May 31, 2005

Musical Meme

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As I visited my good blogger friend Almada de Noche, I found myself the recipient of what he called a meme. As I was given the task and is kind of fun, I will follow the chain.

Here we go:

Who gave it to me: Almada de Noche

Total volume of music files in my PC: I am not sure I want to share this info online. :-D But, here we go - 2gb.

Last CD I bought: Sevillanas: Pa'l Rocio. I bought this in Nerja, Spain.

Which song I'm currently listening (over and over again): U2 - All because of you.

Five songs I listen all the time and have some significance for me:

Since I cannot do this, because I have just a diverse music taste, I will list the songs I have been listening lately.

1. U2 - All because of you.
2. U2 - Vertigo.
3. Luis Miguel - Amarte es un placer.
4. Queen - Bohemian rapsody.
5. Carlos Gardel - Adios muchachos.

Five people to which I pass the task:

1. Barrio Flores
2. Ciao!
3. Motivando
4. Open Veins
5. Revision de todo un poco

Let's see who decides to do it. I thought it was fun, but at the same time very hard. It was hard to decide about the songs I listened more and have significance for me. Just to clarify, there are just too many songs which have some significance for me. I could not even attempt to pick only five.

Deep Throat Revealed

Name: Mark Felt
Occupation: FBI agent
A.K.A: Deep Throat






MABB could not pass this historic opportunity and report based on Yahoo and the Washington Post's reports that a former FBI official (the second in command), Mark Felt (91), is claiming on an interview with Vanity Fair, that he is the most sought after informant in US history, Deep Throat.

Deep throat was the unnammed source of the then Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, who dennounced the Watergate affair, which brought the Nixon administration to a shameful end.

According to the Washington Post, the family of Felt said:


"The family believes my grandfather, Mark Felt Sr., is a great American hero who went well above and beyond the call of duty at much risk to himself to save his country from a horrible injustice," a family statement read by grandson Nick Jones said. "We all sincerely hope the country will see him this way as well."

As when asked about the report, Bernstein said,

"We've said all along that when the source, known as Deep Throat, dies, we will reveal his identity. Beyond that, when there have been articles, books, speculations, classes of university journalism students, ... we've always said the same thing. That we're not going to say anything because we have an obligation to all our sources, to whom we gave our word that they will remain confidential, including Deep Throat, until their deaths."

In the photo above, you can see the hotel room from which the Nixon people were observing and listening their political adversaries, the democrats.

The sources of the photos as well as the report are from the Washington Post and Yahoo News and Yahoo Photos.

Update: Braking news, Woodward and Bernstein confirm the identity of Deep Throat. In a report by the folks of the Washington Post, who else?, we get the confirmation we were all waiting for.

The Washington Post today confirmed that W. Mark Felt, a former number-two official at the FBI, was "Deep Throat," the secretive source who provided information that helped unravel the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s and contributed to the resignation of president Richard M. Nixon.

The confirmation came from Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the two Washington Post reporters who broke the Watergate story, and their former top editor, Benjamin C. Bradlee. The three spoke after Felt's family and Vanity Fair magazine identified the 91-year-old Felt, now a retiree in California, as the long-anonymous source who provided crucial guidance for some of the newspaper's groundbreaking Watergate stories.

So, thus come to and end, one of the biggest misteries in US history. Besides, who shot Jr, of course.

May 30, 2005

Round Up of News

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This round up of news starts with the announcement that four groups in the city of El Alto will continue and, in fact, increase their protests in favor of the nationalization of Bolivian natural gas resources. The groups are: a union of public transport drivers, miners, rural campesinos and gremiales, which are a union of street vendors, outdoor market vendors, small traders, etc. All four of these groups are under the umbrella organization of FEJUVE (Federation of Neighborhoods Juntas) and COR-El Alto (Regional Workers Central - El Alto). Their objective is to force the government and Congress to nationalize all the natural resources in Bolivia. Among the things they want to undertake this week are the closing of Congress, resignation of Mr Mesa, roadblocks, national and general strike, among other things.

In other bits of news, the national government has started to apply the law to somewhat diminish the severity of protests. In this fashion, the Minister of Government, Saul Lara, has asked the La Paz State Attorney to file charges against Jaime Solares, leader of COB (Bolivian Workers Union) and Roberto de la Cruz, member of El Alto's Assembly. The charges should be for conspiring, sedition, threatening against the lives of the President, Ministers and Congressmen, inciting to brake the law and terrorism. (some more coverage of this in Barrio Flores)

This move might or might not have the desired result. On the one side, if there would be a general sense of law and order in Bolivia, the bringing of charges against these two "agitators" would result in a decrease of radical actions amongst protestors. In other words, protestos would stop threatening to apply "communal justice" to the members of congress or they would stop detonating dynamite on the streets. However, the most likely effect of these indictments is for the further radicalization of the protestor's actions. As de la Cruz has already expressed, the people would not see this as legal and acceptable and if any of them would be thrown into jail, things would get pretty bad very fast.

In other news, once again the Bolivian Congress is in a tight spot at the center of controversy. Tomorrow (Tuesday), in a session due to start at 3 pm, the legislature has to debate and determine the date of the election of the Constituent Assembly members as well as the date of the referendum on autonomy. The divisions in this case are regional with Santa Cruz wanting the referendum on autonomy to happen first. The reasons I explore in this post. On the other hand, most of the regional forces (including Tarija) in parliament are somewhat agreeing with having both, the referendum and the election of assembly members, in the same day. In the meantime, Congress is asking for assurances from the protesting groups to let them meet in peace. For their part, the protest groups are threatening again to march to Congress and close it.

