October 31, 2005

Felipe Quispe Speaks

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The charismatic leader of the most antisystemic political party in Bolivia, Felipe Quispe Huanca, speaks to La Razón. Here is a rough translation of this interview.

"I can bet, Evo will never be president, he already missed the opportunity"

Felipe Quispe (FQ)
La Razon (LR)

LR: You are concentrating your campaign in La Paz. Why are you seeking the presidency and not the prefecture?
FQ: Ever since I came out of my mother's womb I thought of governing this country. That is why I went to the university and studied, to be president. I have to make that dream come true.
LR: Don't you think that your candidacy weakens the possibilities that an indigenous like Evo Morales could become president?
FQ: By nature the indigenous movements have been divided. In colonial times one group fought with the Spaniards and the other fought against. Today, Evo Morales' supporters are allied with the Spaniards descendents and we are fighting against today's system. That doesn't mean that one day all the indigenous movements will unite.
LR: Do you consider yourself a better representative of indigenous interests than Evo Morales?
FQ: MAS is an hybrid, a mixture. They are not the indigenous nation's expression, but rather from the middle class and the sour and destituted left. MAS is like a whore house where the leftist prostitutes work. We are different. We are indigenists.
LR: What is the difference between the programs of MAS and MIP?
FQ: Ther is no difference. They copied everything from us. They stole our program.
LR: Would you say the first majority should be respected in the elections as Quiroga proposed?
FQ: No. That was always talked about but the right always ends up negotiating power among themselves. Doria Medina, chinese Nagatani (he is japanese) and others who came from the racist and colonialist oligarchy will come together and MAS will be left alone, as usual.
LR: If Evo Morales wins the elections, will you support.........
FQ: No, he will not win. That is already decided. In life opportunities come only once and Evo missed his last elections. I could bet Evo will never be president. Evo has been bloaded like a ballon but after the elections MAS will divide. Alvaro Garcia Linera (vice-president candidate of MAS) has private plans and he wants to found his own party in the same style of Marcelo Quiroga Santa Cruz's partido socialista. All the leftists will go with him.
LR: If Tuto Quiroga wins the elections will you let him govern?
FQ: There will be war. They are already wearing red jackets announcing indigenous blood. They will clamp down on us with the military because they will not nationalize Bolivia's resources.
LR: You said you will concentrate your campaign in regions where you have more possibilities of vote due to economic reasons. Is that not contradictory for someone who wants to be president?
FQ: No, that is the strategy. I have studied Machiavelo and the psichology of our people. I am not stupid to throw money away. I project myself for 100 years. That is why I founded football schools and I am working with kids. I am not seeking inmediate results. MIP is a project for the indigenous nation.
LR: What is your progam for Eastern Bolivia (the Santa Cruz region)?
FQ: To develope the agricultural industry with special care of the Pachamama (mother earth).
LR: What are MIP's plans in Congress?
FQ: We will fight for an indigenous social security. To achieve that we will scratch law 21060 (the piece of legislation establishing Bolivia's current market economy). We will give incentives to provide work to the unemployed intelectuals and middle class people.
LR: You said if you don't get elected to Congress' upper chamber, you'll leave politics. Does MIP have a future without Felipe Quispe?
FQ: MIP is not my private property. It has political school and ideology. Men and women are training to lead the party in the future.

More info on Felipe Quispe, a.k.a. El Mallku.

Wikipedia

Indymedia Argentina

Narco News

There is more if you just google it.

October 30, 2005

On Bolivian Elections and Institutions

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What a chaotic situation. The Bolivian Congress was unable to come up with a solution to the redistribution of parliamentary seats problem. The two sides (La Paz, Oruro and Potosi on the one side and Santa Cruz and Cochabamba on the other) apparently have irreconcilable differences. Although, I tend to sort of side with the Santa Cruz side. I must be the only paceno doing this at this time. But, the reason is simple. Article 88 of the Constitution says that congressional seats must be distributed by population based on the last census. The last census says that Santa Cruz and Oruro gained population, while La Paz, Potosi and Oruro lost population. This was due to massive migrations East in search for a better life. So, that's just it. Santa Cruz should get the additional four seats because it has more people living in it. It should have been simple debate in Congress and redistribute the seats according to the law.

But, nothing is as simple as it looks, or is it? I think the real reason is that La Paz (most of all) and Potosi don't want to lose their representative power in Congress. In a lower chamber with 130 seats four seats less or more is a significant gain or loss. At the same time there is the fear that with this development, Santa Cruz will become the most powerful force in Congress. Its autonomic aspirations are a real threatening shadow covering the rest of the country. This, makes the rest of the country very nervous. It doesn't help that the so called media luna region has some similar goals. An alliance between the Pando, Beni, Tarija, Sucre political factions with Santa Cruz leading them have the possibility of holding a majority in Congress.

Another reason why the two camps don't want to give in, I think, is next year's Consituent Assembly. The details for the Constituent Assembly are going to be worked out in Congress. There it will be decided who, how and how many will attend this important assembly. Who ever will have more votes in Congress will be able to, more or less, craft the assembly to their liking. I am pretty sure that Santa Cruz will fight hard to send constituents who will represent its position of autonomy right and if there are enough of them the new Constitution will be more to the liking of Santa Cruz. The same rationale is applicable to La Paz. They also want to have enough constituents to be able to shape the new document to be crated. However, Santa Cruz has a more pressing urgency to achieve significant representation in the assembly because it wants a Bolivia significantly different than the Bolivia MAS and El Alto want to create.

