July 27, 2006

A Conversation With René Antonio Mayorga

MABB © ®

On Thursday last week I had a very interesting conversation with René Antonio Mayorga. For those who don't know him, he is currently one of the most recognized political scientist in and outside of Bolivia. He works at the Centro Boliviano de Estudios Multidiciplinarios (CEBEM) in La Paz; he has been Cogut Visiting Professor in Latin American Studies at Brown University and this year, beginning in September, he'll be a visiting scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in DC. He was visiting the Institute for Iberoamerican Studies (IIK), here in Hamburg (where I work), and taking advantage of this visit, I talked with him. Dr Mayorga agreed to talk with me about Evo Morales, MAS, Bolivia and Bolivian politics. Among his recent publications that I recommend is "La Crisis del Sistema de Partidos Políticos en Bolivia", published in the Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies in 2005.

The interview/conversation covered topics such as Evo Morales, the recent events in Bolivia, the nationalization of natural gas, Morales' relations with Chavez and the current Constituent Assembly. What follows is the text of that interview translated from Spanish. Sorry, no audio. Perhaps next time.

MABB: Dr Mayorga, thank you for taking the time to talk with me.

René A. Mayorga (RAM): My pleasure.

MABB: We have seen, in December 2005, Evo Morales being elected president of Bolivia. Certainly a first in Bolivian history. What do you think about it?

RAM: It is important to put the election of Morales in a wider context. It has to be seen as part of the crisis which has been affecting Bolivia over the last five years. Morales' political strengthening and his subsequent rise to power has been the result of the crisis the traditional political parties and the government have gone and are still going through. The traditional political parties, specially, have lost legitimacy because they did not respond to the political and social demands. At the same time the Coca eradication policy pursued by earlier governments (i.e. Banzer in 1997) intensified the social conflicts in Bolivia.

MABB: What is the significance of the achieved 54% of voter support in the December elections?

RAM: One significance is that Morales and his party efectively replaced the elite with campesino (peasant) and leftist leaders. Another is the number itself. For the first time in history, a president is elected without the necessity for Congress to intervene. As we know, the norm was, according to the Constitution, if an incumbent did not reach a majority (51% votes), the decision was an attribute of Congress. It was there that the presidencies were decided since 1982. Morales was able to gain 54% of the votes due to the polarization of the country emanating from the crisis. There were even middle class voters, not necessarily supporters of MAS (Morales' party), who gave Morales a "chance". Additionally, Morales won because the people did not want to vote for the other candidates.

MABB: What is what Morales achieved, revolution or change? Where does he want to take Bolivia?

RAM: What Morales achieved was change, but with some elements of revolution. A political elite was replaced by a new elite. When we say elite we are talking about the leaders at the decision apex who have a hegemonic control. Now there are new people in this apex making the decisions. This new elite, however, is not consolidated, is incoherent and has no training or experience in politics. What happened is not revolution, if we understand revolution as the total substitution of a dominant political and economic systems. Nonetheless, it could become a revolution if Morales is able to shape Bolivia the way he has been saying he wants to. If he succeeds in substituting the current system with the one he's been talking about. Bringing back the ayllus, along with his version of communitarian democracy.

I think Morales' objective is clear. If we take into account the political measures he implemented and his rhetoric it is clear that he is strongly oriented towards a Chavist model, which here means, concentration of power and control by the executive branch.

MABB: There has been a heated discussion about where to put Morales in the political spectrum. Where would you place him?

RAM: Morales is a populist with strong ethnocentrist connotations. He is a union leader with an indigenous origin. Albeit, his ideology is not coherent yet. He speaks of communitarian democracy and the important managing role of the state. He is also an anti-capitalist. That's clear.

MABB: What is the role of Vicepresident Linera in the Morales government?

RAM: Linera has a clear indigenist vision. However, surprisingly, he is turned out to be less of a radical as one would heve thought. He has become the moderator and interpreter of what Morales says. Often we see and hear Linera trying to explain Morales' outbursts to the media.

MABB: What do you think about Morales' performance in the government?

