January 31, 2007
Two news reports have called on to my attention this morning. The first one has to do with Negroponte's remarks to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his confirmation hearing to be appointed Condy's right hand deputy-designate. He bluntly said that Chavez (Hugo, that is) poses a "threat to democracy in Latin America". He says this, even though he argues that democracy is doing well in the region.
I think Negroponte, and thus the US, are making Hugo more important that he really is. By mentioning him in such official venues, Chavez take on to a different dimension. That is what he wants and the US is giving him exactly what he wants. The US government is playing right into Chavez's hands.
The other news report is about the other Chavez. The close advisor from Morales. Just in case you didn't know, I'll tell you a bit. Evo Morales has a Peruvian adviser. His name is Walter Chavez (no relation to Morales' mentor Hugo Chavez). It seems that Mr Chavez has a turbulent pass as extortionist for the guerrilla in Peru. He has been living in Bolivia as a refugee since he escaped from Fujimori's claws. He is now a close advisor of Morales, and now the Peruvian government are seeking his extradition for him to be tried on murders and extortions related to the terrorist guerrilla.
What is interesting though, is that one of Morales' staunchest supporters, Filemon Escobar, and a former running mate have voiced concern. The article says, "A breakaway leader of Morales' own grass-roots movement, Filemon Escobar, focused attention on Chavez's role last week when he complained that the Peruvian "manages everything" in the presidential palace. Morales' running mate in 2002 presidential elections, Jose Antonio Quiroga, was quoted by the La Paz newspaper La Razon as saying Chavez was "like the prime minister."
Dissent in the ranks, that is a primer. Especially coming from such a figure as Filemon Escobar. I did not think of it possible.
January 30, 2007
Among many other news services, Bloomberg reports on the Bolivian energy company's (YPFB) change of CEO. It states, "Bolivia's President Evo Morales named ruling party member Manuel Morales Olivera to head Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos, the state oil company's third CEO in 12 months. Morales Olivera, who isn't related to the president, replaces Chief Executive Juan Carlos Ortiz, who resigned Jan. 26 over differences with President Morales on how to run the company, YPFB spokesman German Velasquez said in a phone interview from La Paz."
Moreover, on the anniversary of his first year in office (January 23), Morales changed seven people in his cabinet. One of them, Salvador Ric, Minister for Basic Services and Public Works, also left the cabinet due to differences with Morales. Ric told the press that the government did not let him take any decisions. The last draw was when the government pushed its own people to fill posts, when Ric wanted to use technical knowledge to select candidates.
These two are symptoms of one of MAS' illnesses, i.e. two different currents within the organization. Let's remember that MAS is no political party, in the traditional sense. It is a what themselves call an umbrella organization where literally hundreds of smaller organizations are banded together. MAS is the so called "political instrument for the people's sovereignty". The majority of these organizations have roots in the organized labor, such as unions, federations, confederations, but also include neighborhood associations, even civic associations, and the like. The one commonality bringing all these organizations together is that the people are mostly working class people.
However, the commonalities stop there. As you may already know, Bolivia is a tremendously diverse country. There are no official statistics on how many indigenous tribes or groups live in Bolivia today, but according to some numbers I read there are at least 35 groups. However, the majority of these groups are organized in communities or localities. This means that each group has its own idiosyncrasies and its own way of organization. Of course, there are overlapping issues as well. With this I want to say that MAS is far from being a homogeneous, monolith group.
Nonetheless, aside from this particular differences, there is an overarching one. That is, there are two currents of thought within MAS. One is the indigenous thought which is seeking deep change in Bolivia's system of government. The other current has been denominated, the intellectual one. That is, it is the group of people who have higher education and university degrees. Some of these people are technocrats who have worked in other governments. These people have experience in government administration. Also, many people in this group does not completely subscribe to MAS' ideology and direction.
What brings these two odd groups together is, on the one side, MAS' need for experienced hands. Morales needs people who have experience in government administration and who can think in complex manner. The MAS is in desperate need for these people. On the other side, these intellectuals have a need for work, and perhaps their own ambitions. But, also, some might really want to work for MAS' ideals.
This fact has already meant many problems within MAS and the current government. One example is the assembly`s 2/3 voting method. The intellectuals were pushing for this option, whereas the indigenous wing wanted the simple majority method. I think this will keep on presenting MAS with difficulties. The fact that these two groups within MAS have different interest and think in different terms is not conducive to working together. And perhaps, that is good so.
January 29, 2007
The folks at Western Hemisphere Policy Watch (WHPW) posted an interesting question: "It is a cold and rainy day in our nation's capital city so we decided to stay in and blog some more. So, what of the Venezuelan military advisers invited without Bolivian congressional approval into Bolivian territory by Bolivian president Evo Morales? Besides fueling an already brimming political dispute between Morales and the eastern provinces controlled by anti-Bolivarian leaders, it was a dumb move by Morales but should not have come as a surprise (that is if you were paying attention to Morales as he campaigned for President). So what do we do now?"
The relationship between Morales and Chavez has been the object of much discussion (my posts here). Just do a search on both and literally thousands of links will come up. One part of that discussion is how that relationship affects the US. That is when WHPW come in with their post. The question they pose is an interesting one: What should the US do? A long time ago I published a post arguing that the US was doing pretty much everything wrong when it came to Bolivia and Evo Morales. Sorry I did not find that post, but I stand by that assessment, with one exception. The Andean Trade Preference expansion (for six more months) the US government just passed.
First, the US tries to negotiate with the Bolivian government based on its assumptions, which some of them by the way do not reflect new historical developments and are caught up way back in cold war history. Second, the old method of "carrot and stick" has not brought very many successes either. In my opinion it serves to create partnerships based on mistrust. Lastly, the US does not take the rest of the Americas seriously. This attitude has hindered real partnerships and has helped make America's bully image.
The people at WHPW are very worried with the Chavez-Morales marriage. They write "WHPW Editors continue to see a trend with Chavez and his antics that should be cause for concern to the U.S. The Bolivarian mission is de facto control of South America and beyond. These bases in Bolivia, the new and evolving relationship with Ecuador, the ties with the ideological base for all of the movement in Cuba, and the new front in Nicaragua, are all part of a scheme to undermine U.S. interests throughout Latin America and the Caribbean." They also rightfully wonder "The eastern provinces, we hear, are still firmly in control of the anti-Morales parties. One wonders what the military will do if called upon by Morales to use force against the opposition leaders? In addition to bases, could that be what the Venezuelan military advisers are in Bolivia to do?"
