December 30, 2008

The Shape of the Current State

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This is another graph published by La Razon, which shows which public offices are filled by pro tempore officials. What the article talks about is that the government has appointed pro tempore people to fill these offices. It also shows however, the extent to which the government and MAS have taken over the government. Most, if not all officials, are MAS supporters; people who do not dare question the government or the party.

In prior posts, I have argued that this was part of the government's plans to stay in power. Once they occupy most of these offices, there'll be no one who will question the government's policies.

December 29, 2008

The Shape of the New State

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The above graph was published by La Razon today. It gives a glimpse of the future shape of the state. For instance, the president and vicepresident will be elected directly if they get 51% of the vote. If not, they, at least, would've have to obtained 40% with a 10% difference with the second runner up. If this does not happen, the new constitution opened the possibility to a second round of elections between the two most voted candidates.

For the legislative branch, the lower chamber will have 130 members to be elected in a mixed-member proportional representation system. That means, roughly half of the members will be elected by closed lists and the other half will be elected per district, directly. The senate will have 36 members, one more per department than today.

The judicial branch will have a Supreme Justice Tribunal, a Tribunal for Agrarian and Environment, Plurinational Constitutiona Tribunal and Consejo de la Magistratura (the instance in charge of controlling and overseeing the judicial branch). The justices will all be elected, and not nominated as it is now.

Lastly, the new constitution will create a new kind of authority, the indigenous authority. This person will exercise authority in these "indigenous regions" according to the uses and customs of the region.

So much for the new structure of the state.

The tentative schedule is as follows:

January 25, 2009: the approval of the new constitution
December 6, 2009: general elections of the new authorities
April 4, 2010: election of prefects, mayors and governors

December 28, 2008

Unemployment

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El Deber published the above survey conducted by Captura Consulting in the central axis (i.e. Eje Troncal). The report says that the major problems the country was going through, for Bolivians, were unemployment, followed by the current economic crisis, inflation, drug trafficking and poverty. At the other end, one can notice that, according to Bolivians, general health, foreign debt and lack of domestic investment are the least worries. When asked how was 2008 for Bolivia, 52% give a mixed review (almost indiferent). As for 2009, most people (55%) think the coming year will be better. In similar manner, people asked said they expect 2009 be a better year for them personally. What a bunch of optimists!

So, in summary, according to the report, people in the cities of Cochabamba, La Paz, Santa Cruz, El Alto, have a mixed review of 2008 but think 2009 will be a better year! From this stand point, Bolivians do have a reason to raise their cups and hope for a better year.

Just found this link with statistics.


December 27, 2008

End of Year Balance 2008

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The Bolivian government is trying to pass its 2009 budget, called Presupuesto General de la Nacion or PGN. This is just a proposal for now, until Congress approves it.

According to the government, next year's domestic investment will be in the order of 1.8 billion dollars.

If we take a look at the graph above, taken from the government's proposal PGN, the picture is rather positive. Gee, who'd've thought! The government is projecting an annualized GDP growth of 5.75%, down from 6% in 2008; inflation is projected 10.6%, down from 14% in 2008; the fiscal deficit is projected to be 1.84% of GDP (I assume from GDP, it doesn't specify), while in 2007 there was a historic surplus of 1.7%, and in 2008 the projection is a deficit of 4.1%.

What can you tell from these numbers? Not much! The first thing to remember is that the numbers are from the government. It is logical that they will want to present the rosiest picture they've got. Having said that, it calls my attention that they are projecting still a growth for 2009, while many analysts are saying the region will be touched by the global financial crisis. I mean, the biggest economies in the world are projecting recession, that means less demand for foreign products, the price of oil is down to the mid 30s (let's remember the price of natual gas is coupled with the price of oil), trade benefits for Bolivia with its second largest trade partner (US) has ended in October, etc. Why is the government being so positive about the macro economic conditions? I am thinking if the government makes good on its promise to invest 1.8 bn, then economic growth can be possible. They are counting on it.

In addition, it has been reported plenty in the press that inflation in Bolivia in 2009 will be well above the government's predictions to 16% (IMF). But, over the last months, those predictions have been lowered to around 12%. If the government is able to keep up government intake at the level its been having, then they will not need to print more money and inflation will not surge. However, if the price of natural gas keeps down and the government keeps spending the way its projecting to do, then where else will it get the money? It is already projected to make loans of up to 1 bn dollars to YPFB for investments. We'll see.

FYI, here is a statistical report from the National Statistics Institute you can take a look at.

2009 should be another interesting year for Bolivia. This time, the economic factor will be more prominent, I think.

December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas to Everyone Who Visits MABBlog

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Since there is little going on in Bolivia, as Bolivians are already full in Christmas mode, I take this opportunity to make my season wishes to all MABBlog visitors.

I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and may all enjoy the holidays with friends and family.

I will be off line until Friday, at least!

December 17, 2008

More Critique Starts to Surface

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Yesterday, I posted that critique against the Morales government, from its own support base, is starting to surface. Today, I read again new critique against the new constitution. La Razon reports that the Tupac Katari Peasant Organization from the province of Omasuyos (in the Altiplano, north from La Paz and Felipe Quispe's home turf) made public a resolution calling the government "traitors to their cause" and saying they will not support the new constitution in the coming approval referendum (January 25). In short, they call for the re-consideration of the constitution approved in Oruro in December 2007. Consequently, they dismiss the new constitution which came out of the negotiations in Congress (October 2008). They further say, they distrust all the "ngo people" working in the government. This refers to the people surrounding the President. Many of them, worked in ngos. The report also mentions critical voices coming from The Public University of El Alto and the Movement Without Land (MST).