A previous attempt, on May 19, at passing a law setting an earlier date for the autonomic referendum was stopped by Solares and his supporters (thugs). They tried to force their way into the session and threatened to bring miners with dynamite to help them close Congress. This is a delicate situation that may or may not explode into something worst. In any case, the Congress is between the sword and the wall.

The Brain Drain Goes On

An interesting report in La Razon on May 29 (yesterday) talks about the continued and increasing emmigration trend profoundly affecting Bolivia.

This article reports about another interesting survey carried out by Apoyo for the International Organization for Migration (OIM). The survey reports an astounding fact, that is 6 out of 10 Bolivians would voluntarily chose to leave Bolivia to emmigrate to another country in search for not just a better life, but for any kind of life.

The countries of choice are Spain, USA, Argentina and Brazil. One thing to that called my attention is that around three years ago, the first choice to emmigrate was USA. After 9/11 and the aftermath of stricter controls, USA dropped to second choice place. Ironically, 9/11 served to curve immigration to the States.

May 29, 2005

How Can THEY Be So Blind?

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How can they (the Patriots at FEJUVE) be so blind and not see the consequences of their actions? Are they supposed to be fighting for Bolivia?

According to a report in El Diario, many small enterprises, operating in El Alto, are on the verge of closing their doors. According to the report, the federation of small eterprises in El Alto has said that in the next days there is the possibility that a firm with 1200 workers close its doors because it cannot meet its obligations any more. The road blockades are devastating for this sector, which has to transport its products for export through the same blocked roads.

Moreover, this campaign by FEJUVE can potentially cost about 6000 people their jobs. The sector generates around 17000 jobs in El Alto. Many of these people don't even want to be there. They just get pressured to stop working, show up to the marches or demonstrations, and so on.

These are the real effects of the strikes and roadblockades. The government does not feel much. The people in El Alto are starting to see such effects. Let's hope they open their eyes wider and stop being so intransigent.

May 27, 2005

You against Lord Vader

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All this trouble in Bolivia gets me stressed out. Lucky enough I came across a place where I can direct this stress into something worthy.

Let's see if you can hold a mental battle against the lord of the dark side, Lord Vader. If you decide to do it, come back here and let us all know how did you do. Were you able to defeat Lord Vader and thus, join the dark side or was the dark side too dark for you and you ran away like a little mouse!

Take the challange here.

I took the challenge and was called a "worthy opponent" by Lord Vader himself. In a couple of days, I will post what I did. In the mean time, take the challenge and let me and all the readers know how did you do.

May the force be with you!

May 26, 2005

Santa Cruz's Civic Committee is Using Bribes to Gain Supporters

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A report in today's edition of the newspaper El Diario, which by the way I find it to be a bit too sympathetic to the nationalization cause, says that the Civic Committee of Santa Cruz is bribing the citizens in Santa Cruz city with food stuff and money in exchange for their support to the autonomic referendum. This was denounced by the civic organizations in El Alto, primarily FEJUVE.

That is morally wrong, I say. However, that is the way things are done. Let's look at FEJUVE itself. Since they don't have money to give out, like their counterparts in Santa Cruz, they have to rely on coercion to gain their supporters. For months now there have been so many reports that the "thugs" in the FEJUVE, every time there is a march or protest, they go around and force every small business owner to join or else get closed or even vandalized. Moreover, at the end of every march, there are control cards handed out to those members of unions, civic groups, small business owners. If these do not present that control card of attendance later, they get closed or have to pay a hefty fine. The citizens are forced to attend those marches by way of their local governments. These also hand out some sort of control cards. The cards are used as ID to do any bureaucratic paper work the citizen might need to do.

Both organizations are manipulating the citizenry to their own ends. Is that right? No, but that's just the way it's working. The Santa Cruz committee just as well as the El Alto FEJUVE are taking advantage of the citizen. The finny thing is that the FEJUVE has the audacity, with a straight face, to denounce what the people in Santa Cruz are doing. That I find ironic.

I include these links to previous post of mine:
about the social movements
about the Santa Cruz committee

May 25, 2005

Mesa's Gamble with Pacifism: Will it Pay Off?

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President Mesa is taking a big gamble by pursuing a policy of peace and non-violence to confront the disturbances in La Paz and other cities.

In a speech given in the city of Sucre (Bolivia's Judicial capital), Mr Mesa expressed his preference: "Prefiero pagar el costo de que se mire al Gobierno como sin autoridad (...) a que estemos rápidamente en una espiral de violencia de la que hemos salido a duras penas" (I prefer that my government be seen as one without authority, rather than rapidly go down the spiral of violence, from which we have just come out).

He is refusing to use repression to take control of Bolivia and prevent the rise in violence, which potentially could cost him his job and his liberty.

This is precisely my observation. I think he is taking a big gamble which may or may not pay off.

The best case scenario, will look like this: The protestors get impatient and grow increasingly violent. This is a tactic which worked before. Force the police to act and see them shed some blood. This serves to infuriate and bring even more people to the streets. However, in this case if the police does not act and does not shed blood, the protestors are the ones vilified. This is already happening to some extent in the newspapers. Support for the protests tends to gradually die down with time and at some point be exhausted. This way, Mr Mesa says violence doesn't work and forces the activists to communicate.

Now, the worst case scenario is one where protests grow bold and increase not just in magnitude but also in degree of violence. This might be seen as the government not having any authority and thus a change migh be imminent. The population might turn its back on Mesa's pacifism and force a change in government. After all, there are still people in Bolivia who think that the only way to rule Bolivia is with a dictatorship.

Let's hope democracy wins, regardless of who comes out on top!

May 23, 2005

Autonomy and Santa Cruz: New Developments

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On Saturday, May 21, the "social actors" in Santa Cruz, civic organizations, political organizations and business associations, decided to go ahead with the autonomic referendum for August 12, even if it is unconstitutional.