RAM: There are two things to mention, nationalization and the Constituent Assembly. Morales did what he had to do. He promised nationalization and he nationalized the natural gas resources. He promised to call to a Constituent Assembly and he did. Both of these things were long present in the demands of the people. Now, if we take a more detailed look, we can ask ourselves: what kind of nationalization it was? What Morales did was a "limited nationalization" of the natural gas resources. This means the state secures more control of the resources, wich is not equal to the more traditional meaning of nationalization by expropriation. The nationalization process was more like a show, if we remember the coverage of the occupation of the fields by the Bolivian military. A point to highlight is the radicalization of the May 1, 2006 decree compared to the 2005 Hydrocarbons Law. With this decree the state lost its ability to cooperate with other entities and took it upon itself to extract, refine and commercialize the natural gas. This restricts the state to assume all the responsibilities.

MABB: Much has been said about the friendship between Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez. What do you think about the relationship Chavez-Morales?

RAM: From the MAS point of view, the relationship is obviously optimal. But, one has to recognize that behind the cooperative intentions of Chavez, there are elements of power thirst. Chavez wants to become a central piece in the energy industry game in Latin America. In that game, Evo Morales, is just another piece. Let's remember that Morales himself once said: "Chavez is not only my tutor, but also the Bolivian people's tutor". That quote reflects the subordination Morales feels towards Chavez.

MABB: A very scary prospect is the possible secession of Santa Cruz. Do you think that Santa Cruz could one day proclaim independence?

RAM: No, I don't think that there will be, any time soon, the independent republic of Santa Cruz.

MABB: Assuming that Morales gains absolute control of the assembly, and he basically writes his own constitution, Santa Cruz would not be happy if the autonomy issue is not in the form of regional autonomy.

RAM: The scenario you cite is certainly possible, but an extreme one. I think it is more probable that the reality of the process will not allow him to obtain total control of the assembly and as a result he'll be obliged to negotiate. At this moment, I don't see the possibility of a secession.

MABB: What do you think about Morales' intentions of making the Constituent Assembly supreme (even above the current constitution)?

RAM: The Constitutional Assembly cannot have supreme powers. The democratic gains of the last 20 plus years would be reverted. The system would end up turning authoritarian or even dictatorial. Having into account that Morales is clearly anti-democratic (that is, follows the Chavist line), the danger would be that the rules of the game could be altered or redifined at will. One example would be to declare that the 2/3 rule is not adequate and a lesser hurdle would fit better.

MABB: Well, unfortunately the time is up and we have to end this conversation. I thank you for your insight and wish you well on your future endeavours.

July 22, 2006

Vice-President Linera Speaks in DC; International Election Observers Report; An Unlikely Partner

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As part of his trip to the US, Vice-President Linera, has given a talk last Friday 21 at the conservative think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). You can visit CSIS' website and there you'll find a series of links on some background reports written by the director of the Americas Program at the center. Here, you can also find an audio version (1 hr and 13 min) of Linera's words.

Linera's trip to the US had as a mission to ask the US congress to prolongue the ATPDEA (Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act) program, from which Bolivia's products have access to the US markets with favorable conditions.

According to reports from the Bolivian press, Linera already met with members of Congress and was told to explain in detail and in writing what he meant. There are even talks of a meeting between Morales and Bush in September.

On another point, related to the July 2 elections, the two bodies who acted as observers of the elections process, the European Union and the OAS, have made positive statements about the regularity of the elections.

The EU said:

"The electoral process complied with international standards and national legislation, especially in the areas of freedom of expression and transparent election administration. The EU EOM welcomed the high participation of Bolivian voters, confirming the commitment of the Bolivian authorities and citizens to democratic and genuine elections in Bolivia."

The observing mission will remain in Bolivia to continue observing the post-elections developments. More info you find it here.

The OAS mission had similar comments:

Nuestras conclusiones son las siguientes:

1.- Durante el día domingo, las bolivianas y los bolivianos ejercieron su derecho al voto en un clima de normalidad democrática. La tónica general fue la tranquilidad y los incidentes de los que hemos tenido conocimiento han sido menores y no influyeron en el desarrollo de los comicios.

2.- El trabajo de los miembros de las mesas, tanto en lo relativo a su apertura y cierre como en el cumplimiento de las normas establecidas por la Corte Nacional Electoral, ha sido satisfactorio.

