Bolivia: Election Results Reveal Emergence of New Opposition Force

originally posted at Global Voices

Soon after the final vote was cast in the April 4th municipal and departmental elections and the official results began pouring in, many bloggers started to provide their analysis and interpretation of the results. On that day, Bolivians would set out to elect local mayors and members of the city council in 327 municipalities, as well as governors and departmental assembly members in the 9 departments.

After winning re-election in December 2009, President Evo Morales and his party Movement Towards Socialism (MAS for its initials in Spanish) sought to consolidate power by maintaining those regions in which they traditionally had strong support, but also to put forth “invited” candidates in opposition regions that may provide them with different results from previous losses.

Citizen casting a vote in the city of La Paz by @patojv and used with permission.

Citizen casting a vote in the city of La Paz by @patojv and used with permission.

Mario Durán of the blog Palabras Libres [es] notes that the MAS won 6 of 9 governor seats, but only the mayorship of 2 of the 9 departmental capitals. This he notes, leaves the victory with a “taste of ash.” Duran’s brother, Jaime, also chimes in with some questions and answers about the results:

¿Qué significan estos resultados? ¿Se puede hablar de una derrota del masismo?

Cómo siempre no hay una respuesta única a estas preguntas. Es una derrota porque no se colmaron las expectativas. Perder tres alcaldías en Occidente no son buenas noticias. No es una derrota porque el nivel meso (las gobernaciones departamentales) está bajo control del partido azul y es en ese nivel que se construirán las autonomías. Aunque debe matizarse que los departamentos en los que se encuentra la riqueza hidrocarburifera no están bajo las alas del oficialismo. Esto generará problemas y se lo verá dentro de poco.

What do these results mean? Can we talk about a defeat for the MAS?

As always, there is not only one answer for these questions. It is a defeat because they did not meet expectations. To lose 3 mayorships in the West (traditionally strong support for MAS) is not good news. It is not a defeat because at the mid-level (departmental governments) they are under control of the blue party (MAS) and at that level the autonomies are constructed. Even though it must be noted that in the departments in which the hydrocarbon wealth can be found, they are not under the control of the government party. This will create problems and will soon be seen.

Blogger Pablo Andrés Rivero of Purple Fire [es] writes that, “it is clear that the MAS-IPSP is the outright winner, but… there are many ‘buts'”

One of these “buts” took place in the city of La Paz, which is also the seat of government and where the MAS has enjoyed considerable support. However, its mayoral candidate Elizabeth Salguero, who had been leading in the polls, was defeated by Luis Revilla from the party Without Fear Movement (MSM for its initials in Spanish). It was this result that attracted the most attention in the Bolivian blogosphere, as many bloggers provided their thoughts on why the MAS lost in La Paz and what this means for the party and its party chief for the future.

Juan del Granado, who founded the MSM, had been mayor of La Paz for a decade before deciding not to run for a 3rd term in the 2010 elections. As a former human-rights lawyer, del Granado had successfully prosecuted the first Latin American dictator in the courts when he placed Luis García Meza behind bars in the mid 1990s.

During his 2nd term in office, the MSM became allies with the MAS party. However, for the 2010 elections, the MSM chose to put forth its own candidate, rather than support Salguero in the municipal elections. This led to a war of words from President Morales and many of his supporters, which included threats of placing del Granado into the Chonchocoro maximum security prison and warnings that the central government would not work with elected leaders from opposition party. This rhetoric was something which the bloggers and evidently the voters noted, as Revilla was elected. Some voters like Alberto Canedo (@betocomics) captured the image of their vote for Revilla in this Twitpic photo, as well as Patricio Javier Vera (@patojv):

Photo of vote cast by @patojv and used with permission.

Photo of vote cast by @patojv and used with permission.

Daniela Otero of the blog Dejando Huella [es] writes:

La guerra sucia emprendida contra el Movimiento Sin Miedo, uno de los más importantes aliados del proceso de cambio en occidente, fue interpretada por los ciudadanos como una sucesión de actos de deslealtad y arbitrariedad.

The dirty war set upon the Without Fear Movement, one of the most important allies in the process of change in the Occident, was interpreted by the citizenry as a succession of acts of disloyalty and arbitrariness.

Blogger and political scientist Miguel Centellas of Pronto* adds that there was a bit of hypocrisy in these accusations:

During the campaign, the rhetoric intensified to the point where Evo and others threatened to jail the popular La Paz mayor (and democratization-era hero) Juan Del Granado. Apparently, after more than four years as close working allies, Evo suddenly discovered that Juan “Sin Miedo” (as he & his party are called) was “corrupt” due to his previous participation in pre-2005 governments. Of course, this didn’t stop MAS from recruiting Roberto Fernandez, the son of populist Max Fernandez of UCS (both of whom actively took part in the worst of the patron-client relationships of the 1990s “neoliberal” era). Roberto was recruited to run for the mayorship of Santa Cruz against Percy Fernandez (no relationship) and Johnny (Roberto’s brother). Percy looks to have won an easy reelection.