This decision prompted various reactions around the country. The civic representatives of Tarija have decided to support Santa Cruz's decisions and try to carry out the referendum themselves (although the tarijenos remain divided). On the other hand, the government of Bolivia, the civic organizations of El Alto, and Potosi, as well as MAS, have denounced the Santa Cruz decision as unilateral and illegal. Most relevant would be the pronouncement of the Armed Forces and Police Forces in Bolivia. They have announced in various occasions that they would not tolerate the violation of the Constitution. The Armed Forces issued a statement yesterday repeating their support for legal venues and their intolerance for any measure outside the legal framework the Constitution gives.

This is very worrisome. In first instance, it indicates a new degree of instability. The fact that the Armed Forces feel the need to issue statements, essentially, warning the civic organization of Santa Cruz to stay within the law, speaks loads about the state of emergency Bolivia is heading to. Two things could happen. In light of Santa Cruz's already started process towards the referendum about autonomy, the Armed Forces will have to intervene to stop this process. Most likely, with the nod of the president, they will occupy Santa Cruz, impose some kind of state of alert and imprison all the civic, political and business leaders who acted illegally. Or, it could be the case that, and if these leaders have played their cards right, the Armed Forces stationed in Santa Cruz rebel against the central command in La Paz and decide to back Santa Cruz's right to referendum. Without any intention to dramatize the situation, it could be the case that the military in Santa Cruz rebel against its command. Many of the military people there own land, property and businesses.

Secondly, if the decision emanating from Santa Cruz has accomplished something it is that it has made the situation even more unstable. Now, with renewed reasons, the radicals in El Alto and the "patriots" of MAS have a reason to unite and coordinate their attacks. They have already intensified their protests, marches and now are planning to radicalize them even more.

May 19, 2005

What Are These People Thinking?

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Thank god, this blog is not a journalistic blog and thus once in a while one can be partial. Every time I read something like the following it makes me kind of upset. In my frustration I can only come up with one question: What are these people thinking?

The following text is the latest resolution adopted by the Central Obrera Regional El Alto (Regional Worker's Center El Alto). In it they outline the different measures they'll carry out to "fight" for the nationalization of the hydrocarbons, the resignation of President Mesa and the closure of Congress.

This is the text in Spanish

RESOLUCIONES DEL 2do. AMPLIADO DE EMERGENCIA DE LA CENTRAL OBRERA REGIONAL DE EL ALTO resuelve:

Lucha nacional unitaria, combativa, inclaudicable por la toma del poder por el pueblo, expulsando a las Transnacionales Petroleras y a su gobierno traidor de Carlos Mesa Gisbert y a todo su parlamento de sirvientes de las transnacionales, conformando las Asambleas Populares que organice la toma del poder.

Declarar el PARO CIVICO VECINAL, SINDICAL, LABORAL Y BLOQUEOS DE CAMINOS Y CARRETERAS diurnos y nocturnos en la ciudad de El Alto, por la NACIONALIZACIÓN DE LOS HIDROCARBUROS, CIERRE DEL PARLAMENTO Y LA RENUNCIA DE MESA; iniciándose con una Jornada de Bloqueos Esporádicos el día viernes 20 de mayo del presente año, a partir de horas 8:00 a.m. y la efectibización del PARO CIVICO VECINAL, SINDICAL, LABORAL INDEFINIDO a partir de las 00:00 horas, del día lunes 23 de mayo y el cerco de la
ciudad de La Paz, concentración en sus lugares de bloqueo.

Organizar, fijando fecha y lugar de manera reservada, la toma y cerco del Aeropuerto Internacional, la Planta de Senkata, Los Surtidores, Bancos, Sub Prefecturas y otros, hasta lograr nuestros objetivos.

Organizar y conformar de manera secreta, piquetes armados con flechas, palos y otros de autodefensa en las diferentes zonas, sectores y regiones para proteger la integridad de los trabajadores.

MOVILIZACIÓN CONJUNTA, de representantes de organizaciones vivas de la ciudad de El Alto, junto a los compañeros Mineros, Magisterio y otros, lugar de concentración Multifuncional a partir de horas 9:00 a.m., del día miércoles 18 de mayo del presente año, rumbo al centro de la ciudad de La Paz, exigiendo la Nacionalización de los Hidrocarburos.

Reuniones permanentes con todas las organizaciones vivas, Federaciones, Sindicatos con el objetivo de cronogramar las movilizaciones.

Es dado en sala de reuniones de la Central Obrera Regional de El Alto, a los diez y siete días del mes de mayo del año dos mil cinco

¡VIVA LA NACIONALIZACIÓN DE LOS HIDROCARBUROS!
¡VIVA EL PUEBLO ALTEÑO VALEROSO Y COMBATIVO!
¡ABAJO EL PARLAMENTO Y SU GOBIERNO!
¡VIVA EL GOBIERNO DEL PUEBLO DE OBREROS Y CAMPESINOS!
¡EL ALTO DE PIE NUNCA DE RODILLAS!


Here is a rough translation

Second emergency assembly of COR El Alto decided:

The national unitary, combative, fight by the people to take control of power
by expelling the transnational oil companies, the treacherous government of Carlos Mesa and his entire Congress, servants of the oil companies.

To declare a neighborhood, union, worker strike, road and highway blockades, by day and night in the city of El Alto, demanding the nationalization of hydrocarbons, the closing of Congress and the resignation of President Mesa. These measures will start with a sporadic roadblocks actions on Friday, May 20, 2005 at 8 am. The neighborhood, union, worker strike will start Monday, May 23 at 0 hrs., as well as the siege of the city of La Paz.

To organize, in secret, the take over and siege of the international airport in El Alto, the YPFB gas plant in Senkhata, gas stations, banks, sub-prefectures and other targets, until we get our objectives.

