One Day in Madrid

I have one day to spend in Madrid before flying out Sunday morning back to the United States. After checking my email, story catching up on Bloglines, find and reading some newspapers, I am pretty much set for my return.

Tonight I will go catch the Atletico Madrid match against Atletico Bilbao. The tickets were a little more than I wanted to pay, but I specifically asked for a place tranquilo.

Miguel B. has helped me keep in the loop about what is going on in Bolivia. A duck into cyber cafes here and there across Spain and Portugal, allowed me to skim the headlines of the Bolivian newspapers, but it has not been the multiple source indepth readings that I was accustomed to. I am not sure I will even attempt to catch up on two weeks worth of news.

Off for Two Weeks

Barrio Flores is off to Spain and Portugal for two weeks. When I return, salve this blog may be undergoing some different changes, especially in relation to an exciting opportunity coming up in August. So, Bolivia may have to wait.

Prefect Elections – August 12

The Bolivian Electoral Court has confirmed that the next round of elections are scheduled for August 12. This first step towards more local government participation will be another test of the strength of the citizens’ groups and political parties. These should be interesting to gauge progress from the various political parties and to find out whether the citizens’ groups have more influence outside of their municipalities.

Will Evo’s MAS party fall on its face after its policy of blockades and blackmail caused a lot of disfavor in the cities? Now that the elections will be department-wide, the rural progress and support will likely be squashed by the disdain in the cities. Will Evo be able to claim to be the number one political force in the country? Or will it be the continued emergence of citizens’ groups and possible alliances that become this new force?

El Alto’s Mayor Jose Luis Paredes (PP) has confirmed that they will participate in the Department of La Paz’s elections and possibly even in Oruro and Potosi. The popular La Paz Mayor Juan del Granado (MSM) will also branch out.

The national head of the Movimiento Sin Miedo and La Paz Mayor said that his party will participate in the prefect elections and did not rule out presenting candidates in the nine departments, with possible alliances with the citizens’ groups or with political parties that identify themselves with the transformation of the left, but “never with the traditional parties.”

These alliances could be key as there has not been any real change in the way politics and elections are carried out. In the end, no one candidate is likely to achieve the 50% + 1 to win outright. As we have seen at the national and municipal levels, backdoor wheeling and dealing and the exchange of patronage will likely be the norm, which would a shame. These elections should have been a clear victory for democracy and local autonomy, but as it has been all along, it’s about the battle and struggle for power and how that power is gained.

The Pope in Bolivia

You can still find old posters on the walls of some of the photocopy stands around the University commemorating the Pope’s visit to Bolivia in 1988. The five-day visit from May 9-13 took him all across the country. At the airport in El Alto he continued his practice of kissing the ground of his newly arrived destination. When he arrived in El Alto, the entire Altiplano converged on the city to welcome the Pope. People met him at the airport and lined the entire “Autopista” leading down to La Paz.

Los predios del Aeropuerto Internacional de El Alto, esa tarde emotiva, se convirtieron en un extenso hormiguero donde niños, jóvenes y adultos querían tocar el Papamóvil. Como nunca en la historia de El Alto miles de personas se apostaron en la vía de acceso al Aeropuerto y a lo largo de la autopista La Paz-El Alto.

Para recibir al Papa miles de campesinos de las más alejadas comunidades del altiplano paceño llegaron a El Alto con días de anticipación.

The Pope visited Oruro, Santa Cruz, Tarija, Trinidad, Sucre and Cochabamba. In Cochabamba, some say his visit was the driving force behind the construction of the Christ statue, which is the tallest in the world. For the rest of the year, the television would run replays of the Pope’s famous lines, “Debo volver a Cochabamba,” which he said upon learning of the construction of the Christ statue.

The Pope, who had a special affinity for the Virgin Mary, felt a connection with the Bolivian people as they too have special relationships with various Virgin Marys, such as the Virgen de Urkupiña (Quillacollo), Virgen de Guadalupe (Sucre), Virgen de Copacabana (Copacabana) and la Virgen de Cotoca (Cotoca). In Oruro, the Pope was especially sympathetic to the plight of miners. He addressed them in their native Quechua and Aymara.

After declaring three days of national mourning, President Mesa attended Friday’s funeral at the Vatican on his way to a meeting in Japan, even though he didn’t receive “permission” from Congress. The Bolivian Cardinal Julio Terrazas from Santa Cruz will participate in the secret conclave to help elect the next Pope.

A Match Between Bolivians

Tonight’s international match between the hometown DC United and Mexican League champs UNAM Pumas will be something special for the Bolivians in the area. Both teams come equipped with Bolivian firepower with last year’s near-MVP Jaime Moreno for DC United and the inconsistent forward Joaquin Botero for Pumas (pictured).

This semi-final match for the CONCACAF Champion’s Cup, which will determine the best club team in North and Central America, will likely be overlooked by most of DC. However, it could attract some of the tens of thousands of Bolivians in the area. The game is tonight at Washington’s RFK Stadium at 7:30 p.m. The last team standing will qualify to play in the World Club tournament to be held in Japan later this year.

El Alto's New Stadium

El Alto is now considered one of the 4 major urban centers in Bolivia (the others: La Paz, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba). Bolivia’s “youngest city” can now boast having a team in the Bolivian Football League with the unveiling of their new stadium “Cosmos 79” located about an hour’s bus ride from the center of La Paz.

One of La Paz’s 4 professional teams will also make the move “up” to call this new stadium home. Iberoamericana plans to begin to play its home games in El Alto. This new stadium will be at an even higher altitude than the Hernando Siles Stadium in La Paz, although both sit well below than the Stadium in Potosi, which may be the highest in the world that has hosted an international competition.

Immigrants and Taxes

As tax filing deadline approaches and as the Minutemen Project assembles in southern Arizona, one can’t help but put taxes into perspective for undocumented immigrants. The New York Times published an article highlighting the amounts pumped into the Social Security coffers, from invalid SS Numbers, labeled as “Earnings Suspense File” meaning that one day the government can figure out who they belong to.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Martínez, 28, has not given much thought to Social Security’s long-term financial problems. But Mr. Martínez – who comes from the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico and hiked for two days through the desert to enter the United States near Tecate, some 20 miles east of Tijuana – contributes more than most Americans to the solvency of the nation’s public retirement system.

Last year, Mr. Martínez paid about $2,000 toward Social Security and $450 for Medicare through payroll taxes withheld from his wages. Yet unlike most Americans, who will receive some form of a public pension in retirement and will be eligible for Medicare as soon as they turn 65, Mr. Martínez is not entitled to benefits.