While this struggle is going on in Congress, the executive is doing what it can to fix a date for the next elections. So far, though, it has been pretty inept in getting what it wants. It surprises me because just three years ago the executive office was a pretty powerful branch of government. It was powerful because the president emerged from a congressional alliance, which voted for him in Congress. This action gave the president a sure and confortable majority in Congress. So much so, that to a certain extent Congress was reduced to a branch of government which served to implement the policies the president would like. However, today is another story. The presidency is so weak that it is almost being rendered obsolete.

These two problems in Congress and the Presidency bring out a point that has been circling around in my head in the last weeks. When a problem of ungovernability such as the one today comes up, wouldn't it make sense to have a mechanism to solve it? Taking other democracies as an example, it would make sense if the president finds itself unable to govern because of a congressional deadlock, he should be able to dissolve parliament and call to new elections. In the same manner, Congress should be able to put forward a vote of no confidence when it finds the President has lost the confidence of its coalition. These two mechanisms would enable to solve problems of governability like the ones we are having today.

I think I heard Tuto Quiroga making these kinds of suggestions. Although, I am not sure where I heard it anymore.

Well, for now these institutional problems will have to be put on the list and archived until there is some kind of normalcy returning to the Bolivian government. Or perhaps, they will be treated in the Constitutional Assembly. So, the problem is not solved. Tomorrow there is an all important meeting among the politicla and civic actors of this tragedy to try to arrive at an understanding. For now, it seems that there is a new proposal circling around. The proposal says to add six seats to the 130 seat lower chamber. Two would go to Cochabamba and four to Santa Cruz. But, this proposal has been already thrown out by the civic leaders of Santa Cruz.

So, once again our dead line has moved. Now we are waiting what happens this week. The Electoral Court has said that if Congress is able to pass a new article 88, it will be able, without any problem, to guarantee elections December 11 or 18. If this week the distribution issue is not resolved, the executive still has the option of the extraordinary supreme decree, which will redistribute the seats without the participation of Congress. But, as we know, this would bring other problems of confrontation between Congress and the President.

Let's see what happens tomorrow and for sure we can continue talking about the issue.

October 29, 2005

Are the December Elections Postponed? Not Yet?

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A run of the world news agencies and organizations might give you the impression that the December 4 general elections in Bolivia are being delayed. Liks such as these claim so:

Washington Post; BBC; ABC; Bloomberg; and others.

However, that is not the case. At least not officially. The fact is that the National Electoral Court issued an announcement saying that it was not possible anymore for the court to meet the December 4 date due to technical and operational issues. The executive branch is the only branch responsible to move the date. So the elections are not officially delayed.

Having said that, if the court says it cannot meet that date, it is already a serious indication that the elections will have to be moved. Unless, the executive gets creative and finds a way to keep the date. I would say, we can be sure all the resources in the executive office are busy trying to find an alternative solution to keep the date.

An alternative date is being trhown in the ring. The date is December 18.

October 26, 2005

Finally One Answer to My Question

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As you might remember, yesterday I posted about a new MAS website where people could get information about MAS' programme and candidates. However, interested as I am in finding the sources for MAS' financing, I took a closer look at the site itself and found that the webmaster was located in Medellin, Colombia. But, the MAS site and the webmaster's site (Komunikate.com) did not have any kind of information on who the owners were and what was the relationship with MAS. Normally, political website have some kind of disclosure about and link to who the webmaster is and what is the nature of the relationship with the mentioned site. If one clicks on the webmaster's link, one can find out even more detail on who the owners of the company are, who the webmaster reponsible is and much more. This was not the case with this site. It is definitelly not a site designed with transparency in mind.

One more thing about transparency. As is well known, transparency is a very important factor to establish legitimacy in the minds of people. When a company designs a website for a political party, especially if this party is controversial, I would say, it is very important to be transparent. It is important not just for the company who creates the website but also for the political party.

As part of my post I wondered why was a company from Medellin, Colombia designing and hosting a website for MAS. Well, now I have the answer. The webmaster of the MAS site, pissed off about the "perceived innuendo" (which I did not mean at all), left an angry, prejudiced and not very respecful response on the commentary section of the post. This commentary I reproduce in its entirety on this post to provide more space for all the clarifications the webmaster (Mr Natalio Pinto Alvarado) made.

Les escribe Natalio Pinto Alvarado, webmaster del sitio web del MAS

Sabia que al colocar mi empresa como responsable del proyecto podria generar esta relacion, pero aun asi lo coloque. Es mi trabajo y tengo derecho a hacerlo.

La relacion que tengo con el MAS surge a raiz de amigos y familiares que tengo en Bolivia, soy peruano y radique en Bolivia durante 4 años entre el 1997 y el 2001. Estudie en la Universidad Catolica Boliviana Comunicacion
Social, carrera que no pude culminar porque me dedique al periodismo en La Paz.

Trabaje en el canal de television ATB, "La Revista" del periodico Los Tiempos, en el periodico GENTE y tambien en en la Red PAT. Trabaje inclusive al lado de Maria Rene Duchen, la ahora formula presidencial de Tuto, cuando
ella conducia el noticiero en PAT y yo era un simple asistente de
operaciones. Carlos Mesa era director de PAT cuando trabaje ahi, mi certificado laboral tiene su rubrica.

Por internet en el año de 1997 conoci a mi esposa, colombiana, quien se fue a vivir conmigo a La Paz al siguiente año. A raiz de su embarazo 3 años despues tomamos la decision de venir para Colombia, a mediados del 2001, radicando en la ciudad de Cali de donde es oriunda mi mujer.

Trabaje independiente y como siempre, fue duro para un "extranjero" ubicarse
en el mercado laboral, hasta que entre a trabajar en
www.paginasamarillas.com un producto de la empresa Publicar, que pertenece a una de las mayores transnacionales colombianas, Carvajal S.A. donde labore
entre noviembre de 2003 hasta diciembre de 2004.

