Easier Said Than Done

Gustavo Torrico (MAS) had this to say about President Carlos Mesa via La Epoca weekly newspaper’s Frase de la Semana:

Mesa es como esos chicos malcriados que siempre se meten en problemas y después hay que ir a salvarlos. Sería bueno que aprenda a gobernar

Where would one “learn how to govern”? So far no one to date has been able to manage all of the different forces within the country, while trying to reduce poverty and create more economic opportunities for Bolivians. His critics often cite the fact that he has no backing of a political party, as if it were a bad thing and as if it were his fault. Would they prefer that from the beginning that he ask for the backing of a political party in exchange for some cabinet seats and other governmental jobs? It would just have been business as usual. Clearly he is trying to find a balance between two polar opposites (who both consider him the number one enemy). Why would anyone want to be President when neither side wants to compromise?

Bolivia News From the Neighbors

One site that I’ve been checking regularly has been a site called Bolivia..Lo Mejor Que Tenemos. The site’s owner scans the online newspapers from the region to see what they are writing about Bolivia. Today’s listing of stories uncovered some interesting developments in Peru and Mexico.

Evo Morales lanzará versión de su partido político en Perú – From the Chilean Newspaper “La Tercera

Mafias de México buscan expandir narcotráfico a Bolivia y Perú – From the Mexican Newspaper Diario Hoy

This is a pretty good service on this page because it scans the web for info about Bolivia. As the number of different sources continues to grow, then there is more information to formulate opinions. Other newspapers regularly featured come from Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Spain, Portugal and the Miami “El Nuevo Herald”.

Genocide It Is

What do you think of when you hear the word – genocide? Auschwitz, Darfur, Rwanda? How about Goni and El Alto? The Attorney General’s office in Bolivia has six months to present the case of genocide against former President Gonzalo “Goni” Sanchez de Lozada.

The Bolivian Congress insisted he should be accused of genocide – a term usually reserved for the systematic and planned extermination of an entire national, racial or ethnic group.

Two of his ministers, Carlos Sanchez Berzain and Yerko Kukoc were also named in these charges. His entire cabinet has also been named as accomplices. The charges stem from the deaths of 60 in El Alto and approximately 200 injured during the unrest of October 2003. Goni and Sanchez Berzain currently reside in the United States and may face extradition

The IMF in Bolivia

Ricardo de Rato, IMF Director, visited Bolivia and met with several individuals and groups. As expected much of the meeting touched on the sale of hydrocarbons. The IMF released a statement from De Rato:

“Nevertheless, crucial challenges remain. It will be critical to take advantage of the favorable world economy to move forward and forge consensus on policies aimed at reviving investment and addressing social concerns as part of the process of establishing the basis for sustained growth. In particular, sound management of Bolivia’s rich hydrocarbon resources will be crucial to develop the economy to the benefit of all. New investments will be essential for this purpose, inevitably involving the private sector, and within a transparent and efficient framework. Bolivia’s rich natural resources, if well managed, hold the promise of raising living standards and reducing poverty.

Even Evo Morales had a meeting and photo-op with Mr. De Rato.

Morales clarified his position regarding the Hydrocarbons Law that he is supporting.

Por su parte, el jefe del MAS, Evo Morales, aseguró que De Rato le manifestó la preocupación existente en el FMI por la situación financiera que atraviesa el país. También hablaron sobre la Ley de Hidrocarburos que promueve el MAS y que supuestamente no daría garantías a la inversión privada.

“Nosotros le manifestamos que en la ley no estamos pidiendo confiscación. Estamos convencidos que es importante tener socios, pero que sí queremos ser dueños de nuestras riquezas”, aseguró Morales. Pidió además que el FMI cambie el modelo económico actual y “repare los daños que hicieron tanto el Banco Mundial como esta entidad”.

Bolivar and International Competition

Club Bolivar, which almost won the Copa Sudamericana last year, beat Brazilian power Santos last Wednesday 4-3 in the first match in Group 2 of the Copa Libertadores. The team from São Paulo, which Pele made famous, was blindsided by Argentine midfielder Cristian Zermatte and his hat-trick.

I have been without Fox Sports for a quite while and have not had all of the International soccer matches at home. So in what is quickly turning into a tradition, I watched the game at my cousin’s house where we ordered a pizza and sipped on increasingly-tolerable Inca Kola.