To organize, in secret, armed groups with arrows, sticks and other weapons for defense to protect the integrity of the workers.

Movilization (march) of the different leaders of "live" organizations in El Alto, miners, teachers and others, on Wednesday, May 18 at 9 am to La Paz.

Permanent meetings with all the organizations to coordinate actions.

is given in this day ...............


Aren't these people braking some laws? News reports are saying that the miners have brought with them dynamite sticks and are detonating them on the streets. Two days ago, as a result of one detonation, one kid got blown down by the shock waves of one explosion.

What about taking over government buildings, gas stations, banks, and even the take over of the airport? What about the roadblocks? Aren't they thinking they are interfering with the right to transit of some people, with the right to get an education of some kids, with the right to get something to eat, etc., etc., etc. What happens when there is a medical emergency?

I mean, I understand some of the demands. Living in Bolivia is not easy, but chaos is not going to help either!

In what sense are these actions CONSTRUCTIVE?

Bolivia Roundup

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The Bolivian Congres continues to be the center of attention. Yesterday, Congress started the process to consider the Autonomic Referendum. In a session, which started at 5 in the afternoon, the legislative voted to approve the consideration of the referendum. The vote sharply divided the congress into congressmen from the West who are opposed to the referendum and congressment from the East who support it. However, as the debate was getting ready to start, a group of activists headed by Jaime Solares and Roberto de la Cruz tried to enter the congressional chamber and stop the debate. Solares even threatened to call his supporters and close down Congress by force. This was enough for Congress to stop and convene the next day to continue the debate. As for the debate, it was bitter and marred with insults and confrontations. There was even a couple of slaps.

So, the debate is set to continue today and by the end of it, Bolivia will have decided on yet another contentious issue. Namely, when to hold the referendum, how to do it, and what will the question state. That is, if Solares, Evo and De la Cruz allow Congress to carry on with its work.

In the mean time, marches, demonstrations, explosions, and confrontations, continue to be the order of the day in La Paz. It doesn't show signs to stop. The people in El Alto are, if anything, planning to intensify their actions and, true to their traditions, slowly radicalize them. My take is, if the government starts to responding in kind to agressions and people start getting severely injured and even killed, it will have a real crisis in hands.

The president, on his part, turned the page on the Hydrocarbons law (more on Mesa's indecision problem in Ciao!) and is busy receiving criticism and defending his new economic and social plan. Here is a table taken from La Razón, which outlines the social aspects of the plan.

Mesa's Plan

Health
Education
Expansion of health coverage.
Reinforcement of the Universal health coverage for mothers and children (SUMI).
Implementation of a health insurance program for the informal sector.
Priorities will be set for intercultural, democratic education, moral values and work training.
To carry out the National Education Congress (CNE).
Work Indigenous Issues
Progressive eradication of child work.
To better the quality of work and worker intermediation.
Support indigenous economic development with identity and equity.
Include the indigenous peoples in the Constituent Assembly.
Carry out plan for the development of Ayllus (Aymara social units) in peace.
Popular Participation
Land
Election of prefects.
Better local governance through training.
Continuation of the democratization of access to land.
Decentralization of the National Institute for Agrarian Reform (INRA).
Generational Equality
Subjects related to children, the young and the old, will be treated horizontally.
Application of programs protecting these groups.
Design social policy with enphasis on equality of gender.
CitizensJustice
Free identification cards for citizens to guarantee their rights and obligations. Centers of justice will be brought closer to the people to strategic zones throughout the country.

This table outlines the economic aspects of Mesa's plan.

Mesa's economic plan "Plan Económico Bolivia Productiva y Solidaria"
Behind the plan are 6 bills, 50 decrees and 8 resolutions.
Develop and diversify export products and negotiate "real access" to international markets. Work on the betterment of sanitation and certification of products. Strengthen internal market through programs like Provivienda (financing of housing), Compro Boliviano (government purchase of Bolivian products), support creation and functioning of MyPEs (small and medium enterprises), promote local production, infraestructure maintenance (Provial), development of turist industry and construcion of airports. Better productive capacity to create employment based on National Productive Strategies(EPI) of rural and agrary development (ENDAR), industrial development (ENDI) and the hydrocarbons.

Better competition by eliminating bureaucracy burdens and simplification of paperworkand decentralization of government agencies.

Also included are increase electricity and telecommunications coverage, promotion of local production and reactivation of the mining sector.
Fiscal sustainability (reduction of deficit of 0.5%), better the quality of government spending, better use of international cooperation resources, better information systems and fight against smuggling.
Facilitate access to credit and develop financial markets.

The resources in the hands of the AFPs (around $us 5.000 million) to be injected into the productive system. This system is called Mutuo Hipotecario de Vivienda (MHV), which will deal in futures.

Reinvention of Nafibo to facilitate financing form larger enterprises. And, the creation of Fondesif to provide credit to the MyPEs.

The reactions to Mesa's plan were not favorable. The president of the association of private entrepeneurs, Mr Mustafa, spoke of a program which does not address the real problems of Bolivia and thus will not foster economic growth. Additionally, he said the program will not have the necessary financing and is not realistic.

The energy companies operating in the country have already decided to stop all additional investment planned for the near future. Some companies have started law suits against the Bolivian state for failing to meet their obligations and contracts. (read more in Publius Pundit)

So, it is a chaos in progress and no end in sight.

Here is another point of view of Barrio Flores. It is always interesting what other blogs are saying about this.

May 18, 2005

News From the "Bases"

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The protagonists of El Alto, among them, FEJUVE, COD and COB, decided to immediately implement harsher measures in protest of the new Hydrocarbons Law and to force President Mesa to resign as well as the closing of Parliament.