En el año de 2005 decidi montar mi empresa propia y trasladarme a Medellin, "capital economica y comercial" de Colombia, ciudad donde vivo desde enero en un miniapartamento, el cual tambien es mi oficina, dejando a mi familia en Cali.

Por que le cuento todo esto? porque quede sorprendido y asqueado por lo que lei en estos blogs. Y no solo por lo tendencioso de los comentarios, sino por la ignorancia y falta de seriedad para tomar y tocar un tema asi.
Declaraciones y acusaciones de ese tipo pueden poner en riesgo inclusive mi vida.

Colombia vivira siempre con el "estigma" de los carteles de la droga, es cierto que esto no es el paraiso, pero se vive y se trabaja, la gente es muy valiosa y tratan de salir adelante, independientemente del conflicto armado y la lacra del narcotrafico.

Un dato adicional, por el trabajo del MAS no he recibido un solo peso, lo hice por aportar mi grano de arena al cambio de Bolivia, si señor, soy peruano, pero me siento un boliviano mas... Los 4 años que vivi en Bolivia me hicieron querer esa tierra, me siento orgulloso de su cultura, su raza e historia... Y como muchos bolivianos estoy cansado de la postergacion,
pobreza, hambre, desigualdad y discriminacion que estan acabando con el pais...
Yo les proveo el hosting sin ningun pago o retribucion, es mas, y sin nigun afan de conseguir algo despues... gracias a mi trabajo me estoy forjando un espacio profesional aca y no necesito favores, puestos de trabajo, ni mucho menos...

Como vera, mi portafolio de clientes lo integran sitios web de
organizaciones en La Paz, Santa Cruz y Bogota, asi como empresas en Cali y Medellin, usted o cualquier otra persona interesada puede escribirles directamente a ellos para indagar acerca de mi trabajo y honra.

Ojala este correo aclare de alguna manera los comentarios tendenciosos que se vienen dando, lamento la ignorancia y la mala intencion de sus autores

Reciban un cordial saludo

Natalio Pinto Alvarado
Webmaster www.mas.org.bo

Nuevamente Natalio Pinto, webmaster del sitio web del MAS

Respecto a la financiacion de la campaña del Evo

Les doy solo un ejemplo, con base en una noticia que salio hace unos dias en La Razon http://www.la-razon.com/versiones/20051021%5F005336/nota_247_214046.htm
donde anotaban las vallas publicitarias utilizadas por los actuales candidatos, donde se nota la diferencia claramente entre la inversion de los 3 candidatos, mientras que Doria Medina coloco 50 en todo el pais, Jorge Quiroga 28 entre las tres ciudades principales y 2 en cada otra ciudad del pais... Y Evo Morales solo tiene una gigantografia o valla publicitaria en la Plaza san Francisco...

Segun cita la noticia el simple costo de la lona impresa es de 12 mil dolares, entonces, solo en vallas publicitarias el señor Doria Medina se ha gastado 600 mil dolares? Espero que sea una exageracion

He ahi la diferencia!!! Si el señor Morales tiene "la plata" por que no la usa?

Señores por favor, seriedad inclusive para la critica y las sospechas

In his response, Mr Pinto Alvarado stresses his right to conduct his work as best he sees it fit. Then he goes on to explaining his relationship with Colombia, Bolivia and MAS. He talks about the four years he lived in La Paz, Bolivia, where he worked and studied. He then tells us how he moved to Colombia, the country of his wife. He also raises Colombia's tragic experience with drug trafficking and the eternal link anyone on this planet who is somewhat informed would make between Colombia and the drug problem. He also highlights that while Colombia is no paradise, there are also honest hard-working people making a living in the middle of that chaos.

As for Mr Pinto's relationship with MAS, he says that he does not receive one dime from MAS. His only motivation is the strong links he made to Bolivia and its culture while living there. Mr Pinto, even though he is Peruvian, sees Bolivia as his own country. He also says he is contributing to MAS' cause for change in Bolivia.

One think that I want to make clear in this post is that in no way shape or form I suggested any kind of link between MAS, the webmaster and the drug problem Colombia suffers. You can carefully read word for word my earlier post. Those links were raised by Mr Pinto himself in his commentary. I did not have any other agenda, other than make clear who was financing MAS and Mr Evo Morales.

I thank Mr Pinto for his comments (but not for the insults) and for clarifying a legitimate doubt any visitor to the MAS website would have.

Update:

Here's an update to the controversy sparked by, what I think was, a legitimate question I asked in my Oct. 25 post. Several bloggers posted their oppinions: Publius Pundit, Barrio Flores and now Boz. This seems to be an issue that just doesn't want to go away.

October 25, 2005

New Website

MABB © ®
If you are wondering what are Evo Morales' plans for the country, well, wonder no more. Go to his website and get it from his own lips. His site's address is:



www.mas.org.bo

There you can see MAS' 10 point program spelled out. You can also read about the movement, the candidates, the list of candidates for Congress and you can also get news about MAS' campaign. And if you want to, you can even get a nice Vote for Evo button for your own website. How'bout that!

One interesting thing I noticed is who designed the website and who hosts it. For what I was able to find out, the site was designed and is being hosted by an organization called Komunikate This company or organization has its seat in Medellin, Colombia. Why Medellin, Colombia? Aren't there companies able to design and host websites in Bolivia? Unfortunately, neither Tuto's nor Doria's websites state who designed them and where are they hosted. But, I think we can be pretty sure their websites are being financed by themselves. As I've said it before, I am really curious to know who finances Evo.

