My name is Miguel A. Buitrago. Welcome to my blog. If you want to know more about me visit my personal website. Thank you! Happy readings!!!

June 30, 2005

GSL Speaks Out

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In a TV interview, on June 29 by the Bolivian ATB network, ousted president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada (GSL), gave his version of what happened in October 2003 and made some predictions about Evo Morales' political future.

According to GSL, there was a coordinated effort to oust him from office. The former president, stopped short of accusing coca grower's union and Movement Towards Socialism leader, Evo Morales, Veneuelan President Hugo Chavez, drug traffickers, Movimiento Indigena Pachakuti leader, Felipe Quispe and others, of orgainzing and financing the protests which resulted on his ousting. According to GSL, these people did not want him to finish his term because they did not liked where he was taking the country.

He also talked about his deep trust in Carlos Mesa, whom he thinks in the end was not loyal. As a result of Mesa's non-violence approach, GSL said that his government (Mesa's) left the country more divided than ever.

He also talked about the failures or weakneses of the Bolivian presidential system. He said that if Bolivia would have had a parliamentary system (like in many European countries) the problems his government faced would have been better resolved.

GSL also predicted that Evo Morales would not reach a significant place in the upcoming elections.

These comments come at a critical time when Congress is debating how to implement the current president's mandate of calling to general elections.

Bolivian politics get more interesting by the day.

June 28, 2005

Congress (has to) Gets to Work

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Once again the Bolivian Congress has in its hands the future of the country. It has its work cut out and all that remains is for it to shine.

The Bolivian Congress has to make six important decisions, listed below in order of importance.

1. The date for the next General Elections

2. How to shorten all of the members of Congress' terms so there is a total renewal of leadership, not only in the Executive but also in Congress.

3. The date when the Constituent Assembly will be held

4. The date when the referendum on autonomy will be held

5. The date for the prefectural elections

6. Modifications to the newly enacted Hydrocarbons Law

The absolute priorities are the first two, if the rest is to follow.

We are now seeing slow developments from the different factions. At first, many deputies and senators were reluctant to shorten their mandates. Some even wanted compensation. After a few more threats and a couple of polls, I think the congressmen have finally realized they are not wanted there and I think they are well on their way to accept their fate. The topic of consideration now is to resign in mass. This is the only alternative, according to some news reports. Apparently no one can make them leave their seats, not even the people who elected them. So they have to voluntarily resign. Of course, voluntarily is a stretch in this case.

Also, the exact date when the elections is to be held is a problem. There is a proposal from the MIR faction of December 11. However, no one is volunteering more dates, because everyone is in the process of analysing their advantages and disadvantages. There is also a proposal on the table to hold general elections, prefectural elections, Constituent Assembly and the autonomic referendum, all at once.

Wouldn't this be the most economical option? This way, the government only has to organize one round of elections. Although, I have to admit, the Constituent Assembly complicates matters a good deal.

I just have one worry. I hope Congress rises to the challange and starts delivering some results. This week, instead of getting righ to work, they took a recess (vacation). Why is it that this Congress manages to take a brake in the middle of a crisis? I just cannot understand.

June 27, 2005

Sorry for the Silence

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Sorry to all for the silence. I a currently having technical problems with my commenting service Haloscan. They seem to have disappeared from the ether of cyberspace.

I have been having problems since a few months now. It seems there is a limit to the amount of comments stored for one account. Now, after about two years of using this service, the old comments are being replaced by the new ones.

It is kind of sad for me because I kind of liked Haloscan. The backtrack feature was cool. But, now I am temporarily replacing Haloscan for the commenting service of Blogger, since my page cannot be loaded properly.

The only problem is that comments from Blogger don't seem to be working well either.

I ask for a bit of patience while I work this nuisance out.

Update: Blogger comments are only working for the new posts. The older posts seem to be stuck without comments. I am not sure why that is, but I'll look into it.

June 23, 2005

Fitting and Funny Comic Strip

First things first, to see the image better click on it. For those using Firefox, the cursor will turn into a zoom in cursor and for those using IE, just leave the cursor on the image and a button will appear, click on it and the image will get enlarged. And no, I don't mean to patronize you (for those who know that already) I just want to make sure everybody gets to see the image in large and gets to read the text.



The translation is as follows:

1. Everybody knows the country's future depends on how the politic situation gets resolved.

2. And given that this time the situation does not permit mistakes, I have made a conscientious, exhaustive and complete analysis of each and everone of the men being protagonists, those who have been protagonists and those who will be protagonists in the national political arena.

3. I have studied conducts, deep-searched careers, wighted records.

4. Compared minds, examined resumes, contemplated skills.

5. thinking......

6. And I want my Momi to govern!

Thanks to Del Quintacho su rincon's good humor I found this very funny and fitting (to the current Bolivian situation) commic strip. According to del Quintacho, the author is Quino, one of the best comic strip authors in the world (in my oppinion). Enjoy it!

June 22, 2005

What is Being Said on the Boli-Blogsphere

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Doing a periodic round of Bolivian Blogs I found myself cought in an interesting discussion going on in one of the blogs. The blog in question is the cleverly named, Blog from Bolivia, authored by Jim Schulz.

Much like many other people, Jim is desperately trying to understand Bolivia by actually living there, and through his writing make all people interested in this odd Andean country understand it too. In one of his posts, Jim describes his version of Bolivia. In his oppinion, there are three Bolivias: The powerful, the poor and the "I just want to work".

But, the point is not the post, rather the interesting discussion going on on his comments section, which by the way, (the comments section) was finally added to the blog a short time ago.

The discussion is the typical debate between poor vs. rich, powerful vs. weak, abuser vs. exploted, imperialist vs. socialist, etc., etc., etc. These are all too simple ways of looking at the problems Bolivia as a country is going through. That is why the following comment just jumped at me, not because I find it right in its entirety, but because its main point (as I see it) is to tell us not to look at Bolivia's problems in a simple way.

Granted simplification serves the purpose of making a complex problem understandable, but in this case I think it does more disservice than anything else.

Here is the comment and very well expressed:

Come on Jim. You've just got to open your mind a little bit.

I really think that too many people here continue to view Bolivia through the prism of their own politics.

You keep breaking down Bolivia into the "elite" vs. "the movement".

What is the movement? You continue to romanticize this one group of workers and the poor as "the movement" and hold them up as sort of the most legitimate and representative of Bolivians.

You continue to take all the events in Bolivia and understand them through that lens.

Are a large number of Bolivians systematically marginalized from voting?

When Bolivians have voted for "alternative candidates" have they been excluded from occupying their roles or kept from power?

Democracy is not always effective, but usually this occurs when the majority impose on the minority. If the "movement" represents the majority in Bolivia, why don't "movement" candidates poll better?

If Bolivians are not marginalized from the polls and the voting process, to what extent does gaining power through "whatever means necessary" devalue and delegitimize democrcy?

Given that Bolivians have been living in a democracy for a couple of decades now, why haven't "movement" candidates ever done well?

If the majority of Bolivians vote for to what extent does "the movement" undermine the rights of other Bolivians who have voted for a specific candidate or political leaning?

If the “Movement” represents certain ethnic and regional groups, to what extent can they rightfully be portrayed as “the people” of Bolivia?

Is it constructive to talk as if wealth or whiteness are necessarily indicators of corruption and abusiveness?

When I talk to Bolivians who are "upper class" or "white" I tend to harp ceaslessly about the existence of racism in Bolivia, about their responsibility to create a fairer system.

But just as it is important for the "elites" in Bolivia to open their mind and see the world as it is, and not as they wish it where, it is our responsibility here to question whether or not our understanding of the process in Bolivia is really correct or just a convenient way of supporting the politics and worldview that is most exciting and wonderful to us.

The commentor's name is Andrew T.