3.- Los datos preliminares indican que las elecciones han tenido una participación significativamente alta, lo que, una vez más, muestra la decisión del pueblo boliviano de decidir de manera activa respecto a su futuro.

4.-Se han reportado algunas inconsistencias en la depuración del padrón, lo que es normal en este tipo de procesos y no ha dificultado el desarrollo normal de las elecciones.

5.- El traslado de las actas desde las mesas hasta las Cortes Departamentales se está realizando según lo planificado y con la cobertura de seguridad correspondiente. Las Cortes Departamentales se encuentran en condiciones operativas para llevar adelante el cómputo departamental, sin que hayamos recibido reportes de incidentes.

6.- Es importante destacar la labor desempeñada por la Corte Nacional Electoral en la preparación, organización y ejecución del proceso electoral. Una vez más la institución electoral boliviana ha demostrado su profesionalidad, imparcialidad y buen desempeño, lo que genera confianza y credibilidad entre la ciudadanía boliviana.

And they concluded:

En resumen, la Misión de Observación Electoral de la Organización de los Estados Americanos considera que las elecciones para la Asamblea Constituyente y el Referéndum Nacional Vinculante se han desarrollado en un clima de normalidad democrática. Por ello, es importante hacer pública nuestra más sincera felicitación a quienes han hecho posible esta extraordinaria jornada electoral

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On a last note, an up until now unthought of partner such as South Africa will visit Bolivia to continue and perhaps deepen the channels of communication among the two nations. There is an interesting article from the ANDnetwork.com I think is worth mentioning.

July 13, 2006

MAS' Six Way Splitt and IMF's Economic Assessment

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Six way splitt in the ranks of MAS. This is, by any means, no singular force.

On the one side we can observe regional factions such as La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz. The La Paz faction is the largest and has good possibilities of electing an assembly president, the Cochabamba faction is the social base of MAS and Evo Morales and has proportionally elected the most Masistas to the assembly. However, if a Masista from Santa Cruz would be elected to the presidency, it would be a good counterbalance and a appeasing sign for that department.

On the other side there is the Cocaleros faction, emiently syndicalist in nature. The Cocaleros are considered the bones of the MAS and many of them think they deserve to lead the assembly.

Lastly, there are two antagonist groups, the intelectuals and the indigenous. These two groups differ fundamentally on their approaches. The intelectuals argue that there needs to be people capable to negotiate and compromise. The indigenist camp argues that there is a historical need to place an indigenous person in the presidential seat, just because there was never one in such position.

The various factions are keen on getting the president's seat for themselves. The fact that there are so many groups dividing MAS is telling of the difficulties facing the Constituent Assembly.

I also wanted to place the IMF's assessment of the economic situation in Bolivia for review.

IMF Executive Board Concludes 2006 Article IV Consultation with Bolivia
Public Information Notice (PIN) No. 06/77
July 19, 2006


On July 17, 2006, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the Article IV consultation with Bolivia.1

Background

Despite wide-ranging economic reforms over the past two decades, the accomplishment of macroeconomic stability, and a major expansion of the hydrocarbons sector, Bolivia has achieved only modest gains in poverty reduction and inequality has remained high. The reform process, which encompassed privatizations and liberalization of the exchange and trade systems, contributed to a major decline in inflation and to an increase in growth in the 1990s. However, the growth performance deteriorated during 1999-2003 in the context of rising social tensions and political instability, and the partial recovery of the last two years has been concentrated in the highly capital-intensive hydrocarbons sector. As a result, Bolivia's key social indicators have continued to lag.

Over the past year, Bolivia has experienced major political changes, against the background of entrenched dissatisfaction with the country's poor social indicators and weak governance. Following a protracted political crisis, the constitution was amended in June 2005 to allow early presidential and congressional elections for a new full five-year period in December 2005, together with the first direct elections for regional governors. Agreement was also reached on calling a constitutional assembly and a referendum on regional autonomy in July 2006. The elections resulted in a major renewal of Congress and in a landslide victory for Evo Morales, the first indigenous head of state in Bolivian history.