To these questions the folks at WHPW answer, "We should begin by taking a long and hard look at U.S. foreign assistance to Bolivia, including training and assistance monies to the Bolivian Armed Forces. On this latter point, the next few months will be a test of WHINSEC programs and related efforts to professionalize the military of Latin America." and "We must turn this around and become a little more specific and act, like we do when addressing Middle East challenges, and stop the political pussyfooting with Chavez, Morales, and the whole lot of them. The Western Hemisphere is at its strongest when democracies based on free markets, democracy, respect for neighbors, and rule of law are in power. We have a majority in that latter camp today. Let's keep it that way by taking these Bolivarian lunatics head on."
But, what does the US government say? Well, in the same post there is a reference to a speech by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas A. Shannon, Jr. at CSIS. After introducing the speech with symbolism, Shannon touches the core of the approach of US policy towards Latin America: Pan-Americanism. This approach aims to lump together in one basket the entire American continent, the US included. Shannon said it was important to recall OUR Pan-American heritage, and that only through collaboration, integration and rethinking our identity (because of immigration) America was going to face forward to the 21st century. Additionally, Shannon talks about "political effervescence" in the region. This effervescence, he says, is the way the governments in the continent are dealing with poverty, inequality and social exclusion.
Furthermore, Shannon outlines the US' agenda in the region: "... well, obviously having just gone through a year of elections, we face in front of us a year that we have described, both myself and Undersecretary Nicholas Burns, as a year of engagement. And what we mean by that is with so many new governments in place, some with familiar faces, but some with new faces, we have to go back out into the region and rebuild our dialogue, reconnect not just with governments but societies, and make sure that we have an openness and a fluidness and a frankness of dialogue that will allow us to understand each other well, but a dialogue that we think, while principled and interest based, is intent on finding points of convergence and recognizing that now, more than ever, points of convergence are going to be important to the future of the region."
By reading the whole document it sounds to me that the approach hasn't really changed. That is, the US still places importance on commercial cooperation as a means to promote integration. Also, that paternalistic mentality of "we only want what's best for you" seems to remain intact. Whereas, this is one way of promoting better relations, I think the US should realize and appreciate the importance of "its backyard". No matter how chaotic it may look. It should also start to take each country seriously and as a potential partner with equal rights. So, in short, the US needs to change its approach fundamentally to one of mutual respect and understanding. And, stop imposing, but rather persuading with arguments.
January 25, 2007
These are the Ponchos Rojos (Red Ponchos), the new "popular army" in support of the government. At least, that is what President Morales said in a speech during the first year celebrations of his government. Morales was attending a celebration in his honor in the Omasuyos province, where the Red Poncho army paraded for him. A local leader spoke of the army's readiness to stand and defend the government's policies. Morales said that the Red Ponchos army would stand together with the regular Bolivian army and both would defend the integrity of the country. This is not the first time this army is praised by Morales. In his symbolic enthronement in the touristic town of Tiahuanaku, they provided security for him. They even wanted to provide security in the official swearing-in ceremony in La Paz. However, the regular army did not let them.
The Morales government has made it a habit of calling 'the people' to action to defend the government's actions. In another infamous speech, Vice-president, Garcia Linera asked them to 'defend' this government, even with fire arms, if it was necessary. Morales is always mentioning how 'the people' will defend his so called revolution.
This image on the right is the leaflet circulated to provide information on this popular army. It describes the uniform and the weapons used. The firearm looks like an AK-47 Kalashnikova, an archaic piece of rifle left over from the Chaco War or the 1952 national revolution.
One day after this 'display' of support, the government played down the significance of this army and ordered the real military to disarm the people who still had their rifles. However, it was careful to point out that what Morales meant was that the people would 'defend' the government. The government's efforts to play down this faux pa contrasted very publicly with what was displayed that day. The media was quick to point out the inconsistencies between Morales' after explanations and what was written in the leaflet and what was said.
Of course, the issue is not that this people have old rifles, uniforms and are parading in formation for the government declaring their readiness to act if need be. Let's not forget, they are not shy of talking about armed conflict. What is problematic is the symbolism and the message the government's actions send. Alone the public legitimation of a group of people to serve as the defenders of the country is highly dangerous. What about the regular army?
In another topic, the opposition has won a small battle. As of yesterday, the opposition, which in this case is made of Podemos, MNR and UN, grabbed the president's chair in the Senate chamber. According to reports, the opposition came to this accord after weeks of negotiations and four other failed votes. The government's faction, MAS, lost the Senate's leadership and now it is the new opposition.
Another small victory came today when the government announced its decision to drop its demand to force a simple majority vote method in the Constituent Assembly. This article in the assembly's code had been the most divisive issue yet. However, that doesn't mean that the government and thus the MAS faction in the assembly is ready to accept the 2/3 option. Instead, it is proposing to submit all the articles to a referendum.
These two things mean a lot for the opposition. The first one means that now, the opposition controls the Senate and has the power to set the agenda. That is a lot of power in that chamber. It also has the power to stop the government's efforts to consolidate power, as any law has to be voted and passed by the two chambers together. Also, this means the government will have to be more ready to compromise and more accepting of the minority's opinion. The second one also means that the government will not be able to roll-over and write the new constitution alone. It will have to negotiate each and every point. In the end, it will need a lot of support to pass an article. The minor factions in the assembly win with this new development. In summary, the brakes to what I had called the attempts of this government to consolidate power are on, and now the minorities will be able to control and counterbalance even more the MAS' power in both, the government and the Constituent Assembly.
January 22, 2007
On January 22, 2006, Morales took office with high expectations. It's been one year since then, and many people are asking what has the government achieved in this year. Well, yesterday, Morales, his government and his party, MAS, celebrated with a big party in the famous San Francisco square (renamed Heroes square), in La Paz. Aside from music, the people who got together had the opportunity to hear a speech by Evo Morales, once again. In this speech, Morales gave a name to his efforts and called it the Democratic and cultural revolution, headed by the social movements. He mentioned that in Sao Paolo, Brazil about 20 thousand people met to celebrate this government's first year. Also, in Sweden, there were around 500 people.