"Bolivia Stands of a Cliff-edge"

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That is what former president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada (GSL) thinks of the current Bolivian situation. In an article published by the Financial Times of London, GSL speaks about the dangers of manipulation of legitimate concerns at the hans of, what he calls, politicians.

It is interesting that GSL calls this group of leaders, among them Morales but more directly, Solares, Mamani, de la Cruz and others, politicians. This is just a primary observation.

In the article GSL continues to say:

These developments reveal systemic problems that transcend individual elected officials. The problems include: centuries of exploitation of the indigenous population, a growing drug trade, frequent and destabilising protests, and populist programmes that at one point drove up inflation more than 25,000 per cent. Populist leaders in Bolivia have built their careers by channelling economic unrest into political violence. As La Razon, the Bolivian newspaper, noted, these protests are not spontaneous uprisings. People were coerced into joining blockades, which continue to cripple the economy, cause food and water shortages and take a heavy toll on Bolivians' daily lives.

And political leaders continue to threaten more blockades to advance their calls for energy nationalisation. But nationalisation would not help ordinary Bolivians as it would drive out the very investors that enable Bolivia to sell its natural resources.

Bolivia gains more by working with foreign investment than by shunning the international economic system. This is no time to start another quixotic quest to nationalise the oil industry.

There is a consensus building here, that the perceived power of these indigenous movements, including MAS, are just not powerful enough to take hold of government. Furthermore, when we talk about elections, if we base our estimations on the las elections and some preliminary polls, these movements do not have much support among the people. GSL highlights this fact by also talking about the reasons why so many people show up to the demonstrations called by these movements. He cites news reports where it is argued that the social movements use coercion to draw supporters. I talk about that here.

GSL goes on to say:

But Mr Rodriguez cannot make progress alone - Bolivians must renounce the tactics of political intimidation. In his inaugural address, Mr Rodriguez said he would "insist" that Bolivians who demand change must do so non-violently. That is a crucial statement, because he correctly acknowledged that progress in Bolivia requires the rule of law. Without it, Mr Rodriguez could face the same fate as his two predecessors.

Supporting free elections in Bolivia is in the interests of all democracies. Bolivians have harboured suspicion that foreign governments care more about the country's natural gas than the people. By supporting a democratic process, other nations can allay that fear.

Moreover he ponders a questions that is in the minds of many people, including me:

The populist streak of Bolivian politicians' crusades against "foreign involvement" are also a great hypocrisy. Despite his nationalistic tirades, Evo Morales, head of the Coca Growers Union and leader of the Movement Toward Socialism Party, emulates the foreign and manipulative populism espoused by Fidel Castro of Cuba and Hugo Chávez of Venezuala. This is no time for Bolivia to imitate their state-run economies. I do not know whether Mr Chávez has been directly involved in the recent turmoil in Bolivia. But it is widely known that Mr Morales is a keen admirer of Mr Chavez, whose agenda is to advance state ownership of private assets and divide the hemisphere for his own political gain.

It is simply unacceptable for the international community to talk of "supporting Bolivian democracy" while allowing questions about Mr Chavez's possible involvement to linger. The United Nations must launch an independent investigation to determine what role, if any, Mr Chavez is playing in internal Bolivian affairs. It is past time for the democracies of the western hemisphere to investigate and confront Mr Chavez.

Mr Morales has also opposed aggressive coca eradication proposals. That position has contributed to the 17 per cent spike in Bolivian coca output last year. We must not forget that abundant coca spawns more corruption, violence and decay of civil society.

Finally despite some misperceptions stoked by the media, most Bolivians do not support the drug trade or Mr Morales. Only 20 per cent of Bolivians supported Mr Morales' platform in the 2002 election; his tactics simply rely on intimidation. I admit that neither my administration, nor my successor's, produced a nationwide consensus, but that is why Bolivia needs lawful debate and democracy now, not more unrest.

What GSL has to say is important in the sense that he is a former president of Bolivia. One who was removed from office by the very social movements we are talking about in this article.

Also, GSL is currently on his way to being formally charged by the Bolivian DA for the deaths of 60 protestors back in October 2003.

June 20, 2005

Small Milestone

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Just wanted to share this piece of news with all readers. MABB just surpassed a small milestone in its short life. On the early hours of June 20, 2005, MABB got its visitor number 10,000 since its birth back in September 2003.

While I am not sure what it "really" means, I am sure that MABB is bringing needed information about Bolivia in the Internet and increasing Bolivia's presence in cyberspace. Before I started blogging, I used to search for some kind of information, other than adventure tourism, about Bolivia. It was a bit frustrating because there was not much info about it.

In the last few years, information has been increasing, I think at the same rate as technological infrastructure has been built in Bolivia. Nonetheless, there is still a lot of work to do. From all the info in English I find about Bolivia, at least half of it, if not more (just guessing), emanates from outside Bolivia. I hope this will change in the future.

One encouraging sign is the amount of blogs from people living in Bolivia that are being created. Especially, the MSN members space feature is becoming particularly popular in Santa Cruz. Many others have found their way to Blogger and others have found Spanish speaking platform providers like Blogalia.

One other thing to highlight is the Bolivian Government's use of information technology to bring modern services such as e-government and most of all, transparency to their administrative tasks.

One last thing to call attention to is the way in which non-governmental organizations are taking advantage of information technology to organize themselves, call attention to their causes, even get some finincing and further their agendas. Bolivian NGOs are, I would say, benefiting the most from access to information.

Lastly, there is one thing in my wish list I hope happens. That is the private sector fully embracing the advantages of information technologies in the form of company websites where they, not only, can have instant access to a global audience, but also to improve their corporate and investors relations practices. This can only bring positive developments for Bolivia's companies, in the sense that investors want a high degree of transparency in order to invest or do business with Bolivian firms. This is specially true for Bolivian firms.

Well, I did not mean to make this post that long, but I thought that was important to say.

I hope MABB continues to be visited by people interested in getting amateur but qualified information and opinion about Bolivia's economic, political and social life. Bolivia is an interesting place to observe and MABB (that is I) will continue to observe it.

Thanks for visiting and keep coming back!

June 19, 2005

Elections 2005? A Look at Parties and Actors

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At present time Bolivia is slowly moving forward, after the recent political crisis which resulted in the resignation of Carlos Mesa as president and the elevation to the highest office of former Supreme Court President, Eduardo Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, as current transitional President, inherited only one task: to preside over elections for President and Vice-president. That is, according to the Constitution.

But, this is not as easy as it seems. If things are ever as easy in politics! Mr Rodriguez actually has two mandates emanating from two different sources. The first source is the Bolivian Constitution. As explained earlier, according to the Bolivian main law, Mr Rodriguez has to call for presidential and vice-presidential elections. This is thought in the case that the Senate President and the lower chamber President are, for some reason, unable to step in for the president. In few words, it is just a renewal of the highest office.

However, the second mandate Mr Rodriguez got was from the social movements. These are the same social movements that brought about the crisis, who shut down the country, forced the resignation of former President Carlos Mesa, forced Mr Vaca Diez and Mr Cossio to resign to their constitutional right to succeed Mr Mesa and forced the naming of Mr Rodriguez as transitional president. These movements backed Mr Rodriguez for president because they thought Rodriguez will then call for "general elections". That means, a total renewal of not only the executive power but also, and for the movements most importantly, the renewal of the legislative power.

Now, if Mr Rodriguez will be able to deliver, is a big question.

Currently the decision is not entirely in Mr Rodriguez's hands, but it is (and it has been) in the hands of the legislative. Congress will have to decide whether there will be "general" or just presidential and vice-presidential elections. This is because the Constitution indicates that in this particular case, when the Supreme Court President, assumes power, there have to be elections for president and vice-president within 180 days. However, since there is great pressure for the entire legislative body to be renewed, Congress will have to assume the responsibility of either amending the constitution or finding a way to over stepp it. Among the solutions is also the possibility of the entire legislative body's resignation. In the worst case, Congress will decide to disregard the demands of the social movements and proceed with the renewal of the executive only. This last possibility might prove to be the most problematic.