October 24, 2005

An Interesting Discussion

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Now normally I try to stay away from discussions about how other blogs are reporting what goes on in Bolivia. God knows everyone has the right to state their own oppinion on any issue they like. I like to take advantage of my right in full force. :-) However, there is this discussion developing in the Boli-blogsphere which has attracted my attention. Specially since many people are talking about it.

The object of discussion is accuracy in reporting. Jim Schulz, the author of Blog from Bolivia, has written a post about former president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada (Goni). Now, in his post, Jim brings up the tragic death of Ana Colque (a girl who was shot to death in the midst of disturbances back in February 2003 during the Goni administration) to make his point. This article, interestingly, has sparked a series of commentaries (on the same article) from Bolivians who not so much dispute Jim's leftist ideology but the accuracy in his factual reporting regarding Bolivian events. But the commentaries do not stop in the Boli-blogsphere, it extends beyond it.

For instance, A.M. Mora y Leon from Publius Pundit, in this post, calls attention to this out of the ordinary exchange within the article. Also, Miguel Centellas from Ciao! weighs in with an excellent post highlighting inconsistencies in Jim's article.

Now I ask myself, should bloggers seek to be accurate when reporting events of any kind? And right away, without thinking too long, I answer ABSOLUTELY! I think, bloggers have the responsibility to report facts of any kind as accurately as possible. Specially now a days that blogs are becoming the primary source of information for many people whos interests are not satisfied by the MSM.

Accuracy is specially important when covering places like Bolivia for which there is hardly any information available through the media. Every so often I see some kind of factual error when reading reports about Bolivia. Be it in articles by the BBC, Yahoo, NY Times, Washington Post, the Economist, Financial Times. It seems as if people think, Bolivia, who cares if I am thorough, who's going to know anyway. Personally I have contacted the Economist about a factual error. The response I got was the polite equivalent of saying if you don't like the reporting don't read us. More often than none I get just ignored.

But, going back to Jim's article. The sense that I got when I visited Jim on his site was that though he raised very legitimate issues, he took too much liberty on the facts to fit his ideology. Sometimes I found myself wanting to leave an angry comment rectifying some facts reported, which were just plain wrong. But, angry comments do not serve any purpose other than to bring out the silliness in us. Sorry I don't have a list of examples for you but I did not plan to write this post. I just had to say something after reading the other comments and posts.

So people, let's try to be accurate when reporting about Bolivia. Specially when spelling names correctly. Granted Bolivian names can be difficult to spell for some people, we are writing them in the computer where it is very easy to check the spelling and correct them. The computer is also a good tool to read a little bit about Bolivian history. The Boli-blogsphere is a tremendous tool to become an instant Bolivian expert. So there is no reason to mess up on the facts.

The Deadline: This Friday

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There is a deadline for the "conflict" brewing in Congress (see 10/22 post). Even though, the body in charge of organizing and carrying out the general elections, the Electoral Court, has not set any deadlines other than saying the deadlock should be solved a.s.a.p., the government said Friday is the last chance. The political operative representing President Rodriguez in the conflict, Jorge Lazarte, has said Friday would be the deadline for Congress to come to a solution regarding the seat redistribution. If Congress does not act until Friday, the Executive will issue a special supreme decree redistributing the seats. The President's proposal gives two additional seats to Santa Cruz by taking away one seat to Potosi and Oruro. La Paz and Cochabamba's seats would be untouched. The Executive stressed the importance to keep the upcoming elections in course.

So deadline: Friday, October 28, 2005

October 22, 2005

New Crisis Looming

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Here is an attempt to briefly explain what the current problem is in Bolivia. This is to try to answer many emails I recieved asking: What's going on in Bolivia?

Where it stands

There is a dangerous potential crisis developing in Bolivia at present time. The fear, not just in Bolivia but also in the world, is that the upcoming general elections on December 4 will be delayed or even postponed for a later time. The consequences cannot be seen nor can be foretold. However, there is a real threat that the ongoing 20 year old democratic process could be backtracked or even (worst case scenario) reversed.

The actors

The principal actors in this developing crisis are the regional congressional factions in the Bolivian Congress from the departments of La Paz, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, Potosi and Oruro. These groups are cross-party semi-alliances based solely on the regional origin of each Deputy. Secondary actors are the Constitutional Court of Bolivia and the Executive office of the President.

The problem at hand

The problem at hand is the redistribution of congressional seats in Congress. According to the Bolivian Constitution, the seats have to be redistributed periodically based on the latest census. The current redistribution was done based on the 1991 census, however, there was a census carried out in 2001, which is the latest one. According to the 2001 census, Santa Cruz gained population and as such is due an increase in the number of seats assigned by law. This increase would come on the back of a respective decrease of legislative seats for departments La Paz, Oruro and Potosi. The factions of La Paz, Oruro and Potosi are adamant not to cede these seats. In fact, they tried to pass a resolution to postpone the redistribution of seats until after the December elections and the oncoming Constitutional Assembly.

The Santa Cruz faction, equally determined to get those additional seats, filed a suit to the Constitutional Court asking them to rule on the case. The court, after examining the case, ruled (end of September) in favor of the Santa Cruz faction. This decision ordered Congress to redistribute the seats in the Deputies' Chamber in favor of Santa Cruz.

But, the decision of the Constitutional Court (the highest in the land) was not good enough for the losing factions (La Paz, Potosi and Oruro). They refuse to give up their seats and currently are engaged in a stalemate with an equally intransigent Santa Cruz faction to resolve the issue of seat redistribution for the December 4 elections.