The new government has inherited a favorable macroeconomic situation, associated in large measure with the extremely favorable international environment. In 2005, GDP growth was just above 4 percent and the fiscal deficit narrowed to 2.3 percent of GDP. Inflation was contained below 5 percent following an acceleration early in the year due to petroleum price increases, supply disruptions, and imported inflation. Financial sector stability improved as deposits and credit increased for the first time in several years, and the balance of payments remained strong with official foreign exchange reserves rising to historic highs. Financial dollarization declined, due to expectations of exchange rate appreciation as well as prudential and tax measures that have increased the cost of holding foreign currency. The Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative has resulted in a substantial reduction of the public debt burden.

Thus far in 2006, the economy has kept the positive trends observed in 2005. Economic activity has been led by high export values of hydrocarbon and mining products, which have contributed to a strong external current account surplus. Inflation has continued in the low single digits, following a decreasing trend that started in the fourth quarter of 2005, and the overall fiscal position is in surplus. In particular, sub-national governments have been accumulating sizable deposits at the central bank, thereby helping sterilize the monetary impact of the rapid international reserve accumulation. Indicators of banking system soundness have been broadly stable, with high liquidity and capital adequacy ratios above mandatory levels.

The economic outlook for the remainder of 2006 remains positive, helped in large part by continued highly favorable external conditions, notably high energy prices. Real GDP growth is expected at just above 4 percent, with inflation in the low single digits. The combined public sector is expected to record a near balance for the year as a whole as the temporary extra revenues accrued from the new hydrocarbons policy framework would not be translated immediately into investment spending by Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB). Reflecting debt relief under the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (see Press Release No. 05/286), the ratio of public debt to GDP is projected to decline from 71 percent at end-2005 to 51 percent by end-2006. Accumulation of official reserves is projected to continue, reflecting a strong external current account surplus associated with high international prices of fuels and minerals.

Executive Board Assessment

Executive Directors noted that, benefiting from prudent macroeconomic policies and a very favorable external environment, the Bolivian economy sustained a strong performance in 2005 and so far in 2006. This performance reflected satisfactory GDP growth, a strong balance of payments, low inflation, improvements in the fiscal position, and historically high levels of international reserves. Despite periods of political uncertainty, the banking system has remained stable and dollarization has declined somewhat. Reflecting debt relief under the MDRI, the burden of the public debt has been substantially reduced.

Looking ahead, Directors noted that Bolivia's short-term prospects are favorable but medium-term challenges remain. They encouraged the government to take advantage of its strong mandate to push forward with the necessary policies for cementing the recent macroeconomic gains, enhancing the business climate, and promoting higher, diversified, and more equitable growth. In this context, Directors welcomed the authorities' emphasis on safeguarding macroeconomic stability and strengthening governance.

Directors stressed the importance of fiscal prudence and strengthened public expenditure management to ensure fiscal sustainability. The combined public sector is projected to be close to balance in 2006 reflecting mostly strong revenues from the hydrocarbon sector. However, the deficit would re-emerge in 2007 in the absence of another exceptional hydrocarbon revenue yield, and also reflecting higher YPFB investments and payments for the acquisition of shares in the nationalized companies. Directors noted that this could have possible implications for debt sustainability. The authorities were therefore encouraged to strengthen expenditure management at all levels of government. In this context, Directors welcomed the government's firmness in containing wage increases to manageable levels. However, some Directors observed that salary compression at the higher levels appear at odds
with the government's economic strategy that may require an upgrading of the management of public entities. It was also stressed that the resources made available as a result of debt relief under the MDRI should be spent effectively.

Directors stressed that enhancing fiscal transparency and accountability at all levels of government will require strengthening the budget process and intergovernmental fiscal relations. The authorities were encouraged to resubmit to Congress the draft budget framework law. Regarding intergovernmental relations, the current revenue sharing and expenditure allocation system should be reassessed in light of the capacity to generate revenue at the subnational level, and made consistent with an agreed allocation of spending responsibilities across the different layers of government.

Directors expressed concern at rigidities in domestic petroleum pricing that generate inordinately large explicit and implicit subsidies. Accordingly, they stressed the need to move domestic petroleum product prices to international market-based levels, which could be undertaken gradually while using part of the resulting fiscal savings to protect vulnerable groups. Reflecting these subsidies explicitly and transparently in the budget would increase the public's awareness of their cost and support for their rationalization.