Richard Sánchez of the digital magazine La Mala Palabra [es] was especially tough on the MAS and clearly stated his intention to not vote for Salguero, and encouraged his readers to refrain from casting a ballot for the MAS candidate. He writes the following, 3 days prior to the elections, why people should not vote for the MAS:

Porque ese empleado a quien le dimos pega en Palacio por segunda vez, ahora amenaza. Se da el lujo de amenazar diciendo que no trabajará con alcaldes o gobernadores que ganen y que no sean del MAS. ¿No se da cuenta que es presidente de TODOS los bolivianos, le guste o no? Un embajador gringo también nos amenazó hace tiempo para que no votemos por Evo y todos votamos por Evo. Ahora Evo cae en las mismas amenazas. LMP y ninguno tiene ni debe ser amenazado. NO VOTES POR EL MAS CARAJO.

Because that employee (President Morales) who we placed in the Palace for the second time, is now giving threats. He gives himself the luxury of giving threats saying that he will not work with mayors or governors who win and who are not from the MAS. Does he not realize that he is the President of ALL Bolivians, whether he likes it or not? A U.S. ambassador also warned us awhile ago (1997) to not vote for Evo and then we all voted for Evo. Now Evo is falling into giving the same threats. LMP (La Mala Palabra) and no one else should be threatened. DON’T VOTE FOR MAS, DAMMIT.

Even though del Granado did not participate in the local elections as a candidate, many have been calling him one of the day’s winners, partly due to the errors committed by Morales and the MAS party. Otero summarizes this [es]:

Quizá, la lección más importante de estas elecciones es que los errores políticos siempre pasan altas facturas y que los que se cometieron en el caso específico de La Paz sólo contribuyeron al surgimiento de una nueva fuerza política nacional: el Movimiento Sin Miedo.

Maybe, the most important lesson in these elections is that the political errors always come with consequences and those that committed these errors in La Paz cause the rise of a new national political force: the Without Fear Movement.

Jaime Durán, writes that at the head of this new political force is del Granado, and it is a different kind of opposition [es], because it is also an left-wing opposition, as opposed to the traditional right-wing opposition to the MAS. Victories by the MSM also were recorded in the city of Oruro, another traditional MAS stronghold, and strong finishes in other parts of the country.

At the victory press conference appearing with the mayor-elect Revilla, MSM supporters greeted del Granado with calls for him to run for President in 2014. Despite the springboard to the national scene based on these results, del Granado said that “2014 is still very far away.”

Support Global Voices Advocacy

Global Voices Advocacy, the branch of Global Voices Online that covers examples of online censorship, targeting of bloggers by oppressive governments, and pushing for freedom of expression is participating in the Blogging for a Cause contest sponsored by Zemanta.

During my first trip to the Middle East last month, I met some Egyptian bloggers who are doing great work drawing attention to some of the issues in their own country, something that we in Latin America, for the most part, do not have to worry about. Bloggers like Noha and her Torture in Egypt site and Mahmoud, who created this great video.

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Xenophobia in the Football Stands in Argentina

Originally published at Global Voices

Rivalries in Argentine football can become quite heated. The battles on the field often spill over into the stands, as club supporters clash with one another in various sections of the stadium. With nearly half of the 20 teams in the Argentine first division league located in the greater Buenos Aires area, it is quite easy for fans to follow their club even when playing as visitors. Even with precautions to keep fans away from one another, there are frequent clashes.

It is not always physical violence that marks the conflict between supporter groups often known as “hinchas” or “barra bravas.” Chants, songs, and signs can be directed at the opposing team and the opposing supporter groups. In some cases, these messages contain racist or xenophobic overtones, as it recently happened between a match between the club teams Independiente and Boca Juniors in Buenos Aires. Fans representing Independiente waved Paraguayan and Bolivian flags with the number 12 written on them. The number 12 has traditionally been used to symbolize the fans of Boca Juniors, which is one of the most popular clubs on the continent and boasts a large number of immigrant supporters living in Argentina. The fans used the flags and chants to mock the Boca Juniors supporters for having these large immigrant groups as part of their fan base.