From another front, the former Press Secretary, Alex Contreras, qualified Morales' reactions against the press as wrong. Contreras said the President should have concentrated on the persons who named him and not the press. This is a reference to the confrontation Morales is having with the members of the press. Apparently, he was fed up with the press publishing compromising reports about him and a huge smuggling case in Pando. Therefore, Morales decided he would not speak to the Bolivian press anymore and instead would prefer the international press. This has been going on for a couple of weeks, with last week having been one nationally coordinated demonstration from the part of the journalist unions.

Morales' agreements in Congress in October this year to approve "his" constitution is coming back to bite him. He made so many concessions just to approve the constitution that the Oruro document and this new document are very different. This is slowly being realized by the different organizations and movements within the MAS, and the result is that many don't like it. In addition, this last smuggling case incriminating Minister Quintana is turning to be a damaging case for the government. Morales' reaction against the journalists has been seen in many circles as too harsh and simply wrong.

The fissures within MAS are starting to show. The interesting question for me is, from a political scientist view, if the MAS as a new form of political party, is able to effectively replace a "traditional" political party.

December 16, 2008

Critique From the Bases

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Today I read again an article about the critics that have been brewing within the MAS for a long time. These critics, as quiet as they have been, are getting louder. At least, that is my perception.

Today's La Razon, published the opinions of Felipe Quispe, leader of Movimiento Indigena Pachakuti and Alejo Veliz, a long time leader in the coca growers movement. These two people belong to the increasingly critical indigenist wing within MAS. Just FYI, you can get a good english description of the internal squabbles of MAS in Donna Lee Van Cott's book From Movements to Parties in Latin America.

Quispe told La Razon that it wasn't just Quinatana's presence in government, but most of the people around Morales, who, according to his opinion, could not interpret correctly the preferences of the people. Veliz, in turn, criticized that Morales surrounded himself with people from NGOs and not with indigenists. These people, according to Veliz, have their own interests in mind and not those of the people.

I May, I saw an interview in Bolivian television to Felix Patzi (link to a post in MABB), an indigenist intellectual who criticized Morales sharply for surrounding himself with what Patzi called the traditional left. He said Morales' government was "hijacked" by this "obsolete and radical" left and that this left was not in tune with MAS' original objectives and purposes. In that sense, Morales had veered away from the origins of MAS.

This criticism is louder within MAS, but it just doesn't make for many headlines. Now that the government started to use security forces to repress some protests (today there were reports that a clash in Patacamaya had left at least one dead), it might set the stage for a different relationship between the, so called, social movements and the government.

December 10, 2008

The Performance of the Bolivian Finance Minister

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La Razón, reported about a published survey by América Economía, where a panel of 140 international economists rate the best finance ministers in the region.


The report does not touch on Bolivia, but one can see from the graphs that Bolivia ransk very low among its peers. It is pretty discouraging to see the perception of Bolivia in the international arena is so low.

December 04, 2008

The Power Struggle in Bolivia Retreats to the Legal Arena

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The power struggle between the current government and the opposition has left, for now, the political arena to move on to the legal arena. Now that there is a new deal regarding the constitution and all the parts are waiting for next year's approval referendum, the battle has been continuing on the courts.

On the one side, the government has continued with its "witch hunt". The strategy is to remove the opposition or to weaken it as much as possible with any means. First, the government tried the ballot boxes at the recall referendum, where it did remove two thorns, Jose Luis Paredes, former Prefect of La Paz and Manfred Reyes Villa, former Prefect of Cochabamba. It seems that the next step is to try the law. One Prefect is already removed. Leopoldo Fernandez, former Prefect of Pando, has been taken to La Paz and has been incarcerated. In addition, the government has also "taken" many civic activists from Pando to La Paz to face charges against them. Now, it seems that Tarija is next and therefore the government has been also "taking" some civic activists to La Paz to process them.

The actions of the government has alarmed the opposition. It is currently in the process of re-organizing itself to respond to these attacks. In addition, it has initiated its own legal process to counter these attacks. The Santa Cruz Prefect, Ruben Costas, together with the people left in the Conalde (Natinal Council for Democracy), which groups the opposition, has initiated paperwork to accuse the Minister of the Presidency, Juan Ramon Quintana and the Ministry of Government, Alfredo Rada for having staged the Porvenir killings and conspire to remove elected authorities, such as Leopoldo Fernandez, by fabricating and manipulating evidence.

All these are indictions that the power struggle in Bolivia is far from over and the battle goes on.

At the same time, there is an important piece of news coming out fron the Judicial branch of government itself. All the organisms in this branch (the Supreme Court, Constitutional Tribunal, the Judicative Council, and the Agrarian Court) got together in the city of Trinidad, Beni for the 6th Judicial Power Summit. In this meeting, the branch presented a resolution where they express their worries and critiques to the governmet arguing that the current government is contributing to the collapse of the rule of law and the state itself.

In its attempts to dismember the opposition, the government is trampling over other powerful actors such as the Judicial branch. These actors are less likely to stay put if they see danger in their futures. One indication is this recent resolution which heavily criticizes the actions of the Morales government. Other actors, such as the Catholic Church, are also becoming bolder and raising their voices against the government.

What seemed to be over with the agreement on the new constitution is continuing in other arenas outside the political one.