Directors recommended that attention be given to enhancing domestic taxation. Current plans to reduce exemptions and special regimes, rationalize the free trade zones legislation, and modify the VAT refund system to reduce fraud are welcome. Directors encouraged the authorities to revisit the scope for introducing a tax on high personal incomes, which would exclude the bulk of the population and thereby spread the tax burden more fairly. In the mining sector, where the government is considering an increased tax take, they noted the importance of ensuring that revenue measures do not discourage additional private investment.

Directors commended the central bank for continuing to pursue a cautious monetary policy stance. However, to better address inflationary concerns and improve the economy's ability to weather external shocks, many Directors recommended that the authorities consider a gradual and well-sequenced move towards greater exchange rate flexibility, which could be achieved in the context of a managed float. Such a move would require an adaptation of the monetary policy framework to monetary or inflation targeting. In this context, a number of Directors noted that it would be premature to adopt an inf lation targeting regime especially in view of the challenges associated with Bolivia's still dollarized economy. Some other Directors considered that, instead of moving to a managed float, it could be preferable to improve the operation of the current exchange rate regime.

Directors cautioned that, while the financial sector has strengthened notably, important challenges remain. In particular, care must be taken that the proposed public development banking system does not introduce distortions in the banking system, and that any related fiscal costs are clearly included in the budget.

Directors welcomed the government's emphasis on greater equity, transparency, and accountability. However, they saw the parallel emphasis on an elevated role for the state as risking the environment for private investment. Directors recommended that the authorities should therefore maintain a careful balance between government interventions in the economy and the preservation of appropriate incentives for private investment that remains critical to support growth and raise employment and living standards.

Directors observed that considerable uncertainty prevails in the hydrocarbons sector regarding the modalities for implementing the recent nationalization decree. They urged the authorities to work to achieve mutually acceptable arrangements with the concerned oil companies. Moreover, Directors noted that the expanded role newly assigned to YPFB will call for high-quality management and full transparency, consistent with international accounting and auditing standards.

Directors underscored that Bolivia may face a more competitive external environment for its nontraditional exports in the period ahead, including with the prospect of an erosion of preferential access to important markets. The authorities will therefore need to intensify their efforts to expand Bolivia's access to external markets. In addition, Directors considered that the medium-term outlook hinges crucially on the maintenance of a stable legal framework, notably with regard to property rights, which takes on added relevance in light of the land reform initiative and the potential for major institutional changes in the context of the forthcoming constitutional assembly.
In this post you only find the text, but you can find the original publication here (tables included)

July 12, 2006

The New US Ambassador in Bolivia and an Interview With Evo

MABB © ®

Two things I wanted to briefly mention. Bolivia has nominated Gustavo Guzman as the new Bolivian Ambassador in the US and the US government has appointed another career diplomat, Philip S. Goldberg, as the new American Ambassador in Bolivia.

Gustavo Guzman is a journalist who worked in La Razon and La Prensa (La Paz newspapers) and the weekly, Pulso. He worked as a communications advisor to the La Paz Mayor, Juan del Granado. Also worked with former ADN La Paz Mayor, Ronald McLean. In his youth he was militant of the Bolivian Communist Party (PCB).

Here you can read an interview by La Razon.

Goldberg has a long career at the State Department. Here is what it said in the website of the Pristina office.

Mr. Philip Goldberg, the new Chief of Mission of the U.S. Office Pristina, arrived in Kosovo on Thursday, August 12, to assume his post. Mr. Goldberg will lead the U.S. Mission for the next two years. He served most recently as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Santiago, Chile (2001-2004).


Mr. Goldberg, a career member of the U.S. Senior Foreign Service, served from January to June 2001 as acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs. He came to that position after having been a senior member of the State Department team handling the transition from the Clinton to Bush Administrations.

Mr. Goldberg served as Special Assistant (1996-1998) and then Executive Assistant (1998-2000) to Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott. From 1994 to 1996 Mr. Goldberg was the State Department’s Bosnia Desk Officer and a Special Assistant to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. In the latter capacity, he was a member of the American negotiating team in the lead-up to the Dayton Peace Conference and Chief of Staff for the American Delegation at Dayton.

Mr. Goldberg has served overseas as a consular and political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia, and political-economic officer in Pretoria, South Africa.