Now, assuming there will be general elections called in the next six months, the questions arise on who will be the candidates. But, who at this point looks presidentiable? Thanks to the folks of La Razón we have a quasi poll on five traditional political parties, three parties with experience in municipal elections and one citizen's group.

According to La Razón, none of them have a definite candidate. I guess it is a bit too early to say. Also, the poll reveals that neither party has a coherent and ready position on the issues of nationalization of the hydrocarbons, the Constituent Assembly (CA), the autonomic referendum and the elections of the prefetcs.

La Razón says the last party winner of the general elections, MNR, remains involved in an internal conflict of identity. A clear successor of Sanchez de Lozada has not emerged yet. There are visible and deep division between the Sanchez de Lozada followers and those who want a new face in the leadership.

The leader of NRF (New Republican Force), Manfred Reyes Villa, has expressed his decision to wait for the announcement of new "general" elections. Reyes Villa thinks that the CA, the nationalization of hydrocarbons and the autonomic referendum must be resolved by the next administration.

The MIR does not have a set position on the pending issues. Furthermore, the party has its current leader, Jaime Paz Zamora, as a candidate for the elections for Prefects. One other thing, the party has a strong arm in Santa Cruz where the clear leader is Hormando Vaca Diez. Mr Vaca Diez has strong support in this city and has recently emerged as a possible presidential candidate. If the latter is the case, the position of Mr Vaca Diez on the nationalization of the hydrocarbons is clearer. He has expressed his belief that nationalization will be a detriment for the country and that the autonomic referendum will have to be held before the CA.

Equaly unprepared and without a clear programme, is ADN. This party is still trying to recuperate from the effects of October 2003. Mr Jorge Quiroga, its former leader and former Bolivian President, has not pronounced himself either. In fact, he has decided to waith and see.

Among the political organizations emerging strong out of the last municipal elections in 2004 is the Plan Progreso (Plan Progress, PP), led by Jose Luis Paredes and in government in the city of El Alto. This party is very much limited by what goes on in El Alto and thus has not even accepted the possibility of new elections. Mr Paredes is undecided whether he will run for office or not. However, he is a strong candidate for a vice-presidency and was invited to join an alliance by Mr Quiroga himself.

For its part, the Movimiento Sin Miedo (Movement Without Fear, MSM), led by current La Paz Mayor, Juan del Grandado, has decided that Mr del Granado will not run for office, but rather prefer an alliance with other parties.

Union Nacional (Nacional Union, UN) led by the industrialist Samuel Doria Medina will also take the position of wait and see until Congress decides whether to call for "general" elections or not.

The only true new face is the leader of the Potosi citizen's group Alianza Social (Social Alliance, AS), Mr Rene Joaquino. Mr Joaquino is the current Mayor of Potosi and he has expressed his desire to stay in that office. Nonetheless, he has not discarded the possibility of running if his supporters ask him to.

Meanwhile, Evo Morales, leader of MAS has expressed that his party is preparing for elections and will pursue the presidency. The party's programme includes the nationalization of all the natural resources and the consideration of departamental autonomies within the framework of the CA.

One of the resons for the "general" elections is to renew, more or less, the entire discredited political class in government. Will this happen? It is easy to observe that, at least when it comes to the traditional parties, there will not be any renewal. The names thrown are almost the same as the last elections. Quiroga, Reyes Villa, Morales, Paz Zamora, Vaca Diez, etc. As for the newcomers, Mr del Granado, comes from the Movimiento Bolivia Libre (Bolivia Free Movement, MBL), a long time ally of MIR; Mr Paredes and Mr Doria Medina were MIR militants. According to La Razón, many of the new political forces only serve as recycling venue for old politicians.

La Razón also published an article about the result of another Apoyo poll on the credibility of some presidenciables. At the top of the list we find Mr Doria Medina (UN), with 35% credibility within Bolivians. He runs though second to now former President Mesa, who cannot run for office this time around. Second in the list is Mr Quiroga (ADN) with 32%. Third and fourth are Mr Morales (MAS) with 19% and Mr Reyes Villa (NFR) with 14%. Mr Paz Zamora (MIR) has 13% and Juan Carlos Duran (MNR) has 11%. Please click on the photo above to see a more detailed picture.

Who will emerge as the leading candidate for the upcoming elections? It remains to be seen, first, if there will be elections and if the elections will be "general" or only for the president and vice-president, who will then have to finish the current term. It all rests on the legislative's ability to deal with the current and ongoing crisis.

Legislators in Bolivia: Are They Clueless?

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The legislators serving their current terms in parliament, yes the same ones people want to fire because of their inability to deal with Bolivia's problems, want to be compensated for quiting their lucrative jobs.

It seems incomprehensive to me that 157 Bolivian legislators want to be compensated if they are forced to leave their jobs. Never mind the 126 million dollars it would cost, how about the fact that they have been completely unable to deal with the crisis currently affecting the county. Besides, they were many times about to be violently forced out of Congress by protestors. Also, the Bolivian population has entirely (may be a bit strong) lost trust in their representatives. It just doesn't make any sense to me. If I were a legislator, I would voluntarily leave, because it is clear I did not do my job well.

And yes, It may be a bit harsh judgement on them, because of the complexity of the situation and the many factors playing. Then again, if congressmen are not held to a higher standard, what then? They have to be able to deal with crises. If they don't do their job, then is chaos.

My point is, before I go on rambling about congressmen's duties, it makes no sense for them to ask for money they haven't earned yet. Especially, in a country where money is tight, like Bolivia.

June 14, 2005

Tales of a Tourist in Crisis-ridden Bolivia

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Nick, over at Open Veins, has the most amusing story from a tourist Brit friend who arrived in the middle of the worst protests affecting Bolivia. His desire to meet the Andes up close and personal brought him to the country to be witness of one of its worst times in history. Here is a quotation from his personal account, which is fully posted in Open Veins. Take a look.

Day 1:
Whilst landing at the airport in El Alto on Monday in the intense Bolivian sunshine, I knew that all was not right when I didn’t see a single car on the road. The upside was that, when leaving the terminal, I wasn’t mobbed by a horde of taxi drivers touting for business. The downside was when asking for a taxi we were told “he’s just left”.

Fortunately “he” returned a few minutes later and took us as far as he could, which was a few hundred metres up the road, to the meeting point of the daily marches. We had no choice but, rucksacks on back and suncream on face, to join the march, being thrust a Bolivian flag each (green stripe at the bottom, isn’t it?) and being shown our place.

Each march divided itself into four lines and on numerous occasions I stepped out of line and was strongly reprimanded. We soon made friends with those around, learning the slogans and being offered their daughters in marriage. My favourite slogan was “this is not a Sunday parade, it’s a protest march” to motivate the silent marching majority. I tried a “Viva Inglaterra” but was accused of confusing the issue.

After a couple of hours going steadily downhill, we arrived at the city centre and sloped off for cappucino and carrot cake, as true protesters always do. To celebrate Nick’s birthday we enqured about music in a local jazz bar, and were told “There’ll be music if there’s a president and social peace”

I am glad, at least some people, are still enjoying Bolivia.

June 13, 2005

The Indigenous National Popular Assembly

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On June 7, 2005, in El Alto, Bolivia, several of the civic and workers organizations as well as the various social movements, have created what they call the Indigenous National Popular Assemby. This organization, headed by the Federation of Neighborhood Juntas (FEJUVE-El Alto), Regional Worker's Union (COR-El Alto), Central Workers' Union (COB), Miners' Union (FSTMB), Campesinos' Union (CSUTCB), National Confederation of Gremiales (comprising workers of several kinds of occupations) and Provincial Transport Federation, was created with the aim to replace the current government of Bolivia.

