No Ruling on Aguas del Tunari Case Yet

Speculation arose last month that the international tribunal, recipe (Icsid) from the World Bank was ready to hand down a ruling concerning Aguas del Tunari. Speculation also followed that the ruling wouldn’t be very favorable for Bolivia. As you may remember, the “Guerra del Agua” in Cochabamba forced the Banzer adminstration to scrap privatization plans for that city’s water system. In turn, the consortium, with Bechtel at the forefront, sued the Bolivian government, a move now legal because of a previously-signed agreement.

However, no ruling appears imminent. In addition, it appears as if Bechtel has reached an agreement with the Bolivian government, but the other member of the consortium is still looking for financial damages.

The deputy minister denied there was any substance in local press reports that the government was on the point of losing the case, meaning it would have to pay US$25mn in compensation.

“The tribunal has not yet decided whether it is competent to hear the case let alone decide its merit,” he said.

What made the murmurings even more a cause for concern was that in coincided with the debate about the Hydrocarbons Law. Some said the rumors of a huge cash reward to the consortium was a sign of things to come, if and when, the Congress forced the oil companies to adhere to the new law unwillingly.

Bolivia – Week in Review

A bomb rocks the Ministry of Defense in La Paz. Fortunately, the explosion took place at night and no one was injured. This was the latest explosion by dynamite in the last ten days. Other targets included a military installation and the television channel P.A.T., which current President Carlos Mesa was one of the founding members. These explosions, in which a former ministry official in the Banzer/Quiroga adminstration was arrested for his participation, coupled with rumors of another coup involving the U.S. Embassy have brought added tension to the political landscape.

Gas is discovered in the Department of Potosi, which is a blessing and curse at the same time. Whether or not this gas will be industralized or exported may be a moot point. Officials say that this gas is already owned by Zapata Corporation, which is a multinational corporation where former President George H.W. Bush owns a large holding. Ministry of Hydrocarbons officials say that the detail is untrue. This could make the issue even more polarizing.

Mexican President Vicente Fox will swing by after a trip to Peru. These bilateral and regional talks will mostly center on the hydrocarbon export issue.

A “Guerra del Agua” Part II may be brewing in El Alto. The privatized water service, Aguas del Illimani, has been the target of an association of Neighborhood groups (FEJUVE), which says that the company has not been completing its duties. The private company employs 400 Bolivians and has already invested $63 million dollars in the city. The Superintendent of Basic Sanitation says that Aguas del Illimani has met all of its measurable goals, but there will be an evaluation to review the Neighborhood Groups’ complaints. FEJUVE has announced a possible strike for this coming week.

On a brighter note, Bolivar took home an important point from Quito in la Ida(first leg) of the Copa Sudamericana semifinals. Down 0-1, Argentine forward Horacio Chiorazzo struck a perfect ball that beat the Liga Deportiva – Quito goalkeeper giving la Academia an excellent opportunity to win this Thursday night. The winner gets a chance to play the Boca Juniors (Arg) – Internacional (Bra) winner.

Bolivia and Its Socialist Regime

…well, at least according to Dateline D.C. from this conservative Pittsburgh Live columnist.

Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, El Salvador, Uruguay and Venezuela all have socialist regimes.

and apparently Bolivian politics is overrun by Commies.

In each of these countries, old-time communist parties are flourishing. During the era of Bill Clinton, nothing was done to counterattack — most certainly not in Colin Powell’s State Department– which remained a hive of Clintonistas

And don’t forget about Bolivian football, it is overrun by Communists as well. After all, the most successful team, Bolivar’s head coach is named Vladimir Soria.

International Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping has never been high on my list of favorite activities. Every week or so I take the four-minute drive over to Shopper’s Food, mainly because it does not require one of those member cards, which makes me uncomfortable how the store can track your purchases.

What I like most about my shopping trip is the environment that typifies the current demographics of Northern Virginia. Immigrants have settled the immediate area, and not just the usual Latin-American. It’s a “It’s a Small World” under one roof.

Up and down the cereal aisle, you try and guess the language being spoken. Parents talk to their grade-school age children in their native language, and the children answer back in English (much like my brothers and I did growing up in Western Kansas).