Before joining the Foreign Service, Mr. Goldberg worked for several years as a liaison officer between the City of New York and the United Nations and consular community. Mr. Goldberg is a native of Boston, Massachusetts, and a graduate of Boston University.

On another topic, I wanto to direct readers to a translation of an interview with Evo Morales by an argentinean newspaper here. Jonathan Olguin, at Business and Politics in Bolivia has done the work.

Alpaca Sweaters, Made in .... ha? USA?

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Everyone knows Alpacas, LLamas and Vicunas are native to the Altiplano region in Peru, Bolivia and Chile. Up to now, when one talks about these camelids and the goods produced with their wool, there is an automatic connection with the Andes. But, that connection might be about to change. More and more, there are Alpaca and Llama farms being started in the US. These farms and their respective investors have seen the golden egg in the form of an Alpaca.

The Alpaca wool is finer and softer than its counterpart sheep wool. It is already established as a luxury item in the US and Europe. Now, the investors are hoping the use of Alpaca wool becomes widely used.

The following report from Bloomberg.com illustrates this development very well.

Ohioans Flock to Alpacas as Investment Yields $2,500 Stud Fees

July 11 (Bloomberg) -- Barbara Wille doesn't have to go far to breed Crown's Bay, her prize black male alpaca, for a stud fee of $2,500. Ohio has more alpaca farms than any other state, so she just loads Crown's Bay into her minivan for a short trip.

``We always get stares,'' said Wille, 61, who raises 23 alpacas with her husband Ed, 66, on their farm in Valley City. ``He looks like a head on a stick to passing cars.''

The Willes say they have earned $200,000 since starting up in 1994 by selling the furry creatures, winning stud fees and housing 12 alpaca boarders for $3 a day. Investors industrywide are paying $5,000 to $1 million per animal, said Cheryl Laufer, 52, owner of Spirit Wind Alpacas of Newbury, Ohio. They're betting that alpaca fiber, softer than cashmere and warmer than sheep's wool, will become the luxury fabric of choice.

The combination of inexpensive grazing land, a failing manufacturing economy and the influence of several large farms has made Ohio the U.S.'s alpaca capital. The state has 435 farms with 8,000 of the animals, which are cousins of the llama and camel. About 12 percent of all alpacas registered in the U.S. are in Ohio, according to the Alpaca Owners & Breeders Association in Nashville, Tennessee.

``Alpaca farming provides us with the quiet lifestyle we wanted for our retirement,'' Barbara Wille said. ``It's a nice supplement to our retirement income.''

Even small-scale farmers can make returns of 30 percent to 50 percent over the lifetime of an alpaca, Laufer said. The animals live 15 to 20 years. They can be fully insured, and ranching tax laws allow the write-off of some expenses, said Laufer, a director of the Alpaca Farmers & Breeders Association, which represents the industry in Ohio.

``We're doing better with this than we ever did in the stock market,'' she said. ``It's the investment you can hug.''

continue reading....

July 11, 2006

Final Results of the Autonomy Referendum and Constituent Assembly

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Here is a nice graph from La Razon of the final results, based on the results published by the National Electoral Court (CNE).

July 09, 2006

99% of the Vote Count is Done

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According to the electoral court, 99,7 % of the votes from the July 2 Constituent Assambly (CA) and Autonomic Referendum (AR) elections are counted. I think at this stage we can take a look at the results and make some conclusions.

The first conclusion is the most obvious: The Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) has won among all the organizations, but it is fallen short of its own goal of obtaining at least 2/3 of the representatives. With 2/3 of the assembly seats in MAS hands, Morales would have just had to write the constitution himself and not worry about it getting rejected or debated.

Now, according to the below La Razon graph, MAS has gotten 50.76% of the votes at the national level, which translates into 139 seats at the assembly. Additionally, if we count other organizations allies of MAS, which received assembly seats, MAS has control of a total of 151 seats from 255, 19 seats short for taking control of the assembly.

Another interesting conclusion is that MAS dominates the landscape, even in Santa Cruz, where it got 26.4% of the vote. The only two departments where PODEMOS won are Pando and Beni. I would have expected, specially after those marches in support for autonomy in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, that PODEMOS would have won. Instead PODEMOS got second place with 25% of the vote. If we compare this result with the results MAS got in other departments where it was clear it should have won, for example in La Paz (64%) or Cochabamba (61%), PODEMOS should have gotten at least 50% of the votes in Santa Cruz.