Next, he talked about why is it important to celebrate this one year. He said that his opponents once argued that an Evo Morales's presidency was going to last 6 months only. However, he said, not only his government lasted longer but it has valued the Bolivian peso, in recent times. He also highlighted the fact that a great part of the Bolivian foreign debt has been forgiven. He said that hours before giving that speech, the BID had just condoned 100% of the debt. Morales continued saying that those people who said this government was bad for Bolivia were wrong.
Then he remembered everybody that his government nationalized the hydrocarbons sector, it recreated the national energy company and it has drawn plans to industrialize the natural gas. Additionally, he said that his government will, this year, nationalize the mining industry. He also talked about the INRA law (agrarian reform), which will end the latifundio (large property of land) in Eastern Bolivia. He said that this government will redistribute land and will mechanize the agrarian industry. He pointed out that the government is giving two tractors per municipality so people will use them to produce products.
He also talked about his discussions with other presidents in Brazil in the Mercosur meeting, where they discussed Latin American growth. He said that he found out there that Cuba headed the Latin American economic growth, with 11% p.a., ahead of Argentina and Venezuela. To that he added that Bolivia, since 1970 has always had a fiscal budget deficit, but now for the first time Bolivia had a 5% surplus. This was thanks to the nationalization and collection of taxes.
Nearing the end of his speech he remembered that a year ago, at this time, Garcia Linera and him did not know how to organize themselves. They did not have a plan. But, now results could be observed. Also, he said that he had much hope that the Constituent Assembly will be given all powers to be able to change deeply the structure of the Bolivian system. He said that this change process would be sustained by the organized people of Bolivia. For the first time, he said, "we saw that the government reported its achievements to the Bolivian people in Cochabamba. Before, we saw that the government would report to the IMF or the World Bank." He defined his democratic and cultural revolution as having four pillars: social movements, constituent assembly, congress, and executive.
This speech noted the advances of Morales' government. In another report published by the governmental press agency, the government highlights its achievements in foreign policy. It says that the most significant achievement was convincing the Chilean government to include the sea access issue in the diplomatic agenda. Additionally, this government assumed the presidency of the Andean Community (CAN). Within this framework, Bolivia and Venezuela signed many agreements. This report says that the Bolivian government was very busy this year. It went to four summits, including meetings with leaders of the EU and Africa. It met with the leaders of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Guatemala, Paraguay Uruguay, Venezuela (several times). It promoted the alternative to the FTAs, called Peoples Commerce Treaty. Among the treaties to highlight it can be mentioned that the international community has agreed to the following with Bolivia: Japan eliminated 100% of the Bolivian debt. With Germany the government signed the protected and biodiversity areas agreement; with Holland the government signed an agreement to cooperate in energy; also with Denmark it was signed an agreement about sustainable development, natural resources and environment; with China the government signed an economic and technical cooperation agreement. Additionally, with the Swedish government the government signed an agreement on alphabetization and micro credit for women, and with Italy the government signed an agreement for the financing of the Misicuni project (drinking water for Cochabamba).
This is the official version of the Morales government. However, the divisions are still firmly rooted. As the president gave a sort of state of the union address to congress, he reminded congress of the day he was destituted and trhown out of congress. He also named names and pointed to people present in the ceremony. As a result, the entire opposition faction of PODEMOS left the chamber. This was a tense moment, once again highlighting the deep divisions between Morales and the opposition.
January 18, 2007
The outspoken Cochabamba Prefect (Governor), Manfred Reyes Villa, has become a real thorn on Morales' foot. In the last weeks, Reyes Villa has spoken against the government unleashing a wave of protests which ended with the death of two people. Reyes Villa, who for a while was aligned with MAS, sharply criticized the government's attempts to remove the democratically elected Prefects from office by inciting its supporters to rise and "fight" for their "revolution". In response, he said he would call for a referendum to remove not only the Prefects, but also the President.
These words agitated the President, his government and through them, MAS supporters. Particularly upset were the Coca Growers' Union (Morales' own organization). These people staged a take over of grounds surrounding the state government building. The aim was to stay there until Reyes Villa resigned from office. The demonstrations turned violent to the point where part of the state government building was burned by these people.
In response, the city's civic organizations called to a demonstration for peace and in support of the Prefect. This demonstration was going to take place in the same square the other demonstrators held their meeting. The event organized by the civic organizations could not take place because the MAS supporters did not let the square free. This brought them into a brief confrontation which was defused by the police. However, the civic organizations promised to come back the next day and do something about it.
The next day, as reported by the media and I wrote in previous posts, was a day of violence and death. Reportedly, the MAS supporter died from a bullet shot by a supporter of the civic organizations. And, contrary to what the media reported, the so called civic supporter who died beaten up, was not taking part of the demonstration or the conflict. He was visiting someone in a hospital close where he died. Apparently, he went outside to smoke and see what was going on.
Currently, things have calmed down and the two groups have backed down. However, it seems like Reyes Villa is not done yet. After forcing the government to accept his legitimacy as an elected official, and the government going so far as to guaranteeing his safety to return to his office, he has started to speak again. He has said he will ask international organizations, like the OAS and the EU to come to Bolivia to evaluate the state of the democratic process. Additionally, he still wants to force the government to submit itself, as well as all the Prefectural offices, to a revocatory referendum, which would put the legitimacy of these offices in question. Reyes Villa commented, to the government's proposal to carry out such referendum, but excluding those offices who won with more that 50% of the vote, that the President was searching for excuses not to submit himself to such a vote because he knew he would lose. Reyes Villa argued that the government lost much support due to its efforts to consolidate power by inciting to violence.
Manfred's speech to the nation:
Here some news links:
Mensaje a la nación de Manfred Reyes Villa, prefecto de CochabambaUna semana de asedio a la democracia ha terminado en muerte y Cochabamba ha pagado con la sangre de sus hijos la radicalidad de un gobierno nacional, que siendo el único que pudo resolver la crisis, prefirió esperar la tragedia.