These organizations, as well as the hundreds of civic and workers organizations, decided to start a national general strike, several hunger strikes, surprise road blockades, surprise taking over of the international airport and a take over of a YPFB's plant located in El Alto.

The objective is the unconditional nationalization of all natural resources.

"Habemus Law"

First of all, a big SORRY for the title, I could not resist!
But, the white smoke has emerged from Congress and Bolivia finally has a brand new, though un-wanted, Hydrocarbons Law.

Congress, ran out of maneuvers and finally promulgated the new law. The president of the Senate, Mr Hormando Vaca Diez, was sure to express that this new version was better than the one created under Sanchez de Lozada's term. At the same time, he sharply criticized, what he called, "the President's lack of initiative to do his job".

There is no question now, in retrospect, that Mesa bet on spreading the guilt rather than taking it all himself. As we can see it, Mesa's "stratigery" is (and has been) paying off. The so called "social movements" have enlarged the bull's eye to include the Congress.

Plus, I am getting a funny feeling, that Mesa is more of a political fox than many people give him credit for. Right after Congress, reluctantly, came out with the new law, the government came out with its brand new socio-economic programe named, Bolivia Productiva y Solidaria (Bolivia Productive and Solidary). Mesa, in his address to the nation, presented his programe for the period 2005 - 2007. In it, and not without first reminding the people that the new law was a product designed, debated and passed by Congress, Mesa outlines his policy for the remaining of his term. Among the initiatives, he will sign some 50 new decrees and supreme resolution (the Bolivian versions of executive orders). Topics will include: reduce the fiscal deficit, increase exports, reducing government expenditures, provide for more public investment, continue with free trade agreements, provide micro-enterprises with financing, the construction of three new airports, deepen decentralization and democratizing access to land (not sure what that means), fight against smuggling of diesel, maintain diesel subsidies, lower electricity prices, infrastructure, the creation of a company to develop the Mutun area, incentivate rural women to work in the health care branch, better education and more access to homes.

That is an ambitious project! However, I am not sure how does Mesa thinks he'll be passing this new project by Congress. I am betting that Congress will make it very difficult for Mesa to implement his plan. Unless of course, he uses his decrees and supreme resolutions to this end. In which case, he will end up turning authoritarian.

On his part, Evo and his party have decided not to pursue the blocking of streets strategy and instead concentrate into modifying the new law. The modifications they want to make are: 50% royalties, YPFB having the right to participate in the production chain and reverse the neutrality principle from the contracts with the multinationals.

But, all is not quiet on the front, there are still demonstrations, marches and road blockades being carried out and the indication is that some social movements (like El Alto) will increase the intensity of their measures.

In the end, the new law is there and it will be in effect as of today. What happens next is going to be seen in the next days.

May 17, 2005

Bolivia's Ever Growing Problems

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What a difference a weekend makes. The situation in Bolivian politics can deteriorate in a matter of days. Although, aren't those types of conflicts in the norm fast and furious? Oh, well!

Here is an attempt to recap what's been going on in Bolivia in recent days.

As the government, shall I say Mr Mesa, has been "analyzing" to either veto or sign the new Hydrocarbons law sent his way by Congress, the social movements have started their version of "nationalize everything" revolution.

The latest news (thanks to Barrio Flores and Bolivia.com) confirm that Mr Mesa has decided to (continuing with the analogy) pass the ball back to Congress. But, this time it looks like it was the last pass and the last party left with the ball will have to shoot. That is, after Mr Mesa waited out the 10 days the Constitution gave him to sign or veto the law, now the unsigned law goes back to Congress to be promulgated. I am anxious to see if Congress has a last card in its sleeve.

However, yesterday the social movements have started their measures to push the government to: 1) Nationalize the natural gas reserves and 2) Fire Mr Mesa.

Yesterday, tens of thousands of people, mainly from El Alto, marched down to La Paz with the aim of taking over Congress, expel members of Congress, perhaps punish some of them (with justicia comunitaria), demand nationalization of all resources and ask Mesa to step down. Among the people marching were, unemployed, part-time workers, rural (campesino) people, etc. These events paralyzed, once again, the city of La Paz. As a result, people were stacking their supplies already a week ago. What I don't understand is why did the La Paz authorities decided to go ahead with classes. According to new reports, there was at least one child hit by the explosion of small sticks of dynamite called cachorros.

Talking about dynamite, there were two people taken into custody because they were found carrying bags with explosives (dynamite), maps of where those explosives were to be used and political propaganda.

Keeping with the topic of violence, it looks like Bolivia has its very own terrorist group or groups?

This weekend, two groups emerge as possible terrorist groups made in Bolivia. The Bolivian Revolusionary Commando (Comando Revolucionario Bolivianista) was the organization connected with at least one of the two people taken into custody during the confrontations between demonstrators and security forces. As we mentioned above, they were carrying explosives. Also, the Anti-corruption Ample Front (Frente Amplio Anticorrupcion) was behind the explosion of a bomb placed in front of the headquarters of Petrobras. After the fact, there was a message from the FAA which said that the group demanded the nationalization of resources. If the government did not comply, the group would continue with its tactics.

Now, this is not the first time this happens in Bolivia, but it is a very troubling sign that, perhaps, there are some people who are getting very impatient and the government is losing more and more the grip of authority.

To this I have to add that this is exactly one of my most fears about what is going on in Bolivia. The way I see it, Bolivia is ripe for the beginning of violence. The culture, that is the example, is already there. We have the experience in Peru, with the Shining Path, we have the experience of the Zapatista movement and Comandante Marcos, and we have the experience of Colombia.

