May 30, 2006

Once Again Out of Town

MABB © ®
Lots of appologies to the readers of MABB. Lately I have neglected to keep it up to date. The reason being that I find myself again out of town. I am currently in the south of France, visiting Montpellier, Narbonne, Toulouse, Carcassonne, and some smaller towns. It has nothing to do with work this time. :-)

I will be back next weekend. Everything should return to normality then.

Lots of greetings,
Miguel

May 27, 2006

News on Bolivia and Chavez

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Chavez has pledged $1.5 billion investment in Bolivia's hydrocarbons. He and Morales signed agreements in Morales' base region, Chapare, Cochabamba. Here are the reports:

Chavez spreads his oil wealth in Bolivia
Reuters via Yahoo! News Fri, 26 May 2006 7:53 PM PDT
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez pledged $1.5 billion in energy investments in impoverished Bolivia on Friday, receiving a hero's welcome from coca farmers who applauded his anti-U.S. message.

Venezuela aids Bolivia gas nationalization
AP via Yahoo! News Fri, 26 May 2006 12:59 PM PDT
Oil-rich Venezuela's increasing influence in Bolivia will be sealed with a penstroke Friday when presidents Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales sign another set of accords, this time to secure Venezuela's role in Bolivia's recently nationalized energy industry.

Chavez visits Bolivia coca heartland to sign deals
Reuters via Yahoo! News Fri, 26 May 2006 10:10 AM PDT
Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, in a move likely to affirm his role as Washington's No. 1 Latin American antagonist, flew into a U.S.-funded military base in Bolivia's cocaine-producing heartland on Friday to sign investment deals with fellow leftist president, Evo Morales.

Venezuela expands economic role in Bolivia
CNN.com Fri, 26 May 2006 8:42 AM PDT
LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez moved to expand his oil-rich country's influence in Bolivia with a set of accords Friday to secure Venezuela's role in the impoverished Andean nation's recently nationalized energy industry.

Chavez Increases Grip in Bolivia With $1.5 Bln Plan (Update5)
Bloomberg.com Fri, 26 May 2006 2:03 PM PDT
May 26 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez pledged to step up investment in Bolivia's energy industry and protect its citizens from ``American imperialism,'' moving to strengthen his grip over the Andean nation.

Chavez Increases Grip in Bolivia With $1.5 Bln Plan (Update3)
Bloomberg.com Fri, 26 May 2006 12:48 PM PDT
May 26 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez pledged to step up investment in Bolivia's energy industry and protect its citizens from ``American imperialism,'' moving to strengthen his grip over the nation.

Chavez Increases Grip in Bolivia With $1.5 Bln Plan (Update2)
Bloomberg.com Fri, 26 May 2006 11:48 AM PDT
May 26 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez plans more than $1.5 billion of new investments in Bolivia's mining and energy industries as he moves to strengthen his grip over the nation's economy.

Investment boost for Bolivia
Aljazeera Fri, 26 May 2006 9:59 PM PDT
Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, has pledged $1.5bn in energy investments in Bolivia.

Here is the result:


Morales' popularity jumped 13 points. With so much money being pumped from Venezuela, Morales' support is set to get higher and remain there.

I wonder if that'll have an effect on the assembly's vote this June. That is the big prize. If Morales gets to dominate the CA, he'll be able to shape Bolivia as he wishes. Just like Venezuela!

May 25, 2006

New PBS Video and Google Earth Image

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The PBS' Frontline World site is featuring a video about the rise of Evo Morales to the presidency. The 24 min. film made by young film maker, Tupac Mauricio Saavedra and producer, Gabriel Dvosk, tells Saavedra's impressions (in very simple English) about Morales' rise to power and the challenges he'll encounter.

As any other film, the cut is worth looking at, if not for the images which shed some light on Evo's personna, then to get to observe a clearly bias account of Evo's significance. Of course, one would expect that any seemingly well informed person would also seek information portraying the other side of the coin, to counter any bias and find the balance, which is probably somewhere in the middle.