Es el presidente de la república quién tiene el monopolio de la fuerza; él dispone de los aparatos de seguridad del Estado y es el máximo líder de los cocaleros. Del él depende y dependerá, en todo momento, restituir las garantías constitucionales a los cochabambinos y restaurar la paz en el país. Quiero asegurarle a Bolivia que como Prefecto de Cochabamba he asistido a todo escenario de diálogo y el día miércoles 10 de enero, – en mi linea de respeto a la Ley – he puesto en manos del Ministro Quintana postergar el referéndum departamental sobre autonomías o someterlo a juicio del Poder Judicial y, en caso de que la justicia determine su improcendencia, postergarlo hasta cuando corresponda. Hasta hoy no hemos recibido respuesta. El cabildo de la cochabambinidad del 14 de diciembre último, emitió el mandato de convocar a un referéndum departamental sobre autonomías y la reacción de los sectores cocaleros del gobierno fue tomar por asedio Cochabamba destruyendo su patrimonio, agrediendo a los ciudadanos, cortando el suministro de agua y suprimiendo la libre expresión al ultrajar a los periodistas y asediar a los medios de comunicación. La violencia en Cochabamba es el punto de quiebre de un proceso de desgobierno que arrasó Huanuni y San Julián. Fue por eso que fui a la ciudad de La Paz, no a conspirar contra el gobierno, sino a defender la democracia. Porque Cochabamba es hoy día la última línea de defensa de la democracia y defenderla impone el compromiso del país en su integridad y una acción conjunta de todos los prefectos electos. Como Prefecto Constitucional y Comandante General del Departamento, les pido, imploro a los cochabambinos estar más unidos que nunca en la defensa de la paz y la tranquilidad de todas nuestras familias, velando por el valor supremo, la vida humana, por encima de cualquier cosa. Que esta profunda crisis sirva para reconciliarnos entre bolivianos; no queremos más sangre, más dolor ni más luto. Le pido al Presidente Morales devolvernos la paz.
Manfred Reyes Villa Bacigalupi
PREFECTO CONSTITUCIONAL Y COMANDANTEGENERAL DEL DEPARTAMENTO DE COCHABAMBA
- Bolivia: The national authorities must maintain order and protect inhabitants Amnesty International - 1 hour, 13 minutes agoPublishedThe national authorities in Bolivia must provide viable solutions under the rule of law to avoid more bloodshed, Amnesty International said today.
- Bolivia's request to become Mercosur member raises concern - Regional Business News Americas - 19 minutes agoBolivia's request to join Mercosur has raised concern among some of the bloc's members, an official from Uruguay's foreign ministry told BNamericas.
- Bolivia sends Cuban dissident to Colombia Miami Herald - Jan 18 3:57 AM(AP) -- A Cuban dissident arrested last month in Bolivia for criticizing President Evo Morales' close ties to Havana was deported Tuesday to Colombia rather than to Cuba, as he had feared.
- Tensions mount in Bolivian region BBC News - Jan 17 4:38 PMBolivia's central government refuses to accept a parallel government set up by protesters in Cochabamba.
- A year of Evo in Bolivia - The controversial president marks his first anniversary in office. Angus Reid - Jan 16 9:26 AMGabriela Perdomo - It has been 12 months since Evo Morales, the first indigenous person to ever be elected to the presidency of a country in the Americas, took his oath in Bolivia.
- Protesters take on the right in Cochabamba, Bolivia Socialist Worker - Jan 16 10:31 AMCochabamba, Bolivia’s third largest city, has become the focus of the growing battle between supporters of left wing president Evo Morales and right wing governors who are demanding autonomy for key oil and gas producing regions.
- Bolivia: The national authorities must maintain order and protect inhabitants Amnesty International - 1 hour, 15 minutes agoPublishedThe national authorities in Bolivia must provide viable solutions under the rule of law to avoid more bloodshed, Amnesty International said today.
- Bolivia: Tensions Reach a Head in Cochabamba La Nueva Cuba - Jan 15 7:48 AMStratfor Breaking Intelligence Geopolitical Intelligence Report Infosearch: José Cadenas Analista Bureau Chief USA Research Dept. La Nueva Cuba January 15, 2007
- Bolivian governor calls off autonomy plans AlertNet - Jan 15 3:51 PMSource: Reuters LA PAZ, Jan 15 (Reuters) - The governor of Cochabamba in central Bolivia said on Monday he will stop pressing for a referendum on regional autonomy, the issue that sparked deadly street clashes last ...
- Morales allies vow to step up protests in Bolivia Reuters via Yahoo! India News - Jan 12 8:30 PMCOCHABAMBA, Bolivia (Reuters) - At least 20,000 coca farmers allied with Bolivian President Evo Morales vowed on Friday to keep up protests against a provincial governor, a day after two people were killed in street battles.
- Morales allies vow to step up protests in Bolivia AlertNet - Jan 12 7:51 PMSource: Reuters (Updates with new Morales comments) By David Mercado COCHABAMBA, Bolivia, Jan 12 (Reuters) - At least 20,000 coca farmers allied with Bolivian President Evo Morales vowed on Friday to keep up ...
- Bolivia protesters pressure governor AP via Yahoo! News - Jan 14 7:14 PMDemonstrators loyal to President Evo Morales continued their weeklong vigil in this central Bolivian city on Sunday, calling for the opposition-aligned state governor to resign for backing a movement to give the country's nine states greater autonomy.
- Morales allies vow to step up protests in Bolivia AlertNet - Jan 12 2:21 PMSource: Reuters (Recasts, adds quotes, previous LA PAZ) By David Mercado COCHABAMBA, Bolivia, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Thousands of coca farmers allied with Bolivian President Evo Morales vowed on Friday to keep up ...
January 16, 2007
Bolivia's Morales to meet with Iranian president
The Associated Press
Published: January 13, 2007
LA PAZ, Bolivia: President Evo Morales said he will discuss trade and diplomatic relations with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when the leaders meet in Ecuador for Monday's inauguration of President-elect Rafael Correa.
"The president of Iran has asked me for a bilateral meeting," Morales said at a news conference Saturday night in Cochabamba, 230 kilometers (140 miles) southeast of the capital of La Paz. "They've proposed a diplomatic agreement with us, or actually we've already discussed trade agreements and we'll see if it's necessary to have a diplomatic agreement as well."
