March 29, 2008

Update on the Situation and the Autonomic Referenda

MABB © ®

In the coming two months, I will be traveling to Bolivia to undertake field research. For that reason, I will not be updating very often. It all depends on my access to the internet and my time. But, the expectation is not to update often. Of course, I will be reporting what interesting things happen, if need be.

A bit uncompromising, my statement, but the uncertainty plays a role. :-)

-----------------------------------------------------------
Update 2:
In the mean time, things have been getting tense for the government. There is a wave of trouble coming towards it. People in the town of Camiri, located in Santa Cruz department, have been blocking the access road to demand more jobs, more investment, and more control over the oil companies that operate there, namely, Andina. While, the heavy transport industry, together with the exporters association, are protesting the government's decree stopping the export of certain products, such as cooking oil. Also, the public service drivers' association want to strike to demand higher prices. And, in Santa Cruz city, the civic organizations want to march to show their support for the upcoming referendum, to show support for the Camiri cause and the exporter's cause.

On top of all that, the physical security force of the police wants to strike to ask for better benefits.

It seems to me that the closer May 4th is, the more conflicts will appear. It will be a thing to observe, in the coming weeks.

-----------------------------------------------------------

It is about time to make an update on the situation in Bolivia and the referenda for autonomy. As we know, on May 4th, Santa Cruz will carry out its autonomic referendum. This will be against all odds, because the National Electoral Court (CNE) has issued a decision declaring all referenda, including the one the government is organizing, as not having legal grounds. Nonetheless, Santa Cruz is going ahead with the referendum.

The Santa Cruz referendum will be the beginning of a series of referenda in other parts of the country. The Beni department will have its own on June 1st and Tarija will carry out its referendum on June 22nd. Of course, Pando has to still make its date official, and Sucre and La Paz are still thinking about it.

The Santa Cruz referendum seems to be unstoppable. The government has been trying many things to stop it. Now, it is trying to stir its supporters in Santa Cruz to block the roads so the material does not make it to the voting places on election day. However, the organizers seem to be well prepared. They have a 15,000 men militia (the Young Crucenista Union) which will provide order and security. The electoral organisms are willing to execute the law against anyone who does not vote or tries to block the voting.

The key date to have in mind is May 4th. If it will happen, its the 5000 dollar question.

March 26, 2008

Effects on the Macro-Economy

MABB © ®

A mixture of factors are having an undesirable effect on the Bolivian economy. At different levels and times, the effects are being felt by the population, first, as shortages of comestibles and higher prices. On the one side, the historically high national reserves, which consequently have an effect on money supply, combined by likewise historically high government intakes from natural gas, are driving government spending up. On the other side, the government's fiscal policy of de-dollarizing the economy by creating incentives to use the boliviano, is wreaking havoc among exporters. Likewise, subsidies on the price of gasoline is provoking shortages due to smuggling. Gasoline (diesel) which the government has to buy at world prices to supply the national economy. On the world, level, the rise in prices, period, is also having an effect on Bolivia.

In Bolivia, the dollar has lost value in the last three years. The government has increased the difference between buy and sell for dollars, so that now is at a 10 point difference. This policy has the effect of de-dollarizing the economy. At the same time, people who deal in dollars tend to lose part of their intakes.

Is this bad for Bolivia? Only to the extent that it hits exporters. People who deal in dollars have been getting less because the dollar value has gone down. An exporter who has to exchange dollars for bolivianos will be getting less bolivianos per dollar. This places a burden on exporters, and Bolivia does not sell as much to the RoW. One more thing, if exports are more expensive, which is the case if the boliviano is more expensive, then the effect is double.

The Bolivian economy is set to have trouble in the rest of 2008. This will be deteriorating more if the world economy keeps on having trouble.

March 20, 2008

Boliviabella, Bolivia's Positive Image

MABB © ®


In my travels through cyberspace, constantly looking for interesting and useful sites about Bolivia, many times I find sites that I collect in my bookmarks. On occasions, however, I find a site so useful that I highlight it in a post and recommend my readers to pay it a visit. Such a site is the above mentioned: BoliviaBella.com.

The site belongs to an American born Bolivian (Charis), who wants to portray Bolivia from its best side. To her motivation to create such a site, she says: "I strive to have the most positive site about Bolivia on the plaNET. It will take time, but... I’m committed to projecting Bolivia to the world in a positive light!

The site is incredibly loaded with tips and insights about topics that are of interest to people who want to visit Bolivia. For example, she has specific recommendations on hotels, restaurants and tourist sites, places she's been herself. But, beyond that, she gives tips on how to get set up with electricity, phone lines and immigration papers. She even describes where exactly to go, which window to approach and which floor is where you have to go.

The only thing is that all this wonderful info is mainly about Santa Cruz city, where she lives. But, of course, how else could one give such detailed info if not by describing your own experiences. However, many of the things she talks about, can be used in other major cities as well. I am using them for my stay in La Paz. The information is very useful. And, also, did I already mention the info was very useful?

Lastly, her site has two sub-projects. One is Bolivia Positiva (Positive Bolivia), which is mainly a place for Bolivians to leave positive messages about the people, the culture and the country. The other sub-project is called, Hope for Bolivia, and this is where non-Bolivians can leave positive messages for Bolivians. A good thing! Bolivia needs more positive thinking!

So, pay her a visit.

March 08, 2008

The Destabilizing Effects of Inflation

MABB © ®

The effects of inflation are being felt in Bolivia. As you have seen on my last post, inflation is rising and with it, instability and discontent against the government, that is. That is somewhat new in this new political environment when the protests come from what the government considers its bases. Especially, when the prices of food and services rise, people tend to protest. In Bolivia, this is literally the case. Over the past weeks, there have been several marches against the rise in prices. The last one, last Friday (April 7), we say the revival or the re-awakening of the Bolivian Central Worker's Union, the COB. This organization staged a march against the rise in prices in La Paz, Cochabamba, Oruro and Potosi. As in previous times, they blamed the government for it. One of their slogans said: "Evo the people are hungry."

The question is, is this the beginning of a new situation in the political arena? or is it the come back of an old situation on the newest government? I tend to see it as the come back of an old situation. The rise in prices, and with it of the quality of life, together with the revival of the COB, remind me of "good old times" (ironically meant) when the dispute on the streets was about salaries, jobs, and prices.

March 04, 2008

Latest Inflation Figures

MABB © ®


After twenty years of relative stability, the ugly word has returned to Bolivian reports: INFLATION.
Now the talk is about 20% inflation per annum. That is having visible and clear effects on people's lives. Already, the long forgotten shortages of bread, flour and sugar, are back and the marches against the rise of prices are taking place.
Inflation is an ugly word in Bolivia because it tends to be associated with crisis and instability (not that Bolivia is not known for that already).

March 02, 2008

The Opposition's Answer

MABB © ®


The next steps of the regional governments are printed here. Six regions, making up the Consejo Nacional Democratico (Conalde), which have decided to altogether disregard the new laws and the new constitution.