On another subject, I want to share this satellite image taken from Google Earth. The image shows the city of La Paz. It is just amazing that such photos are accessible to anyone. The image can be zoomed in to an incredible ratio where one can see the houses. I think Google Earth is a good tool overall (with potential pitfalls, though).

May 13, 2006

Reactions to the EU - Latin America Summit

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Here is a list of news links from Yahoo about the summit and the various reactions.

Bolivia and Venezuela Are Chided at European Gathering
New York Times Fri, 12 May 2006 9:16 PM PDT
Walking a diplomatic tightrope, several European and Latin American leaders criticized Bolivia and Venezuela for their hostile treatment of foreign investors.

Brazil-Bolivia Relations Continue South
AP via Yahoo! News Fri, 12 May 2006 4:34 PM PDT
Relations between Brazil and Bolivia sank to their lowest point in a century Friday, as the two sparred over Bolivia's nationalization of its energy sector and threats to seize Bolivian land held by Brazilian farmers.

Bolivia Dominates EU-Latin American Summit
AP via Yahoo! News Fri, 12 May 2006 3:04 PM PDT
Bolivia's recent decision to nationalize its natural gas sector — and a burgeoning rift with Brazil over the abrupt move — overshadowed a summit Friday that drew leaders from the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Bolivia: US lax in ex-president criminal case
AFP via Yahoo! News Fri, 12 May 2006 3:41 PM PDT
A delegation of Bolivia's new government accused the United States of failing to cooperate in a criminal case against a former Bolivian president living here.

Brazil Calls for Compensation From Bolivia
AP via Yahoo! News Fri, 12 May 2006 8:44 AM PDT
Brazil's foreign minister called on Bolivia to compensate the Brazilian state oil company known as Petrobras if Bolivia seizes company assets there.

Brazil urges Bolivia to reimburse firm if assets seized
CNN.com Fri, 12 May 2006 7:13 AM PDT
VIENNA, Austria (AP) -- Brazil's foreign minister called on Bolivia to compensate Brazilian state oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobas, if Bolivia seizes company assets there.

Bolivia's Morales to Talk Oil in European Visits
NPR Fri, 12 May 2006 4:11 PM PDT
As Bolivian President Evo Morales embarks on a trip to Europe, where his move to nationalize Bolivia's hydrocarbon industry has generated debate. Morales' decree shook markets and incensed energy officials in Spain, whose energy companies are heavily invested in Bolivia.

Bolivia won't compensate oil firms
CNN Money Fri, 12 May 2006 4:31 AM PDT
Evo Morales, the country's new president, says he won't pay three European firms after Bolivia's takeover of operations in May.

Brazilian Farmers in Bolivia Fear Reforms
ABC News Fri, 12 May 2006 1:01 PM PDT
Brazilian Farmers in Bolivia Fear Being Targeted in Land Reform Push by Government

Brazilian FM outraged at charges of operating illegally in Bolivia
AFP via Yahoo! News Fri, 12 May 2006 0:38 AM PDT
Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim has expressed outrage at statements by Bolivian President Evo Morales that the state-run Petrobras energy consortium operated illegally in Bolivia.


May 12, 2006

The EU - LAC Summit and its Repercussions

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From May 11 to the 13, countries in Latin America and the European Union are meeting in the EU-Latin American/Caribbean Summit. This summit is bringing together some 60 countries from these two regions and even countries in-line to enter the EU, such as Romania and Bulgaria.

Bolivia is attending the summit with Evo Morales at the head. Whereas the meeting's agenda evolves around poverty aleviation, multiculturalism, better relations among the regions, human rights, commerce and so on, the Lat Am region is having its own particular agenda trying to address some of the divisions, problems, conflicts and interests affecting it currently.

For instance, according to press reports, Lat Am is experiencing a "slight" rift among its members. We have the rift between Argentina and Uruguay (due to pollution), Peru and Mexico have virtual stand offs with Venezuela, Brazil and Bolivia (due to nationalization) and the eternal Bolivia, Chile problem. Some of these problems are old and others are fresh.