January 12, 2007
The conflict in Cochabamba has deepened. The result of confrontations between the coca grower's union members who are MAS supporters and what could be a newly emerging civic organization Juventud por la Democracia (Youth for Democracy) has resulted in over 100 people wounded and at least 2 dead.
This latest episode started a couple of days ago when the civic organization wanted to demostrate and call for peace and dialogue for the conflict between MAS and the Prefect. They wanted to gather in the same square where the MAS coca growers gathered the previous day. To prevent this demonstration, the MAS people took over the square and did not let the demonstration take place. It was hours later that the Youth for Democracy group warned the government supporters they would come back the next day, and they better be gone. Naturally, MAS was not gone and hence the confrontation.
This last increase in the level of violence is having repercussions around the country. Now, the civics in Santa Cruz have called state of emergency and want to start taking decision to support this civic movement in Cochabamba, as well as demonstrate in Santa Cruz. At the same time, various unions and umbrella organizations have expressed their concern and want to meet to take also decisions on how to act in response to the events in Cochabamba.
More images from indymedia bolivia below:
Links to articles:
| Bolivia: 2 Killed, 70 Wounded in Street Battles |
Times Thu, 11 Jan 2007 7:59 PM PST
Two people were killed and more than 70 wounded as supporters of President Evo Morales and seekers of regional autonomy battled one another with guns, sticks and rocks on the streets of Cochabamba, in central . Fighting broke out when supporters of Manfredo Reyes Villa, governor of the state with the same name as the city, entered downtown Cochabamba, occupied since Monday by thousands of ...
| One killed, 50 injured in Bolivia clashes |
Reuters via Yahoo! News Thu, 11 Jan 2007 2:19 PM PST
One person was killed and about 50 were injured in on Thursday during clashes between protesters demanding the resignation of the governor of the Cochabamba region and his supporters, local media reported.
| 30,000 leftist protesters wield sticks, rocks in Bolivia |
Daily Star Thu, 11 Jan 2007 11:09 PM PST
â€” Protesters seeking the ouster of a Bolivian state governor for his opposition to leftist President Evo Morales battled with the governor's supporters Thursday in clashes that left one dead and dozens injured, authorities said.
| Political Clashes Kill 2 in Bolivia |
Journal Gazette & Times Courier Thu, 11 Jan 2007 9:30 PM PST
- Protesters seeking the ouster of a Bolivian state governor for his opposition to leftist President Evo Morales battled with the governor's supporters Thursday in clashes that left two dead and more than 60 injured, authorities said.
| Bolivia's YPFB Postpones Gas Bids for Argentina to Jan. 16 |
Bloomberg.com Thu, 11 Jan 2007 2:52 AM PST
Jan. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos, 's state-owned oil company, postponed until Jan. 16 bids by pipeline operators to ship natural gas to Argentina.
| Negroponte: Democracy in "danger" in Venezuela and Bolivia |
El Universal Thu, 11 Jan 2007 3:00 PM PST
US National Intelligence Director John Negroponte Thursday stated before the Congress that democracy is in "danger" in and , and he depicted President Hugo ChÃ¡vez as one of the most anti-American leaders in the world, reported AFP.
| Two killed, dozens hurt in Bolivia street battles |
Reuters via Yahoo! News Thu, 11 Jan 2007 6:45 PM PST
Two people were killed and nearly 70 wounded in street battles in the central Bolivian city of Cochabamba on Thursday, with national and regional leaders blaming each other for the political violence.
| Violent clashes kill two in Bolivia |
AAP via Yahoo!7 News Thu, 11 Jan 2007 10:49 PM PST
Violent protests over a Bolivian state governor's call for more local autonomy have killed two and injured more than 60 in the South American country.
Nicaragua's Ortega signs trade pact
AP via Yahoo! News Thu, 11 Jan 2007 6:13 PM PST
Nicaraguan revolutionary Daniel Ortega's first day as president was spent signing a socialist trade pact with allies , and , and planning a meeting with 's hard-line president, actions sure to irritate the U.S. government.
January 09, 2007
The Bolivian government has repeatedly asked MAS supporters to "defend" its "revolution". Yesterday, in Cochabamba, the answer could be observed. MAS supporters burned part of the state government (prefectural) building in Cochabamba during a violent demonstration to demand the democratically elected Prefect, Manfred Reyes Villa, to resign from his office. Reyes Villa had been critical of Morales' efforts to consolidate his power in office.
The results of that demonstration were 31 wounded, 10 MAS supporters, 11 policeman and 10 journalists, who were trying to cover the story. According to accounts in Los Tiempos, some demonstrators threw stones against the police using hondas (long leather strings used by the indigenous population to propel stones). This attack was then answered by police guarding the Prefecture building with anti-riot gas. Immediately thereafter, Government Minister, Alicia Munoz, destituted police Chief, Wilge Obleas Espinoza and ordered the retreat of police forces, leaving Prefect Reyes Villa without any protection and in danger of being caught by the protesting mass. The Prefect then escaped wearing a police uniform (interview with Reyes Villa in Spanish).
Opposition forces are deeply concerned. Citing violations to the democratic process, the opposition in Santa Cruz with the voice of the State Government, expressed its alarm and warned the government that if such acts would want to be promoted in Santa Cruz, the state government would act against them. Jose Luis Paredes, Prefect of La Paz, also condemned with the same alarm the events in Cochabamba.
The opposition severely criticized Minoz's decision to fire Obleas literally minutes after he swore-in. Munoz said Obleas order military action and that no one could order any kind of repression against the social movements (MAS), while Obleas said he did not have time to do so. He was just informed police forces acted according to their mandate of defending government buildings against any aggression. People in the opposition did not hesitate to highlight Munoz's contradiction when during the July 2006 disturbances in Santa Cruz, she accused and also fired the Santa Cruz Police Chief of not acting against the protesters.
For more infor, please check the Bolivian newspapers listed on the right bar.
January 03, 2007
Over the last three days, I have been perplexed (once again) by reading about some latest governmental decisions. On this post, I just want to make some observations and point out to some things that I consider inconsistencies. For example:
On today's La Razón, I read more about the government's decision to start asking US tourists for a visa when entering Bolivia. I also wrote a post about it yesterday (just scroll down). But the details are slowly coming out. The requirements for this visa are, passport, yellow fever vaccination, a bank account, invitation or residence permit and it should be approved by Bolivian immigration. What is curious is that the principle of reciprocity, on which this decision is being applied, does not apply to Venezuela or the EU, for as Venezuela also asks Bolivians to obtain a visa when entering this country and the EU will start all too soon.