The decision, which was taken in a meeting at the headquarters of FEJUVE, called for the creation of a shadow government to facilitate the transition from the elite-traditional political parties controlled government to a worker-peasant government. This organization will have the task of organizing the protests from now on with the aim of bringing down the current government and take control when necessary.Below are the resolutions the assembly came up with: First the Spanish version, followed by the English translation.

Resoluciones de la Asamblea Popular Nacional Originaria.

Las transnacionales del petróleo, el imperialismo norteamericano y los falsos gobernantes de turno del estado boliviano han sumergido al país entero en una profunda crisis política, económica y social, actualmente al borde de las destrucción total. Por eso es que los sectores movilizados en la ciudad de El Alto y el país en general no pueden estar ausentes en el propósito de salvar el país a la cabeza de un gobierno popular elegido desde las bases y con verdadera representatividad orgánica.

Por ello, el primer ampliado de la Asamblea Popular Nacional Originaria de Bolivia resuelve lo siguiente:

1.- Constituir a la ciudad de El Alto como en el cuartel general de la revolución boliviana del siglo XXI.

2.- Constituir una dirección única de la Asamblea Popular Nacional Originaria como instrumento de poder a la cabeza de la Federación de Juntas Vecinales (Fejuve) de El Alto, la Central Obrera Regional (COR) de El Alto, la Central Obrera Boliviana (COB), la Confederación Sindical Unica de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia (Csutcb), la Federación Sindical de Trabajadores Mineros de Bolivia, la Confederación Nacional de Gremiales de Bolivia, la Federación del Autotransporte Interprovincial y otras organizaciones sociales movilizadas en el interior del país.

3.- Conformar comités de auto abastecimiento, auto defensa, prensa y política con la finalidad de garantizar el éxito de las organizaciones populares.

4.- Ratificamos nuestra lucha inclaudicable en torno a la nacionalización e industrialización de los hidrocarburos.

5.- Instruir la conformación de Asambleas Populares Departamentales bajo la dirección de la COB, CODes y delegados de base elegidos en asambleas y cabildos.

6.- Rechazar todas las maniobras de la clase dominante a través de la sucesión constitucional o elecciones entre los mismos politiqueros.

Es dado en la ciudad de El Alto a los ocho días del mes de junio de dos mil cinco años.

Resolutions of the Indigenous National Popular Assemby.

1. To designate the city of El Alto as the new headquarters of the 21st century Bolivian revolution.

2. To designate FEJUVE, COR-El Alto, COB, CSUTCB, FSTMB, Gremiales de Bolivia and Transport Federation as the only leaders of this organization.

3. To create the committees of defense, press, policy and self reliance with the aim to guarantee the success of the popular movement.

4. To ratify the struggle for the nationalization and industrialization of the hydrocarbon reserves.

5. To instruct the creation of Departmental Popular Assemblies headed by regional Workers' Unions (CODs) and local elected members.

6. To reject all maneuvers by the dominant class through presidential succession or elections.

At the moment, I cannot say what will be the importance of this new organization. I assume the organization will be tested in the comming weeks. However, it seems to me that this organization, eventhogh it talks at the "national" level, it remains largely a regional phenomenon concentrated in El Alto.

Chavez On The Record

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On June 8, I posted the comments of US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roger Noriega, which he made at the OAS meeting in Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. Noriega blamed the crisis in Bolivia on Chavez's alleged support for the opposition.

Well, now it is Chavez's turn to answer. This time, he took the opportunity to answer in his weekly radio program, Alo presidente. During the program, which a report from the BBC says it lasted seven hours, Chavez called the Bush administration's policies for a regional free trade agreement for Latin America a "medicine for death". The BBC reports:

During his (Chavez's radio program) programme on Sunday, which lasted more than seven hours, Mr Chavez said Latin American countries were moving towards socialist economic models instead of US-style capitalism.

He said Mr Bush's idea for a hemisphere-wide free trade zone, mooted last week at a meeting of the Organisation of American States in Florida, would lead to more poverty and protests in the region.

"We say no Mr Bush, no sir... I'm sorry for you," he said. "The people of Latin America are saying 'no' to you, Mr Danger, they are saying no to your medicine.

"Capitalism is the road to destabilisation, violence and war between brothers."

This latest comments come on the back of a 10 day truce declared by the social movements in Bolivia, to give the new government time to consider nationalizing the natural gas resources. The new government, headed by former president of the Supreme Court, Eduardo Rodriguez, is in the process of organizing itself, but has already entered into nagotiations with the radical activists in El Alto (FEJUVE and COR-El Alto). The latter have not agreed to the truce but vow to continue their push for the nationalization of the resources.

June 10, 2005

US and Britain Give a Step Towards the Poor Nations

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According to the NYT, the US and Britain have agreed to back a project for debt relieaf and propose it in the upcoming meeting of the G8.

The plan would free 18 countries, most of which are in Africa, from any obligation to repay the estimated $16.7 billion they owe to international lenders. Among those countries is Bolivia.

Here is a link to an AP wire with more detail.

Talking About the Dictatorship of the Social Movements

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Today's editorial of La Razón made me think hard about what really goes on within the social movements in El Alto and why do they have such following. The editorial begins by reminding us that in any totalitarian regime, regardless of ideology, the favorite tool to control people is intimidation by terror (coercion). The dictators make themselves then the only sources of truth and life. As examples it cites, Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin.

In the same manner, the article continues, the city of El Alto, a vibrant city with around 800,000 inhabitants, is under the control and intimidation of the local civic leaders. These leaders are taking it on their own hands to decide over the lives of the inhabitants. The article argues that the citizens of El Alto (altenos), are being threatened into submission and are being obliged to block streets and roads, as well as attend marches and the occasional braking of the windo, burning of tires, etc., in the city of La Paz.

To control this, a sheriff visits every house in the neighborhood making sure that at least one member of the household is taking part in the marches and protests. If the people resist, he paints a cross on the door. That means an open invitation to other sheriffs who later will help themselves to the household's belongings. Another intimidation method is the charging of fees. These fees can be very high to people who live with just a few dollars a month.

The article asks three important questions. Why is this money being collected? and What does the FEJUVE (the organization exerting control in El Alto) do with all the money it collects? Is this not a falacy when the social movements (e.g. FEJUVE) say that the marches and protests are a product of the people? The article concludes by wondering whether all these protests and marches aren't just a way for the leaders to take control of power.

Here is the editorial in Spanish.

The aforementioned situation is being described by many alteno citizens who are being brought to the verge of desperation, because they don't have either any freedom or anything to eat.

Here is another translation of an email I got to be reproduced with permision of the author. His name is Mario R. Duran C. and he lives in El Alto. He asks, what is happening in El Alto?

He tells us some things he and other people are living through in the city in the Andes. For example, he says that tranportation throughout the city is forbidden. The FEJUVE people have tied a metal wire that runs accross the road, blocking any kind of transport. In the evening, a biker had a terrible accident due to the wire. He did not see it in the dark. Moreover, apparently there are some entrepreneurial people who are charging money to transport people and small cargo on their bikes. That is also a dangerous business, because it is not permitted to specualte. Some guy got beaten up by FEJUVE people for trying to survive.

Mario also says that Abel Mamani, president of FEJUVE, has forbidden the supply of fuel and food to anybody. That means no gas to cook and no, well, food. People are slowly running out of supplies. Moreover, ther are renewed threats to cut the supply of electricity and drinking water. Mamani has said that the decision to starve the people of El Alto was taken in consensus with the leaders of the local neighborhood federations.

Mario continues by telling us the situation in the local markets is dramatic. Meat and eggs are non existent, bread and vegetables are sold at a 250% markup, the constant threat of looting is ever present in the ears of the merchants, Mario says. Also, the much needed liquid gas for cooking, has disappeared. The local leaders in district 8, where the tanks of liquid gas are produced, have prohibited its distribution (only the leaders allow themselves a little bit) and have threatened the workers with communal justice if they even attempt to turn on the factory.