Even trying to guess from what country the Latin American immigrants come from can be a hard challenge, even though some accents are obvious, like Argentine. Sometimes an Universitario (Peru) or Chivas (Mexico) futbol jersey provides a helpful hint.

The atmosphere for immigrants is much more welcoming for them because not only are the customers relatively-new immigrants, but so are the cashiers, stockers, and managers. From the most recent trip to the grocery store, I noticed Latin-Americans, African muslims, Middle eastern muslims, Southeast Asians, Russians, Pakistani or Indian, and Sudanese (my guesses).

This is now what the United States is to me. A place that attracts people from all over the world, with such diverse life’s stories and gives them the opportunity to start somewhere and move forward.

Another Goni Interview

The St. Petersburg Times had a chance to chat with Goni, in one of his rare interviews.

His overthrow still hurts. But a year later, “Goni,” as he is universally known, is philosophical about it. “When something as traumatic happens to you as happened to me, there’s one lesson you have to learn,” he said, over an outdoor lunch by the Miami River. “First, it’s not all my fault. And two, it’s not everybody else’s fault, either. It’s some place in between.”

A fair story, and it appears he is no longer overwhelmingly bitter at the events. In his past interviews, Goni blamed the “narco-terrorists” for his ousting.

Goni also talked about the lack of support from the Bush administration, even though he dangled the natural gas carrot in front of them. Instead of receiving 150 million dollars in loans, Bolivia only received 10 million.

“The tragedy of Bolivia is that we were one step away from the fruits of reform,” said Sanchez de Lozada. “We lost that moment.”

Despite his rueful reminiscing, Sanchez de Lozada has not given up on his homeland altogether. As the world’s energy resources become scarcer – and costlier – he hopes that Bolivia’s natural gas deposits eventually will be tapped. But for that to happen, Washington will have to shift its attention. He offers some parting advice for U.S. policymakers: “It’s a lot easier to handle Latin America than the Middle East.”

Resource Webpage

I ran across a great website: enlared.org, which provides great information regarding municipalities, legislation and other public information. Over the weekend, I am going to spend some time investigating. An example of some information I found:

Monthly (Official) Salaries for the Mayor (2003):

Santa Cruz: Bs. 20875 ($2,609 USD)
La Paz: Bs. 19500 ($2,437 USD)
Cochabamba: Bs. 16000 ($2,000 USD)
El Alto: Bs. 9600 ($ 1,200 USD)

Minimum National Wage: Bs. 440 ($55 USD)

Note: Miguel B. asked whether the numbers were correct. I had to double check that the amount given was a monthly wage and not an annual wage. This article in El Deber shows that the mayor’s salary is 47 times that of the minimum montly wage.

National Team Mess

National Team Captain, online Luis Hector Cristaldo, purchase tests positive for cocaine. He claims that the test results are false and is an attempt to discredit him, so that he is removed from the team once and for all.

National Team goalkeepr, Leo Fernandez, does not return to Bolivia after last week’s game against Colombia. Instead he returned to his native Buenos Aires claiming that he fears for his life in Santa Cruz. Police investigation finds conflicting stories between Fernandez and his companion’s stories regarding that night’s events. Tests show that the bullets were fired when the vehicle and the one who fired the gun, were not in motion. Some police label the incident as an “auto-atentado”.

It was revealed that National Team goalscorer, Joaquin Botero, had no desire to travel to Colombia for last week’s game. He simply wasn’t going to show up and stay with his Mexican club team, Pumas. His club forced him to comply so that the club team would not face FIFA sanctions.

Many ex-players like Marco Antonio Etcheverry have been embarrassed by the recent results and circus-like atmosphere surrounding the team. In the recent farewell tribute match for legendary and flamboyant Paraguayan goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert, el Diablo had a chance to chat with Chilavert. It was reported that Etcheverry had asked Chilavert, whether he had interest in becoming the head coach of the Bolivian National Team, and the response was favorable. Although the matter rests entirely with the Federation.

What will happen on next month’s episode of this telenovela?