I also talked yesterday about the consular id for Bolivians living in the US. It turns out I correctly guessed that the document has not been discussed with the US government. So, it is not sure if the US government or any of the states or local governments will accept this consular id as a form of identification.
Now about the government itself. I just found out the president will travel outside the country without parlamentary permission this January. That is, Morales will not ask the Parliament if he can visit all those countries he is going to. On the 10 he will be visiting Venezuela (I hope he has his visa) and Nicaragua; on the 14 he'll be visiting Ecuador; and on the 16 he'll be in Brazil. The government argues that since the trips are not longer than 5 days, the President does not need to ask congress for permission.
On the issue of political advisors, last year I read in various news reports that Mr. Morales had a number of Venezuelan nationals as advisors around him in the government palace. Today I read about another foreign political advisor. Mr. Walter Chavez, official political advisor of Morales, is Peruvian and has been living in Bolivia in political asylum. The opposition has Mr. Chavez in the scope since the government is trying to deport cuban dissident Samartino.
The massive firing of non-MAS supporters is underway. Even though, the government assures this will not be a "white massacre", and under the banner of austerity, it will fire all individuals that did not support the government's policies and those who do not agree with MAS' principles. The government's speaker assured that the positions will not be filled with MAS' supporters. However, these have been publically calling for more jobs in the government aparatus. It seems to me, that from now on, he who is not MAS supporter will have to look for another job. So, nothing has changed in this respect.
Again, on today's La Razón, I read that Morales, in his speech opening the judicial cycle, blatantly criticized the members of the Supreme Court accusing them of being the product of political quotas. He asked them to take part of his government's policies and aims. I don't know about you but to me this feels as he is asking them to step down, so he can place MAS judges in their places. This comes on the back of criticism the government received by many after Morales appointed by decree four magistrates. Usually, they have to be appointed by Congress.
January 02, 2007
Evo Morales and his cabinet spent the night of the 31 to the 1 working. His aim was to show his government would spend 2007 laboring for Bolivia. According to reports, Morales and his cabinet issued five decrees and prepared three new bills to be presented to Parliament for their consideration. The result translates into many changes. One of them is that, from now on, US citizens will have to get a visa to enter Bolivia. The reasons given by the government are reciprocity and security.
Because the US asks Bolivians to apply for a visa when they want to enter the US, the government of Morales wants to do the same to its citizens. This reciprocity policy is not the only one in South America, I know Brazil has the same policy. However, this policy brings more inconveniences than benefits. For one, I could say that the number of US tourists will definitely go down. Those numbers are already too low, and with an additional bureaucratic barrier, it will be worst. Besides, American citizens or tourists come to Bolivia privately, they, for the most part, are not part of the government. Why is it that civilians get to feel the antagonism between governments?
Also, it will not only be burdensome for US tourists, it will also affect Bolivian-Americans. A person like me will have to get a visa to enter his or her own country. I can think of many of my friends who, ironically, will be able to contribute to Bolivia's economic growth by sending remittances, but will have to apply to visit Bolivia, and perhaps only get a permission to stay three months. I know people who go to stay for longer than three months.
Also, while we are on the topic of immigration, the Morales government has decided to "help" Bolivian immigrants in the US by issuing what they call an intelligent consular ID. This document will have the most modern security features and will attest to the identity of the holder. The government says that this document could be used to open accounts, work, get paid, rent anything, etc. Moreover, the document will cost US$ 35, for two years.
What is curious is that from the three articles of the decree, the first one talks about how much it will cost, the second more or less talks about how long will it be valid, and that for the same amount of money it could be renewed. And the third article says to whom the proceeds belong.
I am thinking, and I have to say I have not being able to read the whole text of the articles, that perhaps something is missing here. A great majority of Bolivians are in a situation in which they are living illegally in the US. These people do not have ids nor passports. And, those who do, do not show them for fear of being deported. Also, the situation in the US (that of high security, mistrust and skepticism) is not conducive to trusting any authority. How is it that this document will help these Bolivians? I think if know a little bit of how the US immigration service works, and how accepted are foreign issued documents, it is naive to think this intelligent consular id be in any way helpful to Bolivian citizens. I would have to guess, it would not. US authorities will simply just not accept any foreign issued document, unless there is an agreement between those two governments.
January 01, 2007
I found this interview with Morales interesting. Here is the text:
Entrevista con Evo Morales, presidente de Bolívia
“El capitalismo sólo prejudicó a América Latina”
Por Jens Glüsing y Hans Hoyng
Publicado digitalmente: 2 de septiembre de 2006
El presidente de Bolivia, Evo Morales, 46, habló con DER SPIEGEL sobre los planes de reformas para su país, el socialismo en América Latina y las relaciones frecuentemente tensas de los izquierdistas de la región con EEUU.
Der Spiegel - ¿Señor presidente, porqué una parte tan grande de América Latina se está moviendo para la izquierda?
Evo Morales - La injusticia, la desigualdad y la pobreza de las masas nos obligan a procurar mejores condiciones de vida. El pueblo de mayoría indígena de Bolivia siempre fue excluido, políticamente oprimido y culturalmente alienado. Nuestra riqueza nacional, nuestras materias primas, fueron saqueadas. Los indios ya fueron tratados como animales aquí. En los años 30 y 40 ellos eran rociados con DDT para matar los piojos de su piel y de su cabello siempre que venían a la ciudad. Mi madre ni podía poner los pies en la capital de su región natal, Oruro. Hoy estamos en el gobierno y en el Parlamento. Para mi, ser de izquierda significa combatir la injusticia y la desigualdad, pero queremos principalmente vivir bien.
DS - ¿Usted convocó una asamblea constituyente para establecer una nueva República boliviana. Como deberá ser la nueva Bolivia?
Morales - No queremos oprimir ni excluir a nadie. La nueva República debe basarse en la diversidad, en el respeto y en los derechos iguales para todos.
Hay mucho para hacer. La mortalidad infantil es asustadoramente alta. Yo tuve seis hermanos y cuatro de ellos ya murieron. En el campo, la mitad de los niños muere antes de llegar al primer año.