Mario ends his account by expressing his frustration about the lack of food for the really poor families in El Alto and the indifference whith which the FEJUVE is starving these families and the citizens of El Alto.

Bolivia Has New President

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It couldn't have been more dramatic, but embattled Bolivia has a new "constitutional" president. Mr Eduardo Rodriguez Veltze, former President of the Bolivian Supreme Court, is now President of Bolivia succeeding Carlos Mesa, who resigned in the midst of a deep social and political crisis.

As you might already know, if your are following developments in Bolivia, yesterday June 9, was supposed to be the day the uncertainty would end. Mr Vaca Diez, the then Senate President, called for a parliamentary session to be held in the Casa de la Libertad (Liberty House), in Sucre. The session was supposed to consider Mr Mesa's resignation, accept it and choose the his replacement. According to the constitution's succession line, Mr Vaca Diez was the next in line.

However, the so called social movements, together with the MAS (the main opposition party in Congress), dug their heels in and rejected the options available. They said Vaca Diez and the next in line, Mario Cossio (President of the Chamber of Deputies) should irrevocably resign to the presidency and let the third in line, Mr Rodriguez (President of the Supreme Court), be elected president.

Well, initially the session was called for 10 am. However, due to disagreement within Congress, it was delayed until 6 pm. That gave ample time for the protestors, who had made their way to Sucre city to force Vaca Diez and Cossio to resign, to get there and start a series of marches throughout the city.

Congress, in the mean time, was cought up in intense negotiations as to who would succeed Mr Mesa. According to some congressmen, Mr Vaca Diez was intent in becoming president. While, these discussions were going on, pressure on Vaca Diez was mounting. Not only had a substantial group of miners gotten to Sucre city and were starting to march and explode dynamite on the streets, thus triggering serious confrontations with the police, but other types of pressure were building up. Among these, there was a wave of hunger strikes began by different sectors of society, for example, teacher's unions, street vendor's unions, civic leaders, but the most telling among these was a simultaneous hunger strike of the Mayors of municipalities around the country. The Mayor of La Paz, Juan del Granado, as well as his colleague in Cochabamba, were among the most prominent. Their aim was to prevent Mr Vaca Diez from taking the oath of office.

At around six in the afternoon, the parliamentary session was called off. Vaca Diez argued there was no guarantee the meeting would be carried out safely. There were clear signs of confusion among the legislators, whom reporters were seeing walking back and forth between buildings, not really knowing what was going on.

As the evening went on, the news that a 51 year old miner had been shot to death in a check point 18 km from Sucre city, in a town called Yotala, was I think the las piece to start making Congress really think about ending this uncertainty.

As 10 and 11 pm approached, Mr Vaca Diez and Mr Cossio realized the reality of things and decided to agree to by-pass the presidency and let Mr Rodriguez take office. As the El Deber newspaper reports:

22:58 Congress accepted Carlos Mesa's resignation.

22:59 Hormando Vaca Díez declined the presidential succession.

22:59 Mario Cossío declined the presidential succession.

23:00 Eduardo Rodríguez Veltzé, President of the Supreme Court Justice was appointed as new President of Bolivia.

But, if you think this is over, you better think again.

Now what needs to be done is for Rodriguez to call for new elections, within the next six months. That is if he follows the constitution.

However, here is the problem. The Bolivian Constitution is a little unclear when it gets to this point. In its relevant article (93), it reads:

III. A falta del Vicepresidente hará sus veces el Presidente del Senado y en su defecto, el Presidente de la Cámara de Diputados y el de la Corte Suprema de Justicia, en estricta prelación. En este último caso, si aún no hubieran transcurrido tres años del período presidencial, se procederá a una nueva elección del Presidente y Vicepresidente, sólo para completar dicho período.

That means that if there is no Vice President, the President of the Senate or the President of the Chamber of Deputies or the President of the Supreme Court of Justice will succeed as presidents, in strict order. In the case the President of the Supreme Court of Justice is elevated to the presidency, and three years of the presidential period have not yet been completed, new elections of President and Vice President will have to be carried out only to complete the current period.

Now, this would leave ample possibility for Evo Morales to be elected. If the Constitution is correctly interpreted, there would only be elections for President and Vice President. The only body who elects these two offices is Congress. Moreover, MAS is one of the strongest factions in Congress. Theoretically, if Evo can win the support of NFR (mainly) and divide the MNR (which is already divided in two factions) and MIR, he really has a shot. Additionally, if the social movements keep up their pressure, many minds in Congress will turn Evo's way, as we have seen in previous times.

But, Evo should not expect to win this one so easily. In August 2002, then President Jorge Quiroga Ramirez, promulgated law number 2410. This law, Ley de Necesidad de Reforma de la Constitucion (Law for the necessity to reform the Constitution), rewrote article 93 to read:

ARTICULO 93º.- III. Cuando la Presidencia y Vicepresidencia de la República queden vacantes, harán sus veces el Presidente del Senado y en su defecto, el Presidente de la Cámara de Diputados y el de la Corte Suprema de Justicia, en estricta prelación. En este caso se convocará de inmediato a nuevas elecciones generales que serán realizadas dentro de los siguientes ciento ochenta días de emitirse la convocatoria.

It is essentially the same as the article already translated above, whith the only differece that at the end it says that general elections would have to be called upon within 180 days of the convocation.

This means, indeed there will have to be general elections and Evo will get the chance to prove once and for all whether he really is the instrument for the social movements to take control of power.

More details can be found in Ciao! and Barrio Flores.

Correction: It turns out that the Bolivian Constitution was last amended on February 20, 2004 during the Mesa administration by law 2631. This last amendment says that a president and vie-president would have to be elcted, and saying nothing about General Elections. At least that is the last amendment I could find.

June 09, 2005

Round Up of News

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Bolivia is capitulating. There is a major movilization to stop the election of Hormando Vaca Diez to the presidency. It is spreading all over the territoy. Protests and marches have started even in Santa Cruz, which was relatively free of problems. The following news bits are between 5 and 7 pm, Bolivian time.

In Cochabamba a march ends up in a Town Hall meeting, which decides to continue fighting for the nationalization of hydrocarbons and stopping Vaca Diez from taking over office.

The road Santa Cruz-Trinidad is being militarized because a group of the UCJ (a paramilitary like group mainly made up by young crucenos) has gathered there to unblock the road using force. The military troops from the 8th division will pretty much militarize the city. The division commander has said that they are in a high state of alert.

Transport workers, federation of street vendors and other social movements are marching in the city of Santa Cruz to invoke peace and reject the election of Hormando Vaca Diez.

The bishop of Santa Cruz has called for people to pray for a peaceful solution to the crisis. Many crucenos have gathered at churches and kneeling are praying for peace.

In various cities of Cochabamba (45 municipalities), Oruro, La Paz and El Alto, the Mayors have started simultaneous hunger strikes in rejection to the possible election of Mr Vaca Diez and Mr Cossio. Most favor the election of Mr Rodriguez, who, once in office, must call to elections.

In Sucre, where the Congress session is supposed to meet, there is chaos. Some of the members of parliament are disoriented and were seen walking here and there. Meanwhile, thousands of miners from Oruro and Potosi have arrived in Sucre to stop the election of Vaca Diez. They are taking over the city and have even decided to take over the access road to the airport so the legislators have trouble leaving.

The NFR faction has expressed they will not be part of any coalition backing Mr Vaca Diez. They are in favor of Rodriguez's election and general elections.

One 51 year old miner was shot in a confrontation with the military in Yotala, Sucre (18 km from the city), once again the military. According to witneses, several buses transporting miners in to Sucre, passed through a check point when the confrontations started. No clear information as to the circumstances. The government (Mesa) has rapidly denied having order the shootings. Mesa has ordered a thorough investigation.