I think there is a very real threat that things can turn violent all of the sudden in Bolivia. Already we've had some people trying to get arms in the Altiplano (see here).
The Plan Colombia is pushing Colombia's problems down Bolivia's way. Bolivia's borders are not patrolled well. The people are really angry. The only thing that's missing is an entrepreneurial arms dealer who can deliver weapons. Or, it may not even be that. I am sure there are several dealers who are ready, what is missing is money. If these groups can get a hold of money to buy arms, this could end up bad (keep an eye on Hugo). But, let's hope it doesn't.

As we have become accustomed, there is still not a resolution to the hydrocarbons problem. Is far as I can see, there won't be one for some time to come. But, I'll be keeping an eye on it for you. ;-)

Notice I haven't said much about Evo in this post. He must be disappointed. But, one must say at least some words. Evo and his followers decided to march for the nationalization of resources as well. It turns out that a road block by miners did not let Evo's people through. We'll see what is he cooking next.

Here is a link on a post I wrote about the possibilities on natural gas in Bolivia.

May 13, 2005

A Detail of Who Will Attend Mesa's Summit

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Below is a detail of who'll join Mesa in the National Summit, who will be absent and who is thinking about attending.

Note: Sorry, you have to scroll down to see the table. I have no idea why there is so much space in between. If anyone wants to help, I will appreciate it. Thanks.

Parties who declined to go
Names
Reasons

Hormando Vaca Diez (Senate President)
The Executive's observations are not recognized by the law and the summit is seen as impromptu

Mario Cossio (Deputy Chamber's President)
Same reason

18 congressmen from various parties
Same reason

Willman Durán (Constitutional Tribunal President)
His function is not political

Mirtha Quevedo (MNR)
Rejects as illegal and "authoritarian" Mesa's actions

Jaime Paz Zamora (MIR)
Traveling

Branco Marincovik (CEPSC)
President wants to intall a "corporation dictatorship" to decide for the country

Gabriel Dabdoub (CAINCO)
Thinks Mesa wants Constituent Assembly before anything else

Parties who accepted the invitation
Eduardo Rodriguez Beltzé (Supreme Court President)
Wants to guarantee peace

Samuel Doria Medina (UN)
Thinks if dialog fails, Mesa would have to leave office

Roberto Mustafá (CEPB)
Bolivian private sector (excluding Santa Cruz) say they want to talk

Juan del Granado (MSM)(La Paz Mayor)
Wants to go even though he thinks meeting is discriminatory and unbalanced

Gonzalo Terceros (Cochabamba Mayor)
Criticizes the parties who declined

José Luis Parades (PP)(El Alto Mayor)
Wants to lobby for the elimination of articles 5 and 57 from the Hydrocarbons Law

Indigenous organizations (Cidob and CSUTCB)
Want to talk, but maintain movilization

Mauro Bertero (ADN)
Believes in dialog

Felipe Quispe (MIP)
Dialog with movilizations

Those who want to attend, but with conditions
Evo Morales (MAS)
Will attend only if Mesa invites all social sectors

Santa Cruz Committee
Want the exclusion from the agenda the autonomic referendum and election of prefects

Those who are still thinking about attending
Jorge Quiroga R.(ADN)
Wants to know details of Summit

Manfred Reyes Villa (NFR)
Will decide today

Potosí civic org
Still thinking if the summit will be useful

Main source: La Razón



May 12, 2005

Bolivia: And the Uncertainty Continues

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At the rate of 1,7 million dollars a day, Bolivia is losing money every day the Hydrocarbons law is not signed. Adding insult to injury, president Mesa is not ready to give up fight and sign the new law Congress passed last week. Mr. Mesa has instead called for a national summit for unity (Encuentro por la Unidad Nacional). In this meeting, which will be on Monday, May 16 in Sucre, Mr. Mesa wants to consult the Bolivian people about the new law, among other things.

Meanwhile, Congress has already repudiated such summit because it sees it as bypassing the legislative to the point of making it irrelevant. At the same time, the legislative has observed that while the new law is being considered and debated and the President's observations are taken into account, the law in the books is still relevant by order of Congress. In my opinion, this is a mechanism to pressure the executive into signing the law, because the law in the books was passed under the watch of Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada.

In summary, we can say, with certainty, that "uncertainty" is the only constant in Bolivian politics, at the moment. The president's summit is already in danger because of the decision of various organizations not to attend. Organizations like the Civic Committee Santa Cruz, MIP and perhaps Evo's MAS have already expressed either doubts or outright rejection for the summit. These actions will only serve to take legitimacy away from the national meeting.

May 11, 2005

Uncertainty Lingers On

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President Mesa has defied the odds and came up with, yet another possible outcome to yesterday's uncertainty. He has managed to give back the "time bomb" to Congress. Mesa, after analyzing his options for some days, has used Article 76, paragraph I of the Constitution to send back to Congress the unwanted law.

According to article 76, the president has 10 days after receiving the law to "observe" it. Mesa has observed it and decided to send it back to the Chamber of Deputies, where the law originated. Mesa's move amounts to a veto of the law. Now, Congress, both the lower chamber and the Senate, have to come together in a joint session and debate the executive's observations. If they find merit in the observations, they can modify the law, vote on it and send it back to the president. On the other hand, if they find the observations without merit, Congress can override the veto with a 2/3 vote. In which case, the president is limited to promulgate the law.

Currently in congress, there is a force, comprised of MNR, MIR, NFR, ADN and UCS, that wants to pass this law once and for all, as I see it. If this is the case, Mesa will soon see himself signing the law, but he'll be able to de-link himself from the responsibility. Although, according to some of the trouble makers in El Alto, he is already considered part of the problem.

May 10, 2005

Bolivia Prepares for the Worst

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While President Mesa is taking his time deciding on whether to sign or to veto the new Hydrocarbons law, the country is, once again, preparing for the worst.