Bloggers from both countries also reacted to the incident. Paraguayan Arturo Zarratea Herreros of Vida de Perros [es] would like the fans from Independiente to recall Arsenio Erico, who is the leading goal scorer of all time in the history of the Argentine league wearing the #9 shirt for the club Independiente and who also happened to be Paraguayan. Zarratea adds that the fans had honored Erico in the past and even a part of the stadium is even named after him. However, he writes:

Nadie es más ni menos por haber nacido en un país, así como nadie tiene derecho a discriminar por ese hecho. Recomiendo a los hinchas de Independiente, que portaron el domingo las banderas paraguayas, que lean la historia de su club y tomen lecciones de educación cívica para realizar estas “originales” burlas.

No one is more or less for being born in a country, just as no one has the right to discriminate for that fact. I recommend to the fans of Independiente, who held the Paraguayan flags, to read the history of their club and take lessons in civic education to (not) take part in this “original” mocking.

The incident caused an outrage by the diplomatic mission of Bolivia in Buenos Aires, which called for severe sanctions and a condemnation from the Argentine Football Association (AFA), which is something that the AFA President Julio Grondona promised to do [es]. Some fans in Bolivia and Paraguay also reacted to the incident in a very heated manner.

However, Bolivian football blogger Jaime Galarza of Once a Once [es] writes that the reaction should be measured and rational:

Hay que tener cuidado en cómo se reacciona en estos temas. Las protestas no tienen por qué seguir el camino de los intolerantes de las banderas y los cánticos ofensivos y despectivos, o sea, los anti xenofobia no deben terminar convertidos en xenófobos.

Lo de la barra brava de Independiente es lamentable, más si utilizaron símbolos oficiales que merecen respeto como las banderas de Bolivia y Paraguay. Pero no por lo ocurrido en una cancha de fútbol se tiene que ir contra un país. No se puede involucrar a “los argentinos” por un grupo de inadaptados. No caigamos en la intolerancia.

One must be careful with the reaction to these issues. The protests do not need to follow the same path of the intolerance of the flags or offensive and derogatory songs, in other words, the anti-xenophobics must not become the xenophobic.

What happened in the barra brava of Independiente is unfortunate, even more when they used official symbols that deserve respect like the Bolivian and Paraguayan flags. But what happened on the field should not be used against an entire country. One can’t blame “Argentines” for the acts of a group of maladjusted. Let’s not be a part of the intolerance.

Racism in football is a problem affecting many countries across the world, and Argentina is no different. Bolivian writer Edmundo Paz Soldán writes about his time spent studying International Relations at a university in Buenos Aires in the mid 1980s and his experiences attending Boca Juniors football matches where the Bolivian Milton Melgar had played on the squad [es]. He recalls a match against arch rivals River Plate, which his visiting brother also attended with him:

Salieron los equipos a la cancha, ví a Melgar y me emocioné. Siguieron los cánticos. Parecía una competencia para ver cuál hinchada era más creativa en la ofensa; un estribillo ingenioso era respondido por otro estribillo aun más creativo.

De pronto, la hinchada de River comenzó a corear: “¡Bolivianos, bolivianos, bolivianos!” La reacción de los hinchas de Boca en torno nuestro me impactó; decían cosas del tipo: “Nos jodieron estos gallinas. Y ahora, ¿cómo les respondemos?” No, no había forma. Para los hinchas de Boca, el peor insulto que se les podía decir era “bolivianos”. Por suerte, mi hermano no entendió lo que pasaba; cuando me preguntó por qué los gritos de “bolivianos”, le dije, procurando disimular mi rabia, que era la forma en que la hinchada de River reconocía el talento de Melgar.

The teams came out on the field, I saw Melgar and became excited. The songs continued. It appeared to be a competition to see which supporter group could be the most creatively offensive; a clever refrain was responded to by a more clever refrain.

Soon, the fans of River (Plate) started to sing: “Bolivians, Bolivians, Bolivians!” The reaction by the fans of Boca around me impacted me; they would say: “Those chickens (nickname for the fans of River Plate) messed with us, and now how do we respond?” No, there was no way to. For the fans of Boca, the worst insult was being called “Bolivians.” Fortunately, my brother did not understand what was happening; when he asked me why they yelling “Bolivians,” I told him, trying to hide my anger, that it was the way the River fans acknowledged Melgar’s talent.

These incidents are not always limited to the fans, even the referees have been known to utilize some racist language. Paz Soldán continues in his blog post by describing the incident that took place in 2008 between the clubs Argentinos Juniors and Gimnasia y Esgrima in the northern city of Jujuy. The referee Saúl Laverni had made a bad call and the players from the local side started to protest and plead with Leverni, who told the players, “stop bothering me, Bolivians.” The president of Gimnasia Raúl Ulloa resigned and said [es], “He called us Bolivians, and after 20 years in football, is something that I won’t tolerate.”