This standstill, if it continues for more than a week, can mean the elections will have to be delayed or postponed.

Possible solutions

There were more than eight proposals which aimed to solve the redistribution problem. You can read them here in this La Razón article. The proposal made by the President Rodriguez is the one most talked about because initially it was rejected and now it may become law via a special Supreme Decree. This proposal adds two seats in favor of Santa Cruz and takes away one seat from Potosi and Oruro.

Deadline

There is no official deadline. The Electoral Court, which is the agency in charge of the elections, has stopped giving tentative dates. The Congress has stopped any debate until next Tuesday. The only branch putting pressure on the legislative is the Executive office, which has said that if Congress does not act promptly to give certainty for the elections, it may issue a special Supreme Decree making its proposal legal and executable. This would be done, solely to rescue the December 4 elections.

More on the topic, from my fingertips here, here and here.

October 21, 2005

The Last and Final Test

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So it seems, Bolivia has come to the last and final test. While the Executive and Judicial branches of government have successfully overcome their difficulties and have passed their tests with some dexterity, that is not the case for the Legislative branch. Congress is in the middle of what could be the last and definite test for Bolivia's democratic process.

On the back of the president's assurances that he wants to carry out his mandate to see the December general elections trhough and the Constitutional Court's decision to uphold the elections and the redistribution of seats in parliament, Congress has now the task to see this redistribution carried out according to the law. However, as logic as it may seem, redistribution of seats in Congress can be a divisive issue, it has become instead an insurmountable gap which deeply divided the Congress along regional lines.

On the one side there are the Departments which stand to gain seats (Santa Cruz and Cochabamba) and on the other side are the Departments which stand to lose seats (La Paz, Oruro, Potosi). For more info on the nature of the problem please read my earlier post here.

Now it seems that the gap has broadened and there is no hope for a solution. The President has just put a proposal on the table which seeks to partially redistribute some seats by taking away seats to smaller Departments and giving it to Santa Cruz. The seats in La Paz would not be touched. Nevertheless, this proposal has been rejected by all the regional factions, with the exception of La Paz.

As the problem stands, there is no solution in sight. The Santa Cruz and Cochabamba factions rightfully ask for what the supreme law of the land mandates. That is the distribution of parliamentary seats according to population based on the latest census (2001). If the population of Bolivia has shifted towards the East, it is just logic that those people who migrated to Santa Cruz and Cochabamba are proportionally represented in Congress through their local representatives. I have not seen a logical argument coming from the La Paz, Oruro or Potosi factions explaining why they should not be losing seats if they have less population.

Actually, this looks like it is just an issue for the legislators themselves. In recent weeks, all factions have been trying to buld up support from the population to force the other side to back down. The different factions have organized demonstrations in their respective capital cities. The outcome was, at the very least, dissappointing. Not many people showed up for these demonstration. This suggests that the factions in Congress are fighting only for their jobs and not for the representativity of the people in Congress.

The December general elections are very important for the democratic process in Bolivia. If this last hurdle is overcome, it would be a significant sign for the democratic process. If it is not overcome, it would be a bitter defeat.

So much are this elections important that the world has been nervously watching and now is moving to try to prevent a delay. The United Nations has sent its special envoy to Bolivia, José Antonio Ocampo, to assess the current situation there as the political dispute threatens to delay elections scheduled for December 4.

If your are wondering what the US administration is thinking, here you can find a report (Country Strategic Plan for 2005-2009 for Bolivia) by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the leading U.S. agency assisting Bolivia with its social development and counternarcotics efforts.

October 19, 2005

On Tax Distribution

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On this nice graphic, created by La Razón, we can see the distribution of state funds, per department, per capita.

The graph lists the population per department and the ammount of funds it receives from the central government via the so called "co-participation", which is the term used in Bolivia to talk about the distribution of funds.

As the article from this graph highlights, it is interesting to observe the difference between the per capita intake of La Paz and Santa Cruz vs. the per capita intake of Pando. The department of Pando, the northernmost department and less populated, receives a per capita income of US$674, while La Paz and Santa Cruz, the most populated departments, receive a per capita income of US$75 and US$78 respectively.

If these calculations are right, the goal of redistributing income more equally in Bolivia and poverty aleviation is not being met.

El Alto has been the most outspoken city against this alleged injustice. This is the issue behind the fight about the redistribution of taxes on natural gas recently affecting the country. This fight seems to be resolved by now, but there are ongoing disagreements on how fair the distribution is, as we can clearly see above.

Aggregate Income per Prefectures (Departments)

Departamento

Presupuesto 2006

Presupuesto 2005

Tarija

1.851.376.675
1.087.634.543

La Paz

1.701.029.842

1.394.650.967

Santa Cruz

1.452.530.419

1.150.888.909

Cochabamba

1.285.263.444

1.013.479.076

Potosí

742.913.041

587.498.464

Chuquisaca

636.970.165

539.515.068

Beni

581.852.247

313.479.955

Oruro

512.952.941

311.114.160

Pando

267.301.830

107.000.056

Total

9.032.190.604

6.505.261.198

Fuente: PGN 2006 (Presupuesto agregado).


This nice little table is production of El Diario and the source is the National General Budget (Tesoro General de la Nación, TGN). It shows how much each department has received in 2005 and how much is it projected to receive in 2006. This 28% boost to next year's inflow is in great part due to the newly designed Direct Taxes on Hydrocarbons (Impuesto Directo a los Hidrocarburos, IDH). The unit is in millions of Bolivianos.
The table and the graph above are not totally in accordance. There is a difference in totals. I am not sure what the difference is, but I would tend to trust the PGN's numbers and much less the La Razòn's numbers. But at the same time is good that some other people than the government are crunching their own numbers.