The problem between Brazil and Bolivia could potentially be harmful for both countries. Brazil has expressed concern, not only because of the nationalization of the natural gas resources in Bolivia, but because its investments in that country. And recently, while in Vienna, Morales accused Petrobras (the Brazilian energy conpany) of ilegally operating in Bolivia. Additionally, Morales said there was no need of compensating Petrobras for its losses as a result of the nationalization process.

The climate is so tense right now that Chavez, in his infinite wisdom, was quoted as talking of a conversation he recently had with Lula da Silva where Lula expressed he was under tremendous pressure to take strong meassures against Bolivia.

I have to think, how irresponsible Chavez is by publically talking about a conversation that could have been confidentially confided in him by Lula.

While the summit is going on, there will be intense communication among the countries in Latin America. It seems there are two sides forming, the pro-Chavez and the anti-Chavez.

May 06, 2006

Vacation -------> Reduced Blogging

MABB © ®
Dear visitors:

Currently, I am on vacation in the US visiting my family. Therefore, blogging will be light. I will be back home end of May.

Of course, I will be checking MABB and blogging as often as I can. These are turbulent times in Bolivia and deserve to be watched constantly.

Miguel

May 02, 2006

El Alto, the Rebel City

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I am always talking about El Alto and the people who live there. I thought today I give you a bit of info about this city and its inhabitants. First, I found two places in the net where you can take a look at some images of El Alto, its people and its daily life. The first place is Amanda Martin's page from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN. In this page you can read a small overview about El Alto. You can also see very interesting images. Additionally, for more images you can also visit Nick Cooperman's blog in Travelblog.org. Nick's got very interesting photos of El Alto. See an example below.




Second, I'd like to give you a few facts about El Alto. In the high plateau of El Altiplano, El Alto was inhabited since Inca times. Starting as a suburb of La Paz, El Alto was declared a city in 1985. According to the 2001 census, the city has 649.958 inhabitants. It has about 100 inhabitants per 10 sq. kilometers, and it is about 1.042 sq. Kilometers. In comparison, it is about 7 times bigger than Lichtenstein and 6 times bigger than Washington, DC. The altitudes of its neighborhoods range between 4.150 and 3.850 m.a.s.l. El Alto is the final destiny for many migrants from the country side. It is very usual in Bolivia that people migrate from the country side towards the city. Between 1976 and 1992 the city's growth rate was 12 % p.a., however, more recently between 1992 and 2001 the growth rate decreased drastically to 5 %. Around 74 % of the population identify themselves as Aymara, 6% are Quechua and 19% do not identify themselves with any indigenous culture. This last figure is interesting taking into account that the city is called the indigenous city.

As stated earlier, El Alto was just a neighborhood of La Paz. It grew to its present size, to a large extent, because of massive migration of miners from the mining towns around the Altiplano. The so called "re-localizados" or relocalized miners moved there to continue their livelyhoods. These people are called relocalized because during the privatization wave of the 90s the government said that the mine workers would be relocalized to other jobs, but rather many mining companies closed down its doors and let the miners go. Around 30,000 from these miners relocalized in El Alto.

To show a little bit of the daily life I will tell you about the water problem.

El Alto is organized in districts. It has 9 districts, which contain neighborhoods or as they call them, "villas". The 8th district, which is comprised of around 140 villas, is one of the poorest areas. Around 90 of them have water service and the remaining 50 have not. It has not drinking water service and no sewage system. For those of you who have been to Bolivia, the areas is located around the road to Oruro. This part of El Alto grows day by day. Litterally every day there are people settling on the perifery making it somewhat of an uncontrolled growth.

People there have to buy their drinking water. There is a water market developed by some entrepreneurial people, who sell barrels of water (don't know the size) for around Bolivianos 4 (about US$ 0.50) and in dry season the price can go up to Bs. 5 or 6. One of the leaders of that community, Victor Chura Huanca, estimates that a family needs at least 8 barrels of water a week to drink, cook and wash. Making the math that means at least Bs. 32 a week and Bs. 128 a month. The way it usually goes is either the women or the children stand in a line in the corner of the street and wait for the water car or the cistern car, as they know it. The first ones to get water are the priviledged because as the water hits the bottom of the barrel, it gets murkier and murkier. Some people have even found baby frogs in it.

