services company, Aguas del Illimani. An 18 point list conditions the recess, calling for, among other things, the industrialization of the gas reserves, the nationalization of the natural reserves, fight against corruption and better life conditions in El Alto, the 20 provinces and the rest of the country.

Meanwhile, in Santa Cruz the Asamblea de la Crucenidad, surprisingly, decided to give president Mesa time until midnight, Monday 17. Their main demand is the annulment of the decree ending gas and diesel subsidies. If the government does not attend this demand, new movilizations, marches, vigils and cacerolazos (marches with pots) will follow and they will also move ahead with the autonomy demand, by carrying on a referendum about autonomy next April 10. In the mean time, various leaders of the neighborhood associations have started a hunger strike.

The government is desperately trying to negotiate a way out, but to no avail. Government officials, in the name of Mesa, repeated the administration will not repeal the gazolinazo (end of gas and diesel subsidies), but instead they offered negotiations with an agenda to talk about autonomy, economic reactivation, social issues and land property rights.

The end result is as follows:

The government is still in deep ..............waters!
The cruceno movement won't talk until the government reinstates the subsidies.
And, El Alto, well, El Alto is just celebrating its victory over Aguas del Illimani.

January 13, 2005

Asamblea de la Cruceñidad

MABB is a registered TM.

The trouble in El Alto behind him, Mesa now is set to confront his other serious problem, the Asamblea de la Cruceñidad. The cruceños are claiming victory for the success of the 48 hour general strike. However, they are gearing towards radicalization of their demands. It seems "unnamed groups" within the Civic Committee are calling to start autonomic measures and the more radical groups are calling for Mesa's resignation.

I say, if the cruceños want autonomy, let them have it. If they want secession, the government of Bolivia should speed up the process. With brothers like that, who needs enemies. While they're at it, they should start secession talks with El Alto too. ;-) But seriously, the question here is autonomy and not secession, as many are saying.

If you are interested to partake in the debate, I invite you to read two interesting blogs. Arguing the pros and cons of the cruceño argument is Ciao!, and the other side of the coin is argued by Barrio Flores. These two bloggers (Miguel C. and Eduardo) show the two sides of the argument in an interesting light.

Is secession even possible in Bolivia?

Is secession a viable option for Bolivia?

What are the different sectors saying about the problem?

Who is right and who is wrong?

Meanwhile, we have the Bolivian Government trying to establish communication with the leaders of the cruceño Civic Committee. That is, to follow a suggestion by these leaders to create a committee with representatives of all social sectors around Bolivia and come to an accord to (as they say it) "save Bolivia".

On the contrary, in Santa Cruz, it seems that the decisions are already made and the cruceños are getting ready to radicalize their actions and demand the resignation of the whole presidential cabinet, start taking steps to create an autonomous government and keep up the pressure on Mesa.

We'll know after 19:00 hours (local time). That is when the Asamblea de la Cruceñidad is said to start deliberation and thereafter we'll know the official decisions.

As usual, stay tuned!

January 12, 2005

Mesa Caves In and The Patriots in El Alto Want More

MABB is a registered TM.

Well, it's official. Aguas del Illimani (AISA) will lose its contract and will be leaving.

Mesa accepted the demands of the Altenos and said the government will cancel AISA's contract. He also promised the Altenos more incentives for El Alto. These include, tax breaks, investment incentives, and compensations for certain groups.

Notwithstanding the government's efforts to stop these demands, the groups in El Alto, led by FEJUVE (Neighborhood Juntas Federation), want more. They are demanding the government issue a decree canceling AISA's contract and that the company leave El Alto, NOW!

Mesa is actually thinking on doing so.

I am not sure how long can the government keep meeting all these demands, just to appease these groups and still have some power to govern.

Let's see if this problem gets deflated. The next one is just around the corner. That is the groups demanding Mesa stepping down as president. Let's see if Mesa is willing to meet this demand.

In my opinion, if pressed long enough, it looks as though, he will.

January 11, 2005

Update: Bolivia in Crisis

MABB is a registered TM.

According to a reliable source in La Paz (gracias Ana), the government rescinded the contract with Aguas del Illimani, the water company servicing La Paz and El Alto and at the center of the conflict in El Alto.

The company threatened to seek damages of up to US$60 million in international courts from the Government of Bolivia.