October 14, 2005

The MAS Duo

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I just wanted to share an excelent stream of photos covering MAS' launching of the official campaign season. Yahoo photos stream about Bolivia is very good. Here is a taste.....


Constitutional Court Comes to the Rescue

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The Bolivian Constitutional Court has provided one more reason supporting the general elections in December 4, 2005. The court's ruling says that the general and prefectural elections are indeed constitutionl and there is no reason why they should be postponed.

The ruling was the culmination of a demand presented by two members of Congress, who challenged the legality and constitutionality of the upcoming elections. They argued that the elections for Congressional seats and the prefectural elections were unconsitutional.

In the case of the elections for congressional seats, the Constitution said that in case the presidential office was taken by the presiden of the Supreme Court, he was supposed to inmediately call for presidential and vice-presidential elections. However, in light of the socio-political crisis, Congress amended the Constitution allowing the president in turn to call to general elections instead.

As for the prefectural elections, the arguments presented to the court were grounded in the reasoning that, again the Constitution said, the president would be the one who appointed prefects. Nonetheless, at the same time of the crisis, Congress agreed to amend the Constitution to provide the basis for prefectural elections. The president still retains the ability to appoint those candidates elected.

In this manner the Constitutional Court takes itself out of the debate and it also adheres itself to the Executive branch in backing up the legality of the upcoming elections.

Now, the process is in more solid legal ground. With the Executive branch giving Congress a deadline (Monday, next week) to resolve the issue of seat redistribution, the general elections seem to be coming back into line.

The only issue pending now is the redistribution of Congressional seats being played in the Congress itself. Deep divisions between the Santa Cruz faction and the Potosi, Oruro, La Paz factions seem to be overwhelming.

More on this issue here and here.

October 13, 2005

Campaigns Launched

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The BBC has an article about the lauching of Evo's and Tuto's elections campaigns. The BBC says:
Left-wing candidate Evo Morales, who is ahead in opinion polls, received an Andean blessing. If elected, he would be Bolivia's first Indian president.

His closest rival, the US-educated engineer Jorge Quiroga, opened his campaign with TV and radio spots.

According to the BBC, Evo launched his campaign on the day when more than 500 year ago, the Spanish conquered the new world. Talking about significance. The BBC article describes Evo's pledges as:
He pledged to improve the rights of Bolivia's indigenous majority and to lift restrictions on coca production. The indigenous leader - who is known for his strong anti-US stance - also promised to nationalise all Bolivia's energy resources.

The Andean country - the poorest country in South America - has Latin America's second largest gas reserves, and hydrocarbons are its main source of income.

Correspondents say the possibility of a victory for Mr Morales is already causing alarm in Washington.

While the article describes Tuto's pledges as being:
...he would concentrate on getting Bolivia's foreign debt cancelled.

He also demanded that the elections be held in December as scheduled, accusing certain sectors of "putting the democratic system at risk as well as the future of our country."

This is the official start of the political campaigning season. From now on, until december, we and Bolivian's most of all, will be seeing the faces of Evo and Tuto every day.

Note: Read this excellent Bolivian blogs round-up authored by our good friend Eduardo Avila, from Barrio Flores who is also writing for Global Voices.

October 09, 2005

Liquid Gas Shortage Hits La Paz Hard

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It has been already three weeks that pacenos cannot cook their meals normaly because there is a severe shortage of liquid gas to cook their meals with. This seemingly incomprehensible shortage in production has been escalating into full blown chaos and frustrations being shown by (what else) road blockades!

The government is and has been trying to normalize the distribution but its efforts have proven vain. This is shown by the gradual increase of protests and demonstrations being carried out all over the city. In El Alto, citizens have once again come out on the streets and currently are in the process of blockading important roads, like the one giving access to the only international airport in La Paz.

The government has gone so far as to order producing companies to increase production of liquid gas.

This is scary in the sense that these kinds of protests tend to escalate into real crises in Bolivia. People are being seriously tested for their patience there. The thing is that patience is starting to run thin.

Images from Yahoo News: Bolivia

October 07, 2005

Evo Morales and MAS Ahead in the Polls

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Three different companies very recently conducted surveys trying to take the pulse on Bolivian voter's preferences. Equipos Mori, Encuestas y Estudios and Apoyo, Opinion y Mercado Bolivia, asked a representative pool of voters during September and the first week in October for whom would they vote in the upcoming general elections. The results seem to point to a clear lead by presidential candidate and leader of Movement Toward Socialism, Evo Morales. But I think, a closer look at the results reveals big diverse results which are by no means a clear indication of who will win next December 4.

The first thing that jumps out right at first look is that on the three surveys, Evo Morales leads Tuto Quiroga by at least 3 percentage points (the Mori survey) and as much as 6 points (the Apoyo and EyE surveys). At national level, this is a respectable lead, though if the lead is more like 3 points, it should not be insurmountable. Currently, there is no a historical pattern to compare these results with prior surveys. That is why the significance of these results are somewhat hadicapped, but useful nevertheless. The lack of historical references does not permit us to especulate on how easy voter's preferences change in Bolivia in terms of speed or magnitud. So, we need to take the outcomes at face value and conclude that Evo Morales is leading the race to the Bolivian presidency, but that lead is not assured.

It is when we start digging into the numbers when more and more questions start to emerge. For example, whe we look at the results per departments (the political units in which Bolivia is divided), we immediately notice the big differences in the percentages. In the Mori survey, Evo leads Tuto by 33 percentage points, while in the EyE poll, the lead is reduced to 25 points. That is a difference of some 8 points between them. But what is more striking is that in the Apoyo poll Evo only leads by 6 points. That is a considerable difference of some 27 points with the Mori survey and 19 points with the EyE study. Why such a diverse set of outcomes? I mean, in polling numbers 2 or 3 percentage points are significant. What are we to make of differeces in the order of 27 or 19 points among polls?