However, paradoxically, in rainy season the water becomes a problem for district 8. In rainy season, the streets of this villa become small rivers. And if the rains are strong, the adobe walls of the houses start soaking in water and come down eventually. The roofs of the huts also suffer with the rains.

Update:
Frank IBC was nice enough to share his photos with us. Check them out, they are interesting photos.

Here are some of my photos of El Alto:

La Ceja and vicinity

#350

#356

#357

Northern fringe, along road to Tiquina

#285

#286

#288

From airport (looking east-northeast)

#223

#224

#226

Southwest fringe (along road to Oruro – Illimani in background)

#358

May 01, 2006

Bolivia Nationalizes its Oil Fields

MABB © ®

Today, May 1, 2006, the Bolivian government headed by Evo Morales has officially nationalized its natural gas resources. In a symbolic act on the day of the worker (Bolivian holiday), Morales announced the law bringing the privatized natural gas resources, once again in government hands. Furthermore, he ordered the army to take possession of the physical camps. A list of links is provided below.

News links:

  1. Bolivia Military Told to Occupy Gas Fields Open this result in new window
    AP via Yahoo! News - 12 minutes ago
    President Evo Morales ordered soldiers to occupy Bolivia's natural gas fields Monday and threatened to evict foreign companies unless they give Bolivia control over the entire chain of production.
  2. Bolivia Leader Orders Army to Gas Fields Open this result in new window
    AP via Yahoo! News - 1 hour, 48 minutes ago
    President Evo Morales ordered soldiers to immediately occupy Bolivia's natural gas fields Monday and threatened to evict foreign companies unless they sign new contracts within six months giving Bolivia majority control over the entire chain of production.
  3. Bolivia nationalizes natural gas and oil industry Open this result in new window
    USA Today - May 01 11:12 AM
    President Evo Morales nationalized Bolivia's natural gas and oil industry Monday, ordering foreign energy companies to send their supplies to a state company for sales and industrialization.
  4. Bolivia Occupies Natural Gas Fields Open this result in new window
    CBS News - 1 hour, 12 minutes ago
    Bolivian President Evo Morales ordered soldiers to immediately occupy the country's natural gas fields. He threatened to evict foreign companies unless they sign contracts within six months giving Bolivia majority control over production.
  5. Bolivia takes control of gas sale Open this result in new window
    BBC News - May 01 11:08 AM
    Bolivia's president orders foreign energy firms to hand over gas sales to a state-owned company.
  6. Bolivia nationalizes its natural gas industry Open this result in new window
    Houston Chronicle - May 01 10:31 AM
    President Evo Morales nationalized Bolivia's natural gas industry today, ordering foreign energy companies to send their supplies to a state company for sales and industrialization.
  7. Bolivia nationalises oil and gas Open this result in new window
    Aljazeera - 27 minutes ago
    Soldiers have been ordered to occupy Bolivia’s oilfields and natural gas fields as the country’s president issued a decree formally nationalising natural resources.
  8. Bolivia Nationalizes Natural Gas Industry Open this result in new window
    CBS 2 Los Angeles - 1 hour, 31 minutes ago
    President Evo Morales nationalized Bolivia's natural gas industry and oil Monday, ordering foreign energy companies to send their supplies to a state company for sales and industrialization.
  9. Bolivia Nationalizes Natural Gas Industry Open this result in new window
    KUTV.com - 1 hour, 31 minutes ago
    (AP) LA PAZ, Bolivia President Evo Morales nationalized Bolivia's natural gas industry and oil Monday, ordering foreign energy companies to send their supplies to a state company for sales and industrialization.
  10. Bolivia nationalizes gas industry Open this result in new window
    The Globe and Mail - May 01 11:36 AM
    La Paz, Bolivia — President Evo Morales nationalized Bolivia's oil and natural gas industry Monday, ordering foreign energy companies to send their supplies to a state company for sales and industrialization.
Other blogs reporting on this topic:

Barrio Flores

Off Topic