Sanctions against clubs can be monetary in nature, suspension of stadium privileges and in some cases, criminal action against the offending parties. No penalty has been announced against the club Independiente. During last weekend’s match [es], the players of the club Independiente came out of the locker room with a banner with the flags of Paraguay and Bolivia next to the Independiente shield and the words, “No to the Discrimination of our Brother Countries: Bolivia and Paraguay.”

Bolivia a Dangerous Tourist Destination?

Bolivia was recently listed as one of the top 11 most dangerous destinations for foreign tourists, joining Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. According to this Los Tiempos story, Bolivia is considered to be unsafe because of the continued conflict between the government and the opposition groups. This certainly is overreacting, since tourists are not targeted or caught in the middle as in the case of Pando. This label can’t help the downturn in tourism in the country.

Water Balloons Really Irk Some

Carnaval is about five weeks away, healing but all throughout the city of Cochabamba, sickness teens and university students are gearing up with the annual water balloon tradition.  It also takes place in other cities in Bolivia. Groups of young people buy water balloons from enterprising vendors and use them for target practice.  Young men only usually target young women.  Young children usually target anyone.  However, their aims are not very well refined and innocent bystanders are usually clocked without any hint of apology.

Today, I jumped in a cab and the driver was obviously still in a bad mood.  We drove up Pando street near the Recoleta and saw several groups of teenagers armed with a bag of water balloons, and upon seeing them the taxi driver mumbled something under his breath.  “They hit me last night,” the cabbie said pointing at his upper lip.  He then proceeded to tell me that the had stopped his cab and beat the living daylights out of one of them.  After his story, he pulled out his tire iron showing how he intends to fight back.

April Fools Day in December

December 28 marks Bolivia and much of Latin America’s version of April Fools Day (Día de los Inocentes).  Newspapers from around the country try to show how cute that they can be by planting fake stories on their print and online versions. An example of a good joke was the sports story in Los Tiempos newspaper about Argentina football player Ariel Ortega joining the club Aurora.  It was very believable because 1.) Ortega is the son of Bolivian immigrants in Argentina 2.) Aurora is preparing to play in the Libertadores Cup and a star player like that make sense. Yes, I fell for it.  Good job, Los Tiempos.  No harm, no foul.

However, in La Razon, another story caught my eye and for the entire day I believed that it was true.  It was about Santa Cruz Civic Committee President Branko Marinkovic being apprehended by masked men sent by the government. This is pretty irresponsible in my opinion, not because I fell for it, but because that story is more than believable since the government has threatened the arrest of their chief opposition. When, and not if, it happens, things will start to get very hairy once again in the country, and this story could have helped spread rumors and caused more confrontation in the country. 

Usually the admission of it being a joke is included at the end of each story, but the La Razon story was in the middle, thus making it harder to spot.

Truthiness in the Media

Looks like the Bolivian government is getting into the “truth” business by creating the first state-run newspaper.  According to ABI (the state’s information department), Evo Morales said:

 “Por primera el Estado tendrá su propio periódico y que difundirá cada día la verdad mediante los medios de comunicación”, señaló el Jefe de Estado..

“For the first time, the State will have its own newspaper and will each day distribute the truth through the media,” said the Head of State..




Rising Voices Microgrant Funds – Deadline January 18, 2009

From Rising Voices

Application Deadline: January 18, buy cialis 2009


Rising Voices, ed the outreach arm of Global Voices, sales is now accepting project proposals for microgrant funding of up to $5,000 for new media outreach projects. Ideal applicants will present innovative and detailed proposals to teach citizen media techniques to communities that are poorly positioned to discover and take advantage of tools like blogging, video-blogging, and podcasting on their own.

As the internet becomes more accessible to more people, including mobile phone users, the so-called digital divide seems to be narrowing. In its place, however, we see a participation gap in which the vast majority of blogs, podcasts, and online video are being produced in middle-class neighborhoods in major cities around the world.

Rising Voices aims to help bring new voices from new communities and speaking new languages to the conversational web, by providing resources and funding to local groups reaching out to underrepresented communities in the developing world. Please visit our current list of grantees for project examples.

The sky is the limit, but unfortunately funding is not. Rising Voices outreach grants will range from $2,000 to $5,000. Please be as thoughtful, specific, and realistic as possible when drafting your budgets.

Successful projects will be prominently featured on Global Voices. Grantees are expected to host regular workshops to train participants how to start and maintain a weblog, upload and share digital photographs, and produce basic videos. Grantees are also required to post regular project evaluations and updates to the Rising Voices website.

Completed applications will be accepted no later than Sunday, January 18. Please submit your completed application on the Rising Voices apply page.

Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below or by sending an email to