What happened? Are Evo's opponents in Santa Cruz not really the majority? Personally, I think the vote in Santa Cruz is splintered. The support for MAS is not large and its opponents are not united.

Another conclusion is that the road to a new constitution could be marred by politic bickering (the way it's been up to now) instead of negotiation and communication. For the MAS it looks as it will be easier just because it only has to bring another 19 votes over to its side. How hard can this be? I guess we'll see in the comming months. I take it, it could be pretty hard, considering that Bolivian politics is more or less polarized at the moment.

For PODEMOS, it looks like an uphill battle. It needs to prepare itself for lots of compromises and negotiations. I would say that PODEMOS and the other organizations will aim to try to stop MAS' influence and power over the assembly rather than make significant contributions to the new social contract. I guess the opposition could fulfill one of the madisonian conditions of control in the chamber.

A last conclusion to highlight is the amount of the blank and invalid votes. According to the CNE around 23,7% of the votes were blank and invalid votes. This is significantly more that the blank and invalid votes in the last December elections. From those votes, around 600,000 votes were blank. Two things come to mind, one is that the voters were apathetic or frustrated with the process and thus voted blank. Another is that the information campaign of the CNE was not good and did not fulfill its purpose. I am inclined to think the second is closer to what really happened.



Another thing, as a commentary, I want to mention is the defection reports of around 30 Cuban doctors from the mission working in Bolivia. One of the doctors is even said to have made it to the USA. I just read in the Santa Cruz newspapers and in La Razon of La Paz that the Cuban mission wants to prosecute these doctors for treason.

On of the doctors has given an intervew to a Santa Cruz channel and has talked about his life in Cuba and the precarious conditions for living.

Logically, the Cuban government wants to prosecute this doctor for defamation.

This is a twist which further complicates the events in Bolivia.

July 04, 2006

Results of the Bolivian Constituent Assembly and the Autonomic Referendum Vote

MABB © ®
On July 2, 2006 Bolivia voted to elect the representatives to the Constituent Assembly (CA), which yet again aims to create a better state. On the same day, they were asked to voice their oppinion (in a referendum) about whether or not the issue of departmental autonomy should be included and carried out in the CA.

It is now Tuesday, July 4, 2006 (Happy 4 of July USA) and some preliminary results are in from La Razon's own projections:




Of course, the preliminary results from the National Electoral Court paint a different "preliminary" picture.

Followed are links to reactions of the world press:

Today:


Bolivia's actions change the rules in South AmericaHouston Chronicle Mon, 03 Jul 2006 10:55 PM PDTPresident Evo Morales' nationalist move to grab control of Bolivia's vast natural gas holdings is shaking up the energy picture throughout the region.
Bolivia: Leftists win big in assemblyUPI Mon, 03 Jul 2006 11:29 AM PDTLA PAZ, Bolivia, July 3 (UPI) -- Supporters of Bolivian President Evo Morales appear to have won a majority in the new assembly that will write the country's new constitution.
Bolivia president's bid to consolidate power sees setbackSan Jose Mercury News Mon, 03 Jul 2006 3:32 AM PDTPresident Evo Morales' ambitious plans to empower Bolivia's indigenous majority and boost state control over the economy suffered a setback Sunday when his party failed to win control of an assembly that will rewrite the constitution, unofficial preliminary results showed.
World: Leftist party leads voting in BoliviaFort Wayne Journal Gazette Mon, 03 Jul 2006 4:35 AM PDTPresident Evo Morales’ party won a majority Sunday in elections for an assembly that will retool Bolivia’s constitution but fell short of the two-thirds needed to push through its leftist agenda, according to unofficial preliminary results.
Autonomy vote may dampen Morales agendaAP via Yahoo! News Mon, 03 Jul 2006 8:38 PM PDTThe fractious outcome of a vote on autonomy for Bolivia's states and the government's apparent failure to win enough backing to rewrite the constitution could dampened the leftist agenda of President Evo Morales.
Election outcomes in Mexico, Bolivia ease U.S. anxietyMiami Herald Tue, 04 Jul 2006 0:02 AM PDTThe Bush administration emerged a quiet winner as the dust settled after a tumultuous electoral Sunday in Latin America. In Mexico, conservative candidate Felipe Calderón was clinging to a narrow but apparently insurmountable lead against left-wing challenger Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
Leftward tilt stalls in Latin AmericaThe News & Observer Mon, 03 Jul 2006 11:46 PM PDTVotes in Mexico, Bolivia to Bush's advantage.
Bolivia Takes Another Step in Energy NationalizationRigzone Mon, 03 Jul 2006 10:32 AM PDTBolivian President Evo Morales on Saturday ushered in a new era for the country's natural gas industry, presiding over a ceremony in which the state-run YPFB energy firm was made the nation's exclusive wholesale fuel distributor.
Morales backers fail to win controlAP via Yahoo! News Mon, 03 Jul 2006 0:55 AM PDTPresident Evo Morales' supporters failed to win control of an assembly that will rewrite Bolivia's constitution, leaving him no choice but to compromise over his ambitious plans to empower the indigenous majority and boost state control over the economy.