Speaking Up

During my backpacking time in Peru in 2001, find schedules would change and decisions would be made instantly. Going with the flow would be my modus operandi. As a result, sick I would usually have to take what was available in terms of transportation. On my way back to Puno and the Bolivian border, try the last bus from Arequipa was just about sold out. The last ticket was the last seat near the bathroom. I crossed my fingers hoping that the bathroom had been out of order for some time, if not I could expect dozens of people going in and out leaving their stink behind. When buses are sold out, you can always count on the driver and his lackeys to sell precious aisle floor space to anyone desperate to make it to the next destination.

Sitting in the back with my headphones, I observed a younger Indian woman make her way to the back. She spotted a padded seat-like box that might make the 10 hour trip a little less arduous. However, minutes later this robust thug-like man, who also needed to make it to Puno, would spot the young Indian woman, who appeared to potentially have a more comfortable ride ahead of her. He told her to get up and that the driver said that he could have whatever she was sitting on. Obviously a blatant lie, he felt entitled to take her resourcefulness away from her. What could she do? He told her to get up again and to hand him her small stool-like seat. I was watching the whole scene unravel in front of me, and for some reason, I said “por que?” (in reference to why must she give up her seat to you?).

I was merely a background observer prior to that outburst, and now the thug focused on me. “Tienes algun problema?” In that split second I imagined myself responding “yes, you’re my problem” and things escalating from there, saving the day and receiving a medal for bravery from the town mayor. Also in that small lapse of time, I imagined the guy flipping out a knife and my vacation ending rather unfortunately. So I didn’t answer back, watched the young Indian woman give up her stool, and found myself stewing the entire ten hour bus ride back to Puno.

It certainly didn’t help that I observed this guy’s every move the entire way back. He reached into his pocket and started thumbing through an X-rated deck of cards, quietly ogling the naked Queen of Hearts. He was even more annoying as he was the only one laughing out loud at the live-action version of the Jungle Book playing on small television screens.

The young Indian woman ended up propped up against the out-of-order bathroom, where she eventually mustered up the drowsiness to fall asleep. For some reason, I’ll never forget that woman and wondered what if I did tell that guy that I did have a problem.


What used to be a remote pueblito on the outskirts of Cochabamba is now just part of the urban growing center of Cochabamba. The road to Tiquipaya used to be kilometers and kilometers of open spaces, but gradually it was all filled in by concrete, brick and mortar. Tiquipaya is quechua for “Place of the Flowers”. Even though it’s no longer the quiet rural village that it once was, it is still a getaway from the noise and bustle of Cochabamba.

Approaching Tiquipaya, the cholita is a recognizable landmark that was moved during the construction of the Avenue extending from Av. Simon Lopez.

Bolivians in Virginia (Part I)

Jokingly they refer to Arlington, recipe VA as “Arlibamba” in reference to the huge number of Bolivian immigrants, especially those from Cochabamba who headed the first wave of mass movement twenty years ago. I’ve only been the area for less than a year, but my wish is to get more involved with the Bolivian community in the Metro DC area. Throughout my post-college life I’ve gravitated towards the Latino immigrant community in Omaha. However, that community was exclusively Mexican and Salvadoran. This was my chance to make some connections and see how I can contribute to a Bolivian community.

The U.S. subsidiary Los Tiempos USA of the Cochabamba newspaper of the same name had printed an open invitation to Bolivian immigrants to a meeting with members of the Diplomatic staff from the Bolivian embassy and consulate. Center stage would be a dialogue about immigration issues and an update on the progress towards the issuance of a Matrícular Consular, a card that all Bolivian immigrants could obtain as a form of identification much like their Mexican counterparts.

By the time the start time of 7 p.m. had arrived, only a small handful of people were anxiously waiting in the offices of the Centro de Justicia in Falls Church. I took a seat near the back, which was a perfect spot to sit back and observe and listen to what would take place over the next three hours.

As people waited for the program to start and as more people would wander in according to Latino time, complete strangers would find a common bond. As their fellow strangers in a strange land, the Bolivian immigrants would swap stories. The first question asked was always “how long have you been here?” with the average length of time being around three years. The next query would be about their hometown back in Bolivia. As usual, most were from Cochabamba, with Paceños and Cruceños also in the room.

The informal conversation over the next 15 minutes while everyone waited for the room to fill, would range from criticisms towards immigrants who now were residents or citizens, how they rarely care about those who recently arrived to the whole autonomy issue raging on back in Bolivia. Naturally I wanted to jump in to the conversation, but I decided to just listen.

In spite of the differences of hometown, length of stay in the country or whether or not they were in the country legally, most of the people who came out on a cold Thursday night had something in common: they were all looking for a better life for themselves and their families within the context of a lingering cloud of uncertainty that weighs heavily. No one knows what the future holds, especially for the tens of thousands of undocumented Bolivian immigrants living in the immediate area.

To be continued.