DS - Su partido el MAS, socialista, no tiene la mayoría de dos tercios necesaria para enmendar
la Constitución.¿Usted pretende negociar con otras facciones políticas?
Morales - Estamos siempre abiertos a la conversación. El diálogo es la base de la cultura indígena, y no queremos tener enemigos. Adversarios políticos e ideológicos, talvez, pero no enemigos.
DS - ¿Porqué Usted suspendió temporalmente la nacionalización de los recursos naturales, uno de los proyectos más importantes de su gobierno? ¿Bolívia no tiene know-how para extraer sus materias primas?
Morales - Continuamos negociando con las compañías involucradas. La actual falta de inversiones no tiene nada que ver con la nacionalización. Es culpa del gobierno de derecha del [ex-presidente] Tuto Quiroga, que paró todo la inversión en la producción de gas natural en 2001 porque, como él afirmó, no había mercado interno para el gas natural en Bolivia.
Pretendemos comenzar a prospectar de nuevo. Firmamos un acuerdo de abastecimiento de gas natural con Argentina y también estamos cooperando con Venezuela. Firmamos un contrato para trabajar una mina de hierro con una compañía india. Ella creará 7 mil empleos directos y 10 mil indirectos. Negociamos precios y condiciones mucho mejores que las de nuestros antecesores.
DS - Pero existen grandes problemas con Brasil. Bolivia está pidiendo un precio muy alto por el abastecimiento de gas natural. ¿Eso no perjudica su relación con el presidente [brasilero] Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva?
Morales - Lula está demostrando su solidaridad. Él se comporta como un hermano más viejo. Pero estamos teniendo problemas con
la Petrobrás, la compañía energética brasilera. Las negociaciones están muy difíciles, pero somos optimistas.
La Petrobrásamenazó cancelar todas las inversiones en Bolivia.
Morales – Eso no viene del gobierno brasilero, sino de algunos ejecutivos de
la Petrobrás. Elloscolocan esas amenazas en la prensa para presionarnos. Brasil es una gran potencia, pero tiene que tratarnos con respeto. El compañero Lula me dijo que habrá un nuevo acuerdo y que él quiere importar más gas.
DS - Bolivia no vende gas natural para Chile porque los chilenos quitaron el acceso de Bolivia al mar en una guerra hace más de 120 años. Hoy una socialista está en el poder en Chile. ¿Usted va a ofrecerle gas ahora?
Morales – Nosotros queremos superar nuestros problemas históricos con Chile. El mar nos dividió y el mar debe reunirnos. Chile concordó por primera vez en hablar sobre el acceso de Bolivia al mar. Es un enorme paso adelante. La presidente chilena vino a mi pose y yo participé de la pose de [presidente de Chile] Michelle Bachelet en Santiago. Nosotros nos complementamos.
Chile precisa de nuestros recursos naturales y nosotros precisamos del acceso al mar. En esas circunstancias, debe ser posible encontrar una solución de interés de los dos países.
DS - ¿Qué influencia tuvo el presidente Hugo Chávez de Venezuela en la nacionalización de los recursos naturales de Bolivia?
Morales - Absolutamente ninguna. Ni Cuba ni Venezuela se involucraron.
Yo mismo administré la nacionalización. Solamente siete de mis más próximos asociados sabían del decreto y la fecha. A pesar de haberme encontrado con Chávez y [el presidente cubano] Fidel Castro en Cuba algunos días antes del anuncio, no hablamos sobre la nacionalización. Yo ya había firmado el decreto antes de partir para Cuba, y el vicepresidente lo entregó al gabinete.
Cuando Fidel me preguntó en Cuba hasta dónde el proyecto había avanzado, yo le dije que pretendíamos anunciar la nacionalización en los próximos días, pero no le di una fecha. Fidel me aconsejó a esperar hasta la convención constituyente. Chávez no sabia nada.
DS - Chávez quiere instalar en Venezuela un socialismo para el siglo 21. Su asesor ideológico, Heinz Dieterich, un alemán, estuvo recientemente en Bolivia. ¿Usted pretende introducir el socialismo en Bolivia?
Morales - Si socialismo significa una vida mejor, con igualdad y justicia, y que no tendremos problemas sociales y económicos, entonces es bienvenido.
DS - Usted admira a Fidel Castro como el "abuelo de todos los revolucionarios latinoamericanos". ¿Qué aprendió con él?
Morales - Solidaridad, principalmente. Fidel nos ayuda mucho. Él donó siete clínicas de ojos y 20 hospitales básicos. Los médicos cubanos ya realizaron 30 mil operaciones de catarata gratuitas a los bolivianos. Cinco mil bolivianos de origen pobre están estudiando medicina en Cuba sin costos.
DS – Pero los médicos bolivianos protestan contra la presencia cubana. Dicen que ella los priva de su sustento.
Morales - El Estado boliviano no paga a los médicos cubanos, por eso ellos no están sacándoles nada a los bolivianos.
DS - ¿Usted sabe como Castro se encuentra de salud?
Morales - Si, hablé con él por teléfono hoy. Está sintiéndose mejor en los últimos dos días. Él me dijo que estará suficientemente bien para participar de la cúpula de los países no alineados en
la Havanaen septiembre.
DS - ¿Él va a discursar?
Morales - Ciertamente. Es una oportunidad que no perderá.
DS - Los americanos están preocupados que Chávez esté ganando influencia exagerada. ¿Usted no está volviéndose dependiente de Venezuela?
Morales - Lo que me une a Chávez es el concepto de integración de América del Sur. Es un viejo sueño de una patria grande, un sueño que ya existía antes de la conquista española, y Simón Bolívar luchó por él más tarde. Queremos una América del Sur en los moldes de
la Unión Europea, con una moneda como el euro, que valga más que el dólar. El petróleo de Chávez no es importante para Bolivia. Nosotros sólo recibimos diesel en condiciones favorables. Pero no somos dependientes de Venezuela. Nosotros nos complementamos. Venezuela comparte su riqueza con otros países, pero eso no nos torna subordinados.
DS - La izquierda latinoamericana está fracturándose en una corriente social-demócrata moderada, liderada por Lula y Bachelet, y un movimiento populista radical representado por Castro, Chávez y usted. ¿Chávez no está dividiendo al continente?