Continuing with the same type of observations, when we turn to the Santa Cruz results, we can observe that in the Mori and EyE polls Tuto leads Samuel by 13 points. However, the Apoyo people report a lead by Samuel over Tuto of some 5 points. How can that be? Who did the Apoyo people ask? We are talking about the same department (Santa Cruz) placing two different candidates at the top of preferences at the same time. The same situation happens in Cochabamba where in the Mori and EyE polls Evo leads Tuto but in the Apoyo survey Tuto is leading Evo.

From these observations I tend to conclude that the Mori and EyE surveys are more or less comparable, while the Apoyo poll is conspicuously at odds with the prior two. It suggests that the Apoyo people asked a completely different group of voters than the Mori and EyE people. In fact, this is not the first time I make such observations to Apoyo polls. In this post I argue that Apoyo's numbers are not reliable because their sample population outright ingnores the country side. They concentrate on what they call eje troncal (something like core axis) which consists on the major cities plus major representative rural towns.

Granting that this sample population might be statistically representative of the whole population as numbers is concerned, but the oppinions and preferences in the very rural areas and the population centers are notably different. I just think that these population (the rural population) cannot be excluded for statistical purposes in Bolivia.

In stark contrast, the polls conducted by Mori and EyE included the major cities as well as a significant number of rural towns and small villages. The Mori survey was conducted in 58 major and intermediate cities as well as rural town and small villages in the 9 departments of the Bolivian territory. The EyE survey was conducted in the 9 capital cities of each department plus the city of El Alto. Additionally, the EyE people went to 161 intermediate, rural towns and small villages around the country.

I think it is clear why the two (Mori and EyE) polls are closer in results. The two companies not only included ALL the major (capital) cities in each department, but also went to the country side where about, according to the 2001 census, 38% of the population still lives.

Nontheless, one partial fact emerges of these three polls: Evo Morales is closer and closer to reach his goal. The only thing he needs to do is to bring Samuel Doria Medina to his camp and convince him to vote for Evo in Parliament (where the Bolivian presidency is decided).

More links on the topic:

Here is a link to Ciao!'s post on the issue.
Here is another link to Miguel Centella's (Author of Ciao!) flikr data graphic stream which has a collection of La Razon's graphics on the Bolivian elections.

October 06, 2005

Bolivian Political Parties Programmes

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Another important date has just passed on the electoral process in Bolivia. Yesterday, October 5, was the deadline for the political parties running for office on December 4 to present or file their official programmes to the Electoral Court. All but two political formulas, Frepab and USTB, have met the deadline mandated by law.

So here are the main proposals by parties:

Podemos (Jorge Quiroga)

Name of the plan: Plan podemos

  1. Nationalization of "(natural) gas benefits". The profits generated by the hydrocarbons sector will be kept in special accounts. These accounts will be administered with social control and distributed by population and poverty indicators.
  2. Recover Bolivia's significance as a regional energy focus. Diversify markets, industrialize and nationalize the "benefits of the hydrocarbons sector."
  3. A proposal for the reform of the Constitution will be presented on October 10, 2005. In the Constitutional Assembly it will be proposed the addition of the second round elections (in case no party achieves 50% + 1) and that every deputy and local representative be elected direclty (direct mandate) in each district.
  4. Acceleration of the process of land redistribution, based on the fact that of the 100 million hectares, only 12 million have been processed. The law should apply to those lands which fulfill a social and productive function and which were legaly asigned.

MAS (Evo Morales)

Name of the plan: A digne, sovereign and productive Bolivia to live in.

  1. New economic model based on the microenterprise, local coummunity enterprise and the modern enterprise, where the state will be the principal actor. The industrialization of the hydrocarbons, regain control and promote productive activities.
  2. The nationalization of the natural gas reserves (with out fear) with out the necessity for the foreign energy companies to leave Bolivia. In the last aspect, the necessary legal guarantees should be given.
  3. A proposal for the Constitutional Assembly to be attended by a group of three representatives of each district. One woman, one representative of the ethnic groups and one representative of middle or higher classes.
  4. Support land redistribution.
  5. Reform of the last education reform.
  6. Expansion of health access.

UN (Samuel Doria)

Name of the plan: Give the face for Bolivia.

  1. The creation of 5000 small enterprises all over Bolivia.
  2. Progressive nationalization of the natural gas reserves and the mining industry by progressively buying the shares of the capitalized companies. Additionally, the consolidation of Bolivia as the energy center of the region.
  3. Every Bolivian must have the same rights to become a delegate in the Consitutional Assembly where the role of the state, autonomic process, the natural resources, economic development , and the relation of society with state heve to be defined.
  4. Redistribution of 100% of the land. Re-write the law regulating land redistribution. Computerize the process of land redistribution.
  5. Universal health care with at least one nurse in every rural town.
  6. Education reform in accordance to the Bolivian reality.

MNR (Michiaki Nagatani)

Name of the plan: Productive participation.

Place emphasis on the municipal level, where the economic resources are already redistributed. A more efficient allocation and administration of resources will have an impact on health, education and employment.

MIP (Felipe Quispe)

Name of the plan: Plan Pachakuti

  1. Nationalization and industrialization of the hydrocarbons sector to expel foreign companies from Bolivia without any compensation, "even if it cost our lives".
  2. Constituent Assembly with 100% representation of indigenous groups.
  3. Confiscation of lands to redistribute them to the indigenous population. Seeks indigenous control of Bolivian land. Abrogation of the current law regulating land redistribution (ley INRA).
  4. Redesign of education policies. Teaching in original languages.
  5. Construction of health facilities in every town in the country.