Alteños (people who live in El Alto) wanted the company to leave the city because they thought it was not fulfilling its duties. According to reports, there were still more than 40 thousand households without water in El Alto.

It is clear now, the government will make more concessions to appease the rage of the "people" (in El Alto, at least).

Stay tuned!

Protests in Bolivia





Yesterday's protests and confrontations in El Alto and Santa Cruz. These images were taken by APA (El Alto Press Agency).

January 10, 2005

Commotion in Bolivia: General Strike and Protests

MABB is a registered TM.


These are images of today's marches in El Alto. (click to see bigger)



In preparation to a wave of demonstrations from the different civic and social organizations, equal to a tornado with hurricane winds, president Mesa cancelled his usual cabinet meeting on Friday, and instead he held a meeting to asses the current political situation. The results were a two-fold approach to the conflict. First, to continue looking for dialog, and second, to confront the main conflicting parties suggesting they had hidden interests to destabilize the government.

Moreover, on Sunday evening he spoke to the nation. His message was direct: There are certain dark forces (the leaders of the social movements of Santa Cruz and El Alto), which have an interest in destabilizing the government to further their own agenda. These groups have radical positions and want my government to leave power. To all the people in the nation, he said, don't come out to support these interest groups. To the conflicting groups, he said, if you want to change the line of government, win elections. (paraphrasing here)

Meanwhile, the groups have started already their attack. Here is an agenda of what's happening today (Monday).

Central Obrera Boliviana (COB)(Bolivian Labor Union) - National labor strike for 24 hours. Demonstrations and marches throughout the city of La Paz.

Federación de Juntas Vecinales de El Alto (FEJUVE) (Neighborhood Federation of El Alto) - General strike for indefinite time. Street and roads blockades.

Federación Sindical de Trabajadores Mineros de Bolivia (Bolivian Miners' Union) - 24 hours strike and street and roads blockades around their districts.

Confederación de Jubilados y Rentistas de Bolivia (Bolivian Retirees Association) - Protest at 10 am in the San Francisco square, La Paz.

Sindicato de Gremiales de La Paz (Street Vendors Union La Paz) - manifestation and protest in La Paz from 10 am.

Movimiento Sin Tierra (Movement Without Land) - Protests and blockades in the national territory and occupation of land in different places around the country.

Confederación Sindical de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia (CSTCB) (Bolivian Peasant Worker's Union) - Movilizations, road blockades, stop delivering agricultural products to all the cities.

Productores Cocaleros de los Yungas (Yungas Coca Producers) - Movilizations and road blockades.

Central Obrera Departamental La Paz (COD La Paz) (Central Workers' Union) - 24 hour general strike and street and road blockades. Protest and march in La Paz, starting at 14:30.

COD Oruro - 24 hour general strike and street and road blockades. Protest and march in Oruro, starting at 14:30.

COD Potosí - 24 hour general strike and street and road blockades. Protest and march in Potosí, starting at 14:30.

COD Chuquisaca - Protest and march in Sucre, starting at 15:30.

COD Cochabamba - 24 hour general strike. Protest and march in Cochabamba, starting at 10 am.

COD Pando - 24 hour general strike.

Transportistas de Santa Cruz (Transport Workers of Santa Cruz) - Continuation of indefinite strike.

Additionally, the Comité Pro Santa Cruz, has decided to stage a general strike on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

Some reports I have been getting from sources in Bolivia have been conflicting. Some sources say that the general strike in El Alto is total. The spokes person of the transport workers, says they are not asking for Mesa to leave, but for solutions. The strikes called in La Paz, Cochabamba and Potosí by the Workers' Union are reported to be half-hearted. In Santa Cruz, the leaders are still reacting to Mesa's speech.

However, there are still the marches in to La Paz to account for.

Some other sources (friends) have told me there are some people who are burning wheels and are trying to start some trouble.

At the moment, what I can gather, the conflicting parties are still negotiating. One of the solutions for the conflict in El Alto (the most radical area) would be the cancellation of the contract with the water company, Aguas del Illimani. The only problem is that if the contract is cancelled and the company is kicked out of El Alto, the action will also seriously affect the city of La Paz.

But, I say it again, the negotiations continue, as well as the protests.

Stay tuned.

For more coverage, also see Barrio Flores.

January 06, 2005

Conflict Update

MABB is a registered TM.

El Alto: protagonist again of a new "Gas and Fuel War"?