Morales - Existen social-demócratas y otros que están caminando más en la dirección de la igualdad, quiera llamárselos socialistas o comunistas. Pero al menos América Latina no tiene más presidentes racistas o fascistas como en el pasado. El capitalismo sólo perjudicó a América Latina.
DS - Usted es el primer presidente indígena en la historia boliviana. ¿Qué papel la cultura indígena tendrá en su gobierno?
Morales - Debemos combinar nuestras conciencias sociales con la competencia profesional. En mi gobierno, intelectuales de la clase alta pueden ser ministros o embajadores, así como miembros de grupos étnicos indígenas.
DS - ¿Usted cree que los pueblos indígenas desarrollaron un modelo social mejor que las democracias blancas occidentales?
Morales - Antiguamente no había propiedad privada. Todo era propiedad común. En la comunidad indígena donde nací, todo pertenecía a la comunidad. Ese modo de vida es más equitativo. Nosotros los indígenas somos la reserva moral de América Latina. Actuamos según una ley universal que consiste en tres principios básicos: no robar, no mentir y no ser indolente. Esa trilogía también servirá de base para nuestra nueva Constitución.
DS - ¿Es verdad que todos los funcionarios del gobierno tendrán que aprender las lenguas indígenas quechua, aimará y guaraní en el futuro?
Morales - Los servidores públicos en las ciudades precisan aprender la lengua de su región. Si ya hablamos español en Bolivia, también debemos ser fluentes en nuestras propias lenguas.
DS - ¿Los blancos están tratando mejor a los indígenas, ahora que Usted está en el poder?
Morales - Mejoró mucho. La clase media, los intelectuales y los profesionales liberales hoy están orgullosos de sus raíces indígenas. Infelizmente, algunos grupos oligárquicos continúan tratándonos como inferiores.
DS - Algunos críticos afirman que ahora los indios en Bolivia son racistas en relación a los blancos.
Morales - Eso forma parte de una guerra sucia que los medios de masa está manteniendo contra nosotros. Empresarios ricos y racistas poseen la mayor parte de los medios.
La Iglesia Católicalo acusó de querer reformar la educación religiosa. ¿No habrá libertad de religión en Bolivia?
Morales - Yo soy católico. La libertad religiosa no está en cuestión. Pero soy contra un monopolio en lo que se refiere a la fe.
DS - Algunos grandes propietarios de tierras amenazan con una resistencia violenta a la planeada reforma agraria. ¿Qué tierras Usted pretende expropiar?
Morales - Vamos a expropiar grandes extensiones de tierra que no están siendo cultivadas. Pero queremos una reforma agraria democrática y pacífica. La reforma de 1952 llevó a la creación de muchas parcelas pequeñas e improductivas en la meseta andina.
DS - Bolivia está dividida en provincias ricas en el este y pobres en la meseta. Hoy existe un fuerte movimiento de autonomía en el este. ¿El país corre el riesgo de dividirse?
Morales – Eso es lo que quieren algunos pequeños grupos fascistas y oligárquicos. Paro ellos perderán la votación sobre la asamblea constituyente.
DS - Bolivia es un importante productor de narcóticos. Sus antecesores mandaron destruir las plantaciones ilegales de coca. ¿Usted pretende hacer lo mismo?
Morales - Desde nuestro punto de vista, la coca no debería ser destruida ni completamente legalizada. Las plantaciones deberían ser controladas por el Estado y por los sindicatos de agricultores. Nosotros lanzamos una campaña internacional para legalizar la hoja de coca, y queremos que
la ONUretire la coca de su lista de sustancias tóxicas. Científicos probaron hace mucho tiempo que las hojas de coca no son tóxicas. Nosotros decidimos una reducción voluntaria del área que está siendo plantada.
DS – Pero EEUU afirman que la mayor parte de los cultivos de coca acaban en el tráfico de cocaína.
Morales - Los norteamericanos dicen todo tipo de cosas. Ellos nos acusan de no cumplir las condiciones de su ayuda al desarrollo. Los gobiernos pro capitalistas que me antecedieron apoyaron la masacre de los plantadores de coca. Más de 800 campesinos murieron en la guerra contra las drogas. EEUU está usando su guerra a las drogas como disculpa para expandir su controle en América Latina .
DS - La agencia antidrogas americana, DEA, tiene agentes estacionados en Bolivia que asesoran a los militares y a la policía en sus esfuerzos para combatir el tráfico de drogas. ¿Usted va a mandarlos de vuelta para su casa?
Morales - Ellos continúan allí, pero no están más de uniforme y armados, como antes.
DS - ¿Cómo está su relación con EEUU? ¿Pretende viajar a Washington?
Morales - Un encuentro con [el presidente americano] George W. Bush no está planeado. Yo pretendo viajar a Nova York para visitar
la Asamblea Generalde la ONU. Cuandoyo todavía era miembro del Parlamento, los americanos no me dejaron entrar al país. Pero jefes de Estado no precisan de visto para viajar para la ONUen Nova York.
DS - Usted quebró su nariz cuando jugaba futbol algunas semanas atrás. ¿Está jugando menos ahora?
Morales - ¿Mi nariz todavía está torcida? Practicar deporte siempre fue mi mayor placer. Yo no fumo, raramente bebo alcohol y raramente bailo, a pesar de ya haber tocado la trompeta. Los deportes me ayudaron a llegar al palacio presidencial. Mi primer cargo en el sindicato fue el de secretario deportivo. Yo dirigí un equipo de futbol en el interior cuando tenía 13 años.
DS - ¿Porqué Usted no usa corbata?
Morales - Nunca usé corbata voluntariamente, a pesar de haberme visto forzado a usarla para unas fotos cuando era joven y para eventos oficiales en la escuela. Yo acostumbraba envolver mi corbata en un diario y siempre que el profesor verificaba yo me la colocaba rápidamente. No estoy habituado a eso. La mayoría de los bolivianos no usan corbata.
DS - Señor presidente, muchas gracias por conversar con nosotros.
Additionally, this link to JUBILEO Foundation provides info on the unequal distribution of funds in Bolivia. The article talks about the 2007 budget and how, if seen in per capita terms, it is grossly disproportionate.