Just heard that the session Congress was supposed to hold was cancelled. Many congressmen have complained that Mr Vaca Diez is unwilling to give in to the protestors and resign his post.

The streets of Sucre have turned into battle grounds between miners and security forces. Severe confrontations with dinamite sticks and tear gas are the rule.

What is left now is for Mr Vaca Diez to call for another session.

The social movements, the many federations, unions and even majors of cities are digging in their heels and demanding Vaca Diez's resignation.

For an account on how is it going in La Paz read what Alexey's friend wrote from Bolivia.

There is only one thing on the lips of protestors, just in case you overlooked it. ;-) The resignation of Vaca Diez!

Stay tuned, this is getting worst before it gets bad!

Source: Erbol

Bolivia Decides in Sucre

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As life in Bolivia gets strangled day by day, the power struggle will continue in Sucre and the intransigence of the social movements is raised yet another level.

To begin this posts I must say that the current state of the crisis is one of agonizing wait. As a result of Mesa's resignation, Congress has to meet to consider his resignation and if accepted, it would have to vote his successor.

By now, it is already known that the entire Congress has decided to accept Mesa's resignation and to pick a successor. For this historic meeting, the current president of the legislative body and next in line for office, Hormando Vaca Diez, has decided to hold the meeting in the historic building of La Casa de la Libertad (Liberty House) in Bolivia's judicial capital, Sucre. This decision was taken because there were not enough guaratees from the protestors for Congress to meet in La Paz.

The issue at stake is who will succeed Mesa. According to the constitution, the presidential succession line is, firtst the President of the Senate (Hormando Vaca Diez), the second in line is the President of the Chamber of Deputies (Mario Cossio) and the third in line is the President of the Supreme Court (Eduardo Rodriguez). In the photo, from left Cossio, Vaca Diez, Mesa, Rodriguez.

The session promises to be a show down of powers between the main stream political parites (MNR, MIR, ADN, NFR, UCS) and the new political instruments of the social movements, MAS and MIP. According to reports, the major parties, MNR, MIR and ADN, have opted for following the constitution and elect Vaca Diez to the presidency. However, Evo and his party, MAS, have said this presents a serious problem for the social movements and that they reject this decision. Since they associate Vaca Diez as well as Cossio with the coalition members during the Sanchez de Lozada government and with the interests of the business people in Santa Cruz and thus of the multinational energy companies, these two possibilities would not be acceptable for them. The only possible and acceptable candidate is the President of the Supreme Court, Eduardo Rodriguez.

In the case Rodriguez is voted into office by Congress, according to the constitution (as if it matters much anyhow), he would have to call for elections within six months. Moreover, according to some analysts, this would open wide the possibility for Evo Morales to be the next President of Bolivia.

Here is a brief table with profiles of the would be candidates.



Hormando Vaca Díez

Presidente del Senado

Former Executive Secretary of the Santa Cruz Press Union.
President of Pro Santa Cruz Committee (1970-71).
Deputy representing MIR in Congress (
1989-93, 1993-97 y 1997-2002).

President of the Santa Cruz faction in Congress.
President of the Camber of Deputies
(1997-98).
First Vice-President of the Senate
(2002-03).

Member of a government commission on defense, police and drug trafficking.

Mario Cossío

Pdte. Cámara de Diputados

Lawyer and miltant of MNR.
Member of the commision in charge of writing the decentralization process in Bolivia.

President of the Tarija Civic Committee.

President of the Tarija Municipal Council.

Founder and first President of the Latin American Cities Federation.

Responsible of the Mercociudades in Bolivia Network.

Eduardo Rodríguez Velsé

Pdte. Corte Suprema de Justicia

Lawyer

Former executive of the Contraloria General de la Republica (government body in charge of controling the government's finances)




Evo and his allies have vowed to fight in Congress so neither Vaca Diez nor Cossio are elected president. Additionally, they have decided to continue protesting to put pressure on Congress. Many leaders of the social movements have expressed their intent on going to Sucre to protests. They have also announce the "radicalization" of the protests.

Meanwhile, in La Paz, confrontation continues. Now, it seems the confrontations are spreading throughout the country. In Santa Cruz, members of the UCJ have used force to try to unblock roads. There seems to be many small groups around the country rising against the blockades. Many of these people are just tired of being incommunicated and perhaps hungry, because their supplies must be running low.

In La Paz, the mayor, called for a brake because aside from fuel and gas to cook shortages, food supplies are almost inexistent. It is almost a desperate situation for the citizens of La Paz.

June 08, 2005

Washington On The Record

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Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, has just played host to a meeting of the Organization of The American States (OAS), where the newly elected president, the Chilean Jose Migue Insulza, was one of the guests of honor.

It is in this meeting that Washington's top diplomat, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega, has gone on the record saying that Washington thinks Hugo Chavez is behind the crisis in Bolivia. When asked about the influence Chavez had on Bolivia, Noriega answered:


Chávez' profile in Bolivia has been very apparent from the beginning .........

His record is apparent and speaks for itself.

The immediate reaction followed when the Venezuelan Foreign Minister Alí Rodríguez said:

It seems that he [Noriega] goes around seeking to throw fuel on the fire.

Rodriguez added that diplomats should try to put out fires, not fuel their flames. He then added:

The problems in Bolivia are problems that belong to Bolivia and it is up to the Bolivians to solve them. Venezuela is scrupulously respectful of the sovereignty of all countries.

This report comes from the Miami Herald.

News Update

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At 1800 hours Bolivian time, the latest news concentrate on who will succeed President Mesa.

The two traditonal political parties, MIR and MNR, are coming to an accord to accept the resignation of Mr Mesa and go ahead with the elevation of Mr Vaca Diez from president of the Senate to President of Bolivia, as the constitution mandates it. Various members of MIR have said they are working towards that end. However, contradictions within that party have come out in the shape of commentaries by the congress woman Erika Brokman saying that there is a faction in MIR that does not back up Vaca Diez as president.

On the other side, Evo Morales, leader of MAS, has expressed his rejection to the possible succession of Mesa by Vaca Diez. Morales, who surprisingly praised Mesa's honesty, says that Vaca Diez is also part of the problem, as well as Mr Cossio, president of the Chamber of Deputies. Evo says that his party will not accept that decision and that in the case it is carried out in spite his rejection, that would only make things worst. In essence, the slow strangulation of Bolivia will continue on until there is an acceptable candidate to succeed Mr Mesa.

Meanwhile, confrontations continue in the center of La Paz. Latest reports cite dozens of wounded, among them three elderly citizens and one miner who lost his hand due to a detonation of his dinamite stick. Additionally, the mayor of La Paz, has expressed in a press report that the pick up of trash is not possible due to the roadblocks and the shortage of diesel. Also, Santa Cruz, the city defended by the Union Juvenil Crucenista, is also starting to feel the pressure of the roadblocks. Slowly, prices are starting to be raised and shortages of gasonline and diesel as well food are being felt.

June 07, 2005

Mesa's Resignation Not a Solution to the Conflict

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The resignation of Mesa has not brought any kind of solution to the crisis Bolivia is experiencing at this moment. The current state of affairs is, at best, precarious. Meanwhile the situation in the country is getting worst by the hour.

The executive power has officially taken itself out of the conflict and bowed to the protestors' demands. Now its up to Congress to bring some type of political stability. The president of the Senate, and possible replacement for Mesa, Mr Vaca Diez (MIR), has expressed from his hometown in Santa Cruz, that Congress will not meet until the social movements make some kind of guaratees for the safety of the members and for an uninterrupted legislative session.

Meanwhile, the discussions "on the record" are concentrating on whether Congress will accept or will not accept Mr Mesa's resignation. I am sure this possibility is being analyzed carefully by all the parties in Congress. "Off the record" what must be taking considerable attention is the issue of who will succeed Mesa. There are no real possibilities, at least for the social movements. The movements have expressed their rejection of Vaca Diez or Cossio succeeding the president. One only real aternative is the president of the Supreme Court, who is the third person in the succession line, Mr Rodriguez.