Yesterday:


Bolivia launches constitutional reformIndian Country Today Sun, 02 Jul 2006 10:57 PM PDTCUSCO, Peru - It began as a long march by indigenous people through the Amazon jungle in 1990, shook the streets of Bolivia in 2003 and 2005, brought down two presidents and elected the first Indian president of Bolivia in December 2005.
Morales' grand plans are dealt a setbackAP via Yahoo! News Sun, 02 Jul 2006 9:48 PM PDTPresident Evo Morales' ambitious plans to empower Bolivia's indigenous majority and boost state control over the economy suffered a setback Sunday when his party failed to win control of an assembly that will rewrite the constitution, unofficial results showed.
Bolivians Elect Assembly to Revise ConstitutionWashington Post Sun, 02 Jul 2006 8:31 PM PDTLA PAZ, Bolivia, July 2 -- Bolivians voted Sunday for a national assembly to retool the constitution, a key step in President Evo Morales's plans to cement his reforms and give more power to the Andean nation's Indian majority.
Bolivians Vote on President's Plan to Overhaul ConstitutionNew York Times Sun, 02 Jul 2006 8:02 PM PDTBolivians also voted Sunday on whether to grant more fiscal and political autonomy to Bolivia's nine states.
Morales party doesn't get needed majorityAP via Yahoo! News Sun, 02 Jul 2006 6:44 PM PDTPresident Evo Morales' ambitious plans to empower Bolivia's indigenous majority and boost state control over the economy suffered a setback Sunday when his party failed to win control of an assembly that will rewrite the constitution, unofficial preliminary results showed.
Morales' party falls short of two-thirds majority in assembly: exit pollsAFP via Yahoo! News Sun, 02 Jul 2006 7:08 PM PDTThe party of President Evo Morales has won a narrow majority in Bolivia's future constitutional assembly, falling far short of the number of seats needed to single-handedly rewrite the country's constitution, an exit poll showed.
Morales party fails to win needed majorityAP via Yahoo! News Sun, 02 Jul 2006 5:40 PM PDTPresident Evo Morales' party won a majority Sunday in elections for an assembly that will retool Bolivia's constitution but fell short of the two-thirds needed to push through its leftist agenda, according to unofficial preliminary results.
Bolivia votes on Morales reformsBBC News Sun, 02 Jul 2006 7:01 AM PDTBolivians are voting on plans by President Evo Morales for a new assembly that will rewrite the constitution.
Morales' Grand Plans Are Dealt a SetbackABC News Sun, 02 Jul 2006 8:21 PM PDTMorales' Party Fails to Win Two-Thirds Majority Needed to Push Through Leftist Agenda in Bolivia
Morales' Grand Plans Are Dealt a SetbackSan Francisco Chronicle Sun, 02 Jul 2006 8:39 PM PDTPresident Evo Morales' ambitious plans to empower Bolivia's indigenous majority and boost state control over the economy suffered a setback Sunday when his party failed to win control of an assembly that will rewrite the constitution, unofficial results...

Analysis must come later, once the official results are clear or the national authorities report them.