First, the Santa Cruz assembly, an event bringing together a variety of representatives of different sectors of society (business associations, indigenous organizations, civic organizations, among others), has decided to give Congress 48 hours to call for a referendum on autonomies. If Congress does not do that on May 12, 2005, the Civic Committee of Santa Cruz and all the organizations belonging to it will start their own unilateral process to make autonomy a reality.

Second, over in the department of Tarija (south east of La Paz), the Civic Committee of Tarija has been overseeing a general strike and road blockades. These measures are taken to pressure the government and the legislature to make the city of Tarija the seat of the new Bolivian oil company, YPFB. In addition they are asking the government to build roads communicating the department to Paraguay and the rest of the country. In the last few days, the activists have become more frustrated by the apparent lack of interest on the part of the government. They have been radicalizing their activities by symbolically occupying government buildings.

Third, for his part, Evo and his MAS has decided to call for a national march against the new Hydrocarbons law. Evo and his supporters, among them civic organizations like FEJUVE-El Alto, worker's unions and indigenous groups, denounce the new law for not charging 50% royalties and legalizing the contracts between the Bolivian government and the energy companies operating in the country. These contracts were declared invalid by the Constitutional Tribunal last week. On may 16, the march is supposed to end in Congress when the activists want to close it and punish the congressmen who are on the side of the companies.

Fourth, on their part, the radicals in El Alto, in coordination with Evo and his party, have decided to march on Monday 16 to close the national Congress and ask President Mesa to resign. In addition to take over government buildings like YPFB and the national Congress, they plan to block the International Airport.

A storm is rapidly approaching!

May 09, 2005

Under Pressure

President Mesa is under tremendous pressure to either veto or sign the newly passed Hydrocarbons Law. As posted previously, the Bolivian Congress passed a new Hydrocarbons law, thus passing the ball on to the executive's court. The law is not without controversy. As one congressmen put it, "this law is a time bomb".

The pressure comes from three sides. The first and foremost opponents are the social sectors, a group of civic and workers organizations. These groups see the new law as insufficient against their demands to regain control of Bolivia's natural resources. Additionally, some internal groups have their own interests to further. The second group exerting pressure on President Mesa is the Congress. The executive and legislative branches are engaged in a political struggle for power. Mesa has made it a hallmark of his presidency to stand up to Congress and from time to time shake it with sudden moves. His last move was to delegate Congress with the responsibility to create a "viable" Hydrocarbons law. Now the Congress have acted and are eagerly awaiting Mesa's response. They are expecting Mesa to sign the bill and move on.

Lastly, the companies most affected with the law, are expecting Mesa to veto the law, as they see it as confiscatory and bad for investment. In addition, Mesa has organizations like the IMF breathing on his neck, waiting to see what he's going to do.The companies need a law that permits them to go ahead with planned investment. If the law is signed in its current form, it will present serious problems to these companies. Most likely, it will result on investment stopped and perhaps some legal actions against the Bolivian government. Although, it is necessary to mention that some companies have shown their intention to go along with 50% taxes, but most of them are firmly against the migration of old contracts to new ones under the new conditions.

It has been three days since the law was passed by Congress. Uncertainty is setting over Bolivia because President Mesa has not indicated if he will sign it or veto it. Also, there is absolute silence amongst the members of Mesa's cabinet and his government.

Although, it would be a bit premature, I would venture to say that Mesa could once again choose to act against Congress and veto the new law. That way he does what the social sectors, the private sector and the international community want him to do and he rids himself of all responsibility of promulgating such an unpopular law. This would mean that the (fire)ball would come back squarely in the hands of Congress.

Note: Images from fairfaxdigital.com.au and elmundo.es.

May 06, 2005

The Hydrocarbons Law

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The long awaited Hydrocarbons Law was finally approved by the Bolivian Congress on Thursday, May 6. Now the ball is in the government's court.

After long deliberations, debates and analyses, by both chambers in Congress, the lower chamber approved all changes made by the Senate without much debate, thus effectively creating a new law which is supposed to regulate the exploitation and production of natural gas in Bolivia.

The law, however, is said to be a time bomb, because it has as many opponents as supporters. Moreover, these supporters, are just half-supporters. The vote came down to a count of 59 in favor to 48 against. As it was to expect, the parties in favor were the traditional parties who, as of late, have lost legitimacy of representation around the country. Also as expected, the opponents of the law were the MAS and its followers.

A significant part of the disagreements concentrated on the inclusion of article 5. This article makes it obligatory for the companies with interests in this sector to "migrate" their contracts under the new rules. The main concern of the opponents was that by this action, the old contracts were implicitly legalized. Lately, there was an effort by supporters of nationalization to declare void all the contracts the Bolivian Government signed with the companies.

So, even though the new law, more or less does what the MAS and its supporters have been demanding, they aren't happy with the result.

On the other hand, the companies aren't happy either way they see it. They think, and they have said it already, that the new law as it is drafted is confiscatory.

Congress, however, is breathing again and relieved that the issue is off its hands, and back in the hands of the executive. Meanwhile, the president has said he will revise the law and make a decision to sign it or veto it. My thinking is that he will sign the law. He has said earlier that he wants Congress to draft a law for Bolivia and he will not stand on the way. He also doesn't want to be seen as trouble maker and even more, he doesn't want to be seen as going back on his word. However, he has made it known that he thinks the law is not what he had envisioned. Let's see, how long he'll keep us in suspense.

Additionally, the "social movements" (among them MAS) are preparing to start pressure actions to stop the new law from becoming legal.

Let's see, who does not like the newly approved Hydrocarbons Law.

1)The government is not happy with the 18% royalties 32% non-deductible taxes and the obligation to "migrate" contracts.

2)The private sector (business owners, including the Santa Cruz autonomic movement), wants President Mesa to veto the new law for being against investment.