The social movements (mainly, FEJUVE-El Alto and COR-El Alto) at the voice of Abel Mamani and Roberto de la Cruz, have categorically rejected the idea of lifting the pressure on the government. They are asking for a complete renewal of Congress, because they consider the current members to be traitors who are sold out to the multinational companies. Moreover, the main results of yesterday's townhall meeting in Plaza San Francisco reiterate the demand for the nationalization of the natural gas resources and makes a call for the establishment of a new worker-campesino government.

Now I'd like to call attention to the following:

The meaning of insurrection, according to the dictionaries consulted, are the following:

1. The act or an instance of open revolt against civil authority or a constituted government.

2. Organized opposition to authority; a conflict in which one faction tries to wrest control from another

3. The act or an instance of revolting esp. violently against civil or political authority or against an established government; also : the crime of inciting or engaging in such revolt.

Plus this little bit of info:
whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States, shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than ten years —U.S. Code

Now I call on to the readers to make their own conclusions about how are things developing in Bolivia.

I am placing some interesting links I found online. Unfortunately it's all in Spanish.

Video of the protests
Video of the town hall
Vaca Diez press conference
Solares' comments
Mamani's comments

Source: indymedia Bolivia and Argentina

The Resignation of Carlos Mesa

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Bolivian President Carlos Mesa resigned yesterday, June 6, 2005. Through an already usual television speech, President Mesa, offered his resignation to the Bolivian people and thus submitted it for Congress' consideration. (yahoo) The resignation is most likely to be accepted by a Congress which of late had been critical of Mr Mesa. The resignation comes on the back of the Catholic Church's attempt to pacify the moods by bringing together the different players. It is in these talks that Congress, in the voices of Vaca Diez and Cossio (MNR), the Deputy Chamber's president, voiced their intention to accept Mesa's resignation, if he were to resign.

However, this does not offer hope for peace since the next in line to assume power is Mr Hormando Vaca Diez (MIR), Senate president. Mr Vaca Diez, a Santa Cruz native, has gained the hatred of protestors because he is identified with the groups in Santa Cruz seeking autonomy.

What needs to happen next is for Congress to meet and consider Mr Mesa's resignation. Before that happens, intense negotiations must already be going on to pick the successor. In this, Evo Morales will be largely influencial.

As for the protests, alteno leaders have expressed that they will not stop until the energy industry is totally nationalized and the Constituent Assembly meets to construct the country they want.

Note: For an excellent coverage of the international press around the Bolivia conflict take a look at PubliusPundit's A.M. Mora y Leon post here. And of course you have more coverage of the news on Barrio Flores, Ciao!, Open Veins.

June 06, 2005

Mesa Resigning for Good?

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I have heard rumors from a friend in La Paz who says President Mesa is getting ready to resign his office and Senate president, Hormando Vaca Diez, is getting ready to assume the lead.

I repeat, this is just a rumor, but it sounds serious enough to me.

Up to Date Photos from Yahoo!

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Just want to pass along this link from Yahoo photos, which I found is very good. It has up to the hour images from what is going on today in Bolivia. The marches, of course, are the center of attention. For a minute there I debated with myself on whether I could "borrow" some images from Yahoo, doing the required citation of the source of course. But, I just don't know what is the general policy about doing that. In my opinion it's certainly not unethical. It would be like quoting some text, right?

I often find myself in the same position. My take is, it's a gray zone.

Enjoy it the link, as I am.

Information at your fingertips.

In Spite of the Church's Efforts, Conflict Continues

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The Bolivian crisis is still unfolding and there are no signs of letting up. In spite of the Catholic Church's efforts to pacify, the social movements in El Alto continue their escalation of the conflict. The leaders of Fejuve-El Alto and COR-El Alto, Abel Mamani and Roberto de la Cruz, as well as Edgar Patana, respectively, expressed their intent to continue negotiating with the Church but the scheduled protests for today, Monday, will go on as planned.

This particular protest has all the elements for a serious confrontation between citizens of El Alto and the citizens of the southern neighborhoods of La Paz. As I talked about in my previous post, the people living in the southern, more affluent, neighborhoods of La Paz (Calacoto, San Miguel, Achumani, Los Pinos, Cota Cota, Obrajes, Sopocachi, Miraflores and the paceno center) have organized themselved into defense committees. The various committee leaders have expressed to various news organizations that they will try to prevent any march going through the southern neighborhoods. At the same time, Mamani, said that today's march will be one of the biggest marches yet and they will try to march to the souther neighborhoods to "persuade" these neighborhoods to support the "just causes" of the alteno people.

Meanwhile, there are more and more reports bringing to light how the FEJUVE gains support from the alteno people. La Razon, reports that various alteno residents expressed their anger at the FEJUVE and its leaders for coercing them into attending all the marches and protests. They say the civic organization hands out attendance tickets at the end of every march. These tickets are then collected by FEJUVE thugs from each household. If a household doesn't have a ticket, they mark their house with an X on the door. That means that house does not support the cause and is a probable target for ........something. Furthermore, the residents say they are threatened into going outside and blocking streets.

So, after the relative calm weekend, La Paz is bracing for another day of marches and protests. This time, however, might be more violent if the residents of El Alto and the southern neighborhoods confront eachother on the streets. The police forces have said they will make sure they provide a peaceful way for the marches. That is no guarantee that confrontations will not happen.

As far as the government is concerned, the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branch have already met and have quasi-decided for early elections. Among the people interested to take the lead of the government until then, are Carlos Mesa and Hormando Vaca Diez. Hm, let's see what happens later when the church talks with the movements. The Church has issued a request to the movements to stop all protests until the new elections. As mentioned earlier, the protests will not stop.

June 04, 2005

Is Bolivia Showing Signs of Disintegration?

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With much reluctance I am reading the various news reported by Bolivian newspapers and I don't really like what I see. I am hoping I am very wrong, but what I see are some signs in the direction of total collapse of the democratic government.

In first instance, we can observe the increasing absense of government. President Mesa has been reluctant to exert some kind of order in the country (read my post). He has expressed his decision not to use force to put down protests which are having a heavy toll on the democratic process. Congress is unable to provide an alternative to the executive due to the deep differences, not only within parties but, most importantly, between regions. In this sense, Congress hasn't been able to pass needed laws able to provide a solution to the demands from all the different sides. The Judicial branch has shown that it is not in the mood to overstep its madate and fill the vacumm it's been created by the other two branches. It repeatedly declined various requests by the Executive to intervene. Adding to the government's problems is the profound mistrust and lack of credibility it has in the eyes of the citizens. The average citizen does not trust in government or congress. Moreover, the citizen thinks the average politician is corrupt and inept. All these reasons exacerbate the fact that Mesa does not want to act on the only thing that makes a government a government, and that is the monopoly of violence. The only tool that a government can use to restore order. On the margin, I could understand Mesa, because he doesn't want to have blood on his hands. But, that is another topic.

In second instance, we have the military (armed forces) repeatedly having to reassert its role as defender of the constitution and integrity of the territory. Since months now, the rumors about a coup d'etat have been getting louder and louder. The man most pointed to as allegedly planning a coup is the current president of the Senate and second man in line to the presidency, Hormando Vaca Diez. However, he as repeatedly denied the rumors. As a result though, the military has had to repeatedly assure the population and I think the international community that it would stand behind whoever was the president of Bolivia and would defend the Constitution and democracy. Only when the military reiterates its support for a democratic solution, the rumors die down, a little. The latest reassurance was given yesterday when a group of unemployed gathered at the doors of the central command in Miraflores, La Paz, asking for the commander, General Marcelo Antezana, to take over the government. This move, which came after the previous day handing out of panflets outlining Antezana's government program, prompted the Chief of the Armed Foreces, Adm. Luis Aranda, to authorize Antezana to issue a statement in which he states his position as the defender of democracy and order. Finally, one last observation I would do is to note that the military brass, whenever they appear in the press, they are wearing their campaign uniforms. Are they getting ready for action? I wonder.