NFR (Gildo Angulo)

Name of the plan: Bolivia: A country for everbody.

  1. Integration is the key word together with an effective presence of the state around the country.
  2. Nationalization of the hydrocarbons sector and amendments to the current hydrocarbons law to settle tax and royalties distribution issues.
  3. Delegates to the Constituent Assembly should be elected directly.
  4. Land redistribution in accordance to the necessities of indigenous groups, but respecting the law.
  5. Free education for all where the state is the main actor.
As you for sure have noticed, these are pretty general statements which could mean anything. For some parties this is what would be available to the readers outside Bolivia. However, the major parties have made that jump into cyberspace and have websites. Parties like Prodemos, MAS and UN have just launched their newly designed sites. Some have even gone further and have posted their financial data, UN.

The source for this article was this La Razón's article.

Liberación de Libros

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Liberación de Libros means Book liberation and it is not a revolutionary movement wanting the liberation of oppressed Books in Bolivia, or is it?

Well, it is something like it. It turns out that a group of socially engaged Bolivians have started what they call the book liberation campaign. The book pictured on the left is one of the first ones to be liberated. Their idea is to "liberate books" or, in practical terms, take a book you have already read, take a walk to wherever your feet take you and in the most unsuspected place (park bench, telephone booth, table on a coffee shop, the central post building, bus stop, you get the idea...) leave the book for someone else to find it and read it.

Sounds familiar? But of course, the people at Bookcrossing have been engaged in this for years. I have participated in Bookcrossing for about two years now. This is a (for lack of a better word) very good idea. However, the idea has found its way to Bolivia and has taken a local flavor. The people at Mundo al Reves, as far as I know, have started this whole thing. Their idea was to liberate books on September 24 this year at a central square in Santa Cruz city. According to the report, the campaign was an Exito Total!. On D day, the people of mundo al reves quietly observed many people who came and left a book there on the square. The most rewarding and interesting observations however, according to mundo al reves, were to see the faces of the unsuspected individuals who found the liberated books and after reading the small note inside realized they could take them home and enjoyed a good read.

Not satisfied with their success, the people at mundo al reves are planning another day to liberate more books. This time they say it will be October 23 when they and anyone else who wants to join their campaign will quietly meet once again to liberate any oppressed book they might own.

As a last note, Patricia has a very good piece of advice, which I eco. She recommends the people who want to liberate any book to register it with Bookcrossing. That way the book leaves a trail that can be followed and the experiences of the people who found it become more accessible to everyone with net access. The impact on lives becomes more real.

So, anyone who is in the Santa Cruz area on October 23 take a book and liberate it. Also, lots of thanks to the people at libro libre Bolivia for visiting my blog.

Note: The image is borrowed from the Libro Libre Bolivia blog. Thanks.

October 05, 2005

Remittances and Their Impact

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A very interesting study was released by the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), which is a part of the Inter-American Bank Group in promoting inclusive economic growth in Latin America. The study, as reported by the Bolivian press, states that Bolivia will receive US$ 860 million in remittances this year. This amout surpasses the reciepts from the sales of natural gas (US$ 796 million) and also it represents 40% of the total amout of exports from 2004. Remittances from Bolivians living and working outside the country have become a very significant item in the government's accounts.

Compared to the 2004 remittances of US$ 422 million and the projected US$ 500 million in 2005, the amount expected this year is a real surprise for MIF and Bolivian officials. There is even speculation that the total sum could even reach US$ 1.000 million because as expressed by the Director of MIF, Donald F. Terry, the calculation is very conservative.

Click on the image to enlarge it


This study is based on a survey conducted on June and July this year among 1523 Bolivians who periodically receive money their relatives send them. According to the report, there are about 650.000 people receiving money in Bolivia. This number represents 11% of the population. From the nine departments in which the Bolivian territoy is divided, the main receptors of this flow are Santa Cruz (18%), Cochabamba (17%), El Alto (14%) and La Paz (9%).

It is estimated that about 1 million Bolivians have left their home country in search of better opportunities, work and life. The main countries from which Bolivian expatriots send money are the United States, Spain and Argentina. 24% of those Bolivian expats live in the United States, while 62% of the total expats living in Europe make Spain their new home country. Additionally, 47% of those who emigrated within Latin America are living in Argentina with 26% living in Brazil, 15% living in Chile and 8% living in Paraguay.

A specially interesting aspect brought to light by this report was that those expats who emmigrated to the USA and Europe tend to be qualified as middle class (meaning more economic means), while those migrants living in Latin American countries tend to be of lesser economic means and have less education. The result is that out of USA and Europe the average monthly amount received is US$ 210 and from the Latin American region is US$ 120.

Now the MIF is thinking that to take full advantage of that flow of funds, they must be channeled to the Microfinancing sector. This would be a way to put to good use the money that flows into Bolivia every year. The reasoning goes that those funds can be used to estimulate the growth of the micro-economy and thus contribute to the growth of the economy. Channeling those funds to the microcredit industry, which by the way it is one of the most developed in the world, could be one way to do that.

Two negative aspects are important to consider. One is that by trying to encourage a massive transfer of dollars from the world into Bolivia, inflation could be triggered. The other important aspect is for the government not to encourage emmigration. The brain-drain problem in Bolivia is bad enough as it is.

More resources about microfinances in Bolivia:

An English article
A brief history
Government program FONDESIF
MABB August 30 post