The different activist organizations in El Alto, which played a protagonist role in the "War of Gas" in 2003, are, once again, readying to stage another war.

The leaders of the Federación de Juntas Vecinales (Fejuve), Federación de Trabajadores Campesinos de La Paz Túpaj Katari (La Paz's Worker's Federation), Cámara de Transporte Pesado de El Alto (Heavy Transport Chamber El Alto), Federación de Transporte Interprovincial (Inter-province Transport Federation), Federación de Gremiales (Small Business Federation), Central Obrera Regional (COR El Alto) y la Organización de Mujeres Campesinas "Bartolina Sisa" (Peasant Women's Organization), announced the signing of a pact, which will start a new war against the Bolivian Government dubbed "Diesel and Water War".

The demands are:

1.- To reverse the high prices of fuel and diesel.

2.- Expulsion of Aguas del Illimani, the water company servicing El Alto. The reason given is: the company's services were deficient in El Alto.

3.- No to the immunity of US citizens.

4.- installation of gas lines to private homes.

5.- Jail for Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada and his cabinet for genocide.

other demands include: The immediate approval of the new Hydrocarbons Law, re-creation of the capitalized state companies (ENTEL, ENFE, YPFB, etc.), the nationalization of the hydrocarbons and threats to unseat the current president Mesa, the same way Sanchez de Lozada was unseated.

Measures to be taken:

Friday Morning: Protest in the streets; road blockades.

Monday, January 10: Indefinite general strike.

Monday, January 17: March on the streets into La Paz. Enclose government building and form a human carpet.

Bolivia Unrest Starts Early On

MABB is a registered TM.

As a result of the step taken by the Government of Bolivia (GOB), on December 31, to end the subsidies to gas and diesel, social unrest has sprung again and is in the process of spreading, triggering an endless call for paros and demostraciones by the different civic and social organizations.

The elimination of the subsidy has effectively raised prices, not only for gas and diesel, but also for products like bread, milk, meat, etc. As a result, the entire population has felt the effects of the GOB's actions. That is not good.

As it was to be expected, the civic and social organizations took the opportunity to, once again, be the protagonists and fight against these injustice.

The latest count stands like this:
  1. Members of congress from the MNR, MAS, NFR and others, are seeking explanations from Mesa and his economic team. They want to know, why were the subsides not renewed.
  2. Santa Cruz's Central Obrera Departamental (Central Worker's Union), organized a demonstration, which ended in confrontation with the police.
  3. The National Driver's Union staged a general strike, which was not followed in the entire national territory, the way it was intended.
  4. The Bolivian Central Worker's Union (Central Obrera Boliviana) called for a strike on January 10.
  5. The organization representing street sellers and small businesses, Departmental Federation of Minor-business-people, also called for a demonstration against the raise in prices.
  6. The teacher's union in various departments is considering delaying the start of the school year in protest.
  7. The FEJUVE, El Alto's Federacion de Juntas Vecinales (Federation of Neighborhood Organizations), decided to call for an indefinite general strike to, among other things, expel Aguas del Illimani (the water company) out of El Alto.


Let's see how ugly it gets. The next two weeks will be very interesting. Depending on how the GOB responds and what actions it uses, we'll see if it stays in power or not. Personally, I am kind of hoping Mesa rides this out. I would very much like to see how he deals with the Constituent Assembly.

January 04, 2005

Back and ready to start 2005

Hi everybody!

Well, I'm back and ready to start 2005. In fact I have already started. I had an unusual Monday. Very busy. If the year starts like that, it's going to be a busy year.

I am posting some pictures from my little vacation in Munich (München). I spent the New Year there. It was a blast. Big town, lots to look at, very little time. But, we managed to go around. The highlight was Starnberger See, where we had a chance to take a peek at the Alps. It was surprisingly easy to get there. We took public transportation only. It wasn't far either. The view was astonishing. Looking at the Alps took me back to Bolivia, a little. Well, enjoy the pictures. The first three pictures show the New Townhall building (scroll down) and some details of the towers and the front façade. The next picture shows the famous Hof Brauerei (Brewery). That is where all the tourists sit in a huge hall, drink beer and sing silly Bavarian drinking songs (and perhaps wear the even sillier leather pants). The last two pictures show the astonishing views at the Starnberger Lake.








I hope you all had a fun New Year's eve and are ready for 2005.