In third instance, we can observe that the population and the different sectors are looking for some type of order and are taking it upon themselves to achieve this. The sense of insecurity and uncertainty is becoming palpable. As we mentioned in the paragraph above, a group of unemployed gathered in front of the central army command to ask the commander to step in. In the southern region of La Paz city, the neighboors created the Comite de defensa de la zona sur (Southern Zone Defense Committee). This committee was created to provide defense to all the inhabitants of the southern neighborhoods (the most well to do in La Paz). Yesterday, they delivered a letter to the President's residence asking Mesa to provide defense or they will defend themselves by any means possible. These are just signs that uncertainty and insecurity is spreading throughout the region due to the lack of action in the part of the government. Simply said, if the government does not provide security for the citizens, then the citizens themselves will provide their own security. The return of the wild west.

In fourth instance, a worrisome trend towards a possible government crisis is developing. Up to now, two members of Mesa's cabinet have resign because of differences with the president. Last week, the now former Education Minister, Maria Soledad Quiroga, resigned from her office expressing deep differences with Mesa's line of government. Yesterday, the Minister of Economic Development, Wálter Kreidler Gillaux, resigned to his post. Kreidler also expressed differences with Mesa's government. One thing to highlight is that Kreidler is from Santa Cruz. One of the organizations behind the autonomic movement in Santa Cruz, which funnels funds to it (CAINCO), called for all the cabinet members who are of eastern origin to resign from their posts and ask for the resignation of Mesa. This could start a dangerous trend in the degree that it creates a cabinet crisis.

And finally, the protests continue. The social movements in El Alto and now including some rural regions, have pledged to continue fighting for the immediate nationalization of the natural resources and now they have added the resignation of Mesa and the immediate convocation to a Constituent Assembly (CA). In Santa Cruz, the civic sectors, which already have a pseudo-government functioning in the Committee pro Santa Cruz, has decided to go ahead with the election of prefects and the autonomic referendum on August 12. This is in spite of the decree issued by the Mesa administration to carry out an atuonomic referendum and election of members for the CA on October 16.

And to top it all off, it seems that the international community is starting to lose confidence Bolivia can come out of this crisis. Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru are negotiating the possibility of developing the Camisea camp in Peru to provide with much needed natural gas to their local markets.

What we have here are serious signs that a vacumm of power is being created by the absense of government and this is raising the levels of uncertainty and insecurity. The destabilizing forces (the protestors) are going ahead with their demands and protests and furthermore have shown an unwillingness to keep communicating with the government. Not even the intervention of the Catholic Church, has had a desired effect. What I have to ask me now is: Is this the beginning of disintegration? I surely hope I am being too premature in my observations.

June 03, 2005

The Results of the Confrontation Between MAS and UJC

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I am highlighting this blog because it presents a brief report on what happened in the confrontation between the MAS in Santa Cruz and the Union Juvenil Crucenista (UJC). Our anonimous blogger (although he puts his picture on), who studies and lives in Cochabamba, has telling pictures and a link to some video by Bolivia.com.

Pay him a visit. His blog is called Que nos Pasa!!! (what's happening to us).

Bolivian Blogs

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Please check the list of Bolivian Blogs. I've added some new ones. You can use this post, also, to criticize some blogs. I am finding the list is getting too large and I am thinking of taking some blogs out that are not updated for a long time.

So scroll down and pay them a visit.

A Surprise Move by Mesa

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This time was Mesa's turn to move and he did. President Mesa, acting due to the indecisions in Congress, issues a decree where he calls for a Constitutional Assembly and a national referendum on autonomy.

You can read more details in the BBC's report and Bolpress' article. I think they have it covered.

June 02, 2005

Bolivia Links

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This is a quick post, mainly linking to two interesting posts. The first one is to Ciao!'s Flickr image album. This image shows in how many ways Bolivia is being gradually shut down. The image shows the map of Bolivia with all the major roads connecting major cities and where the roadblocks are located. One can pretty much see that it is progressing in the direction from south-east to north-west. Much like cancer progresess throughout the body, shutting down organs, these roadblocks are spreading all throughout Bolivia, shutting down major cities. Let's hope it doesn't get to the point where the cancer kills the patient.

The next link goes to Barrio Flores. Eduardo posted an excerpt of yesterday's State Department briefing. It is interesting to read the comments of State about the situation in Bolivia and the position of the US government on the demands of the nationalization of the hydrocarbons.

Enjoy the links.

June 01, 2005

Back to Bolivia

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After two weeks of a general strike, Bolivia, more specifically, La Paz, remains virtually occupied by protestors demanding the nationalization of Bolivia's natural gas resources, among other things.

In fact, it can be said that it is only the city of La Paz that remains besieged and totally paralized due to the continuous protests and marches, which aim to take over Congress, close it and force President Mesa to resign.

At the same time, Congress is cought up in its own internal turmoil, having to debate and write the law convening the autonomic referendum (demanded by the social groups in Santa Cruz) and the law calling for elections of the members of the Constituent Assembly (CA). This is a particularly onerous topic because it involves deciding between two preferences markedly highlighting regional differences. On one side, the Santa Cruz civic organizations, together with its respective legislative faction are intent in debating and resolving the issue of autonomic referendum before the legislative considers the CA. Take a look at the reasons here. On the other side, the legislative factions representing the eastern states, led by La Paz, Cochabamba and Oruro, are pushing for the CA and the elections of prefects to be considered first. This last group considers the autonomic referendum a matter of less importance than the CA. This push and shove state is resulting on a stalemate within the legislative and on a further radicalization of the protests.

The protests, in turn, are turning gradually more and more radical and violent, to the point of having some characteristics of riots. In La Paz, there were episodes of vandalism which have resulted in the damage of some private property. Private citizens, teachers, street vendors and university students, all from El Alto, were confirmed by various newspapers to be engaging in acts of violence. These acts include, braking windshields, scratches and slashing tires of nearby parked cars, turning cars over, braking store windows, the beating of news reporters, shattering the windows of museums, the removal of manhole covers, intimidation and assault of passers by, etc. According to the newpaper La Razon, students from the El Alto university (UPEA) were identified as the most violent.

Amidst all this chaos, the political and social instability is nearing a critical point. The government is very quiet, the legislature is in a stalemate and the social movements are more radical. All this uncertainty is being fuled even further with many theories surfacing in recent days which especulate on who is behind all this. For example, days ago, congressman Gonzalo Barrientos (MNR), came out in public saying that former president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada (GSL) was actually funneling money to the social movements, more specifically the COB and J. Solares, and the civics in Santa Cruz, to destabilize Bolivia and make his trial go away by forcing a change of government. Barrientos said that Solares received US$ 50,000 for his actions. In another example, congressman Edgar Zegarra (MNR), questioned how is it possible that around 10,000 protestors can be transported from far away towns in to La Paz and then fed and accomodated. According to Zegarra, "someone must be paying for all this". He continued especulating on some reports last week, which named a telecommunications company in La Paz financing some of the protestors. Furthermore, there are more especulations as to the multinational companies (the oil companies) financing all of this chaos.

I would also, very much, like to know how is it that all these people who live hundreds of kilometers away of La Paz and who supposedly hardly even have money to eat, can pay the ticket to transport them from their towns to La Paz, pay their stay while the protests are going on and be able to eat every day they stay in the city. Let's remember, these are poor campesinos. How can they finance all that?

Well, while were asking all kinds of questions, the turmoil continues and I don't see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Note: Please, don't forget to visit Barrio Flores and Ciao!, two fellow bloggers who are furiously blogging on the happenings in Bolivia as well. The interesting thing is that you get different perspectives.