3)Opponents (including congressmen from MAS, MIP and MIR) want the new law to be referred to a "national congress" to be debated there. They are against the obligation to "migrate" the contracts, because they think this will legalize the old contracts.

In the next few days we'll see Mesa making a tough decision. But, the thing is, no matter what he does, demonstrations, road blocking and strikes are already on their way. The question remains, whether Mesa will weather this new storm or he'll relent.

May 04, 2005

May 9, Paro Indefinido Begins

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As expected, once the religious holidays and first of May is over, the social forces are starting to gather again. This time they want nothing less than the nationalization of the natural resources (mainly natural gas). This time, the CSUTCB (an umbrella organization workers union), which comprises hundreds of smaller organizations, has called for a national strike until their demands are satisfied.

Their demands are to charge 50% royalties for natural gas exploitation and production and the immediate approval of the law convening the Constituent Assembly planned for the end of this year.

In addition to the national strike for an undefined time, the activists plan to (what else) block roads and to close Parliament.

The pattern is already known. It starts with a national strike, it follows with road blockades, the government tries to "communicate", Congress stands and watches how the president manages, until pressure builds and then comes the radicalization of the conflict.

Will Mesa stay for the next elections?

May 03, 2005

The New Bolivian Literary Genre

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The folks at Znet have a section on their web page dedicated to watch the ongoing Bolivian crisis.

Znet is a website advocating radical politics and closely collaborating with well known maverick activist Noam Chomsky.

In their section Bolivian watch, they publish articles in English of Bolivian activists and intellectuals who share Znet's political view.

Here, I would like to share one article with you. I would hope you read it and if you like, criticize it, tear it apart, praise it, poke holes on it, print it out and frame it, print it out and burn it, etc. Do as you please, but be sure to leave a comment to share what you think about it.

Better yet, one question that I have, is: is this a good way to try to change the minds of Americans? (at least, that is what I think he is trying to do)


Bolivia for Americans
A morality play to explain the Bolivian conflict
by Saul J. Escalera
November 19, 2003

John Doe is a young and determined Texan who has established himself in the Panhandle region of his state. His dream to have land for agriculture has been fulfilled and he and his family (wife and two children) are owners of 500 acres of good arable land, but there is not enough water because the region has no rivers with permanent flow of water. State geologists tell him that there exist large underground aquifers in the region that only need some work to dig wells, develop them and thus to solve his problem. With a great deal of sacrifice and sweat John manages to dig a deep well that allows him to extract enough water of excellent quality for domestic use and irrigation, with a good yield to even think of supplying the excess water to his neighbors.

John’ efforts are crowned with success, because the water in the well has been certified to be in such great volume that he can now think about doing intensive agriculture, horse and cattle breeding, forestry and explore other types of production, as sustainable source for work and a better quality of life for him and its family. Perhaps, thinks John, further down the road he will need to hire people from the county to produce more and better added-value products for the state markets and, with a little more effort, for export to other countries.

One day an individual shows up and claims to be an official of the State Government and communicates to John that Mr. Smith, Governor of the State of Texas, has signed a contract with “Pools & Fountains” Company of California, by which all the water resources of the region are now the property of the company and all owners of water wells will have to turn the management of the wells onto the company. The Company’s plan is to build a pipeline to export water to California to satisfy the huge demand of the rich condominiums that need it for their pools and feed it to the fountains of the parks in Hollywood. The price will be 70 cents dollar per thousand cubic feet (TCF) of water at the mouth of the well, and the Company “Pools & Fountains” will sell it at 5 dollars per TCF in California, thus making huge profits and getting richer. The state government will receive 18% of the annual profits the Company will declare, and a good quantity of dollars will benefit under the table the government bureaucrat. In compensation, John and his neighbors will receive a mere 11% as royalties dues for the exploitation of their water resources.

John and their neighbors are enraged, since their water wells cost them a lot of work to develop. They call for an urgent meeting of the people, including the representatives of other counties, and, following a good Texan tradition, attend the meeting with their guns at their belts. The meeting has several days of heated discussions, where a cowboy says: “the business to export water is not simply a commercial transaction between the State Government and the Californian Company, it is a business with political, social, and economic ramifications for the region, because we need water to prosper, it is matter of life or death for us”. A valiant woman rancher showing her guns shouts: “to ignore the long-term social and economic advantages that the regional exploitation of our water will give us in the long term, is to betray Texas and to steal a better future from our children and grandchildren, we should think about them foremost!.

Finally, the Texans come to an agreement and decide against the export of their water resources and ask the Governor to terminate the contract signed with the Company “Pools & Fountains” because it affects their interests and well being, but the Government does not yield.

Then, the Texans initiate a process of impeachment of the Governor, because the Texan Constitution gives them the right to do so, and such is the pressure of the Texans (showing their guns in their belts) that they finally achieve their purpose and the Governor resigns. A new Governor, Mr. Tex Terminator swears in, with the pledge: “to terminate the contract with the Californian Company and clean the house of politicians that accept bribery”, and everything returns to its normality and John can now take up again his plans to become a successful farmer and rancher who will have enough work for other Texans and prosper the region further.

Moral: TEXANS HAVE COJONES….AND ¿WHAT ABOUT BOLIVIANS?

NOTE: The described fiction story truly depicts the actual situation Bolivians face in regards to their natural gas resources wanted by multinational companies from the US and Europe.

NOTE. Any similarity between Texas water and Bolivian natural gas in this story is sheer coincidence.


I tried looking up info on Mr. Escalera and I found this site, which shows part of his curriculum. However, my search on the UMSS website, where he is supposed to work has tuned up only this record. This shows he is an academic director in the faculty of Law and Political Science. Here is one more link for information.