Escuela Bolivia

I’m spoiled with the plethora of Bolivian restaurants, check activities and events in the Washington DC metro area, which is the heart of the Bolivian community in the U.S. However, everything is so spread out as families continue to move to the south due to the insane housing prices and high cost of living. Unless you count Cecilia’s restaurant on Columbia Pike, the Bolivian community lacks a true center.

As of last month, my term began on the Board of Directors of the Escuela Bolivia, an Arlington-based organization that has the potential to be that center. This organization provides Saturday morning classes in English as a Second Language for immigrants, Spanish and Bolivian cultural lessons for their children, and Spanish classes for the wider community. The organization was formed partly to preserve some of the cultural traditions often lost as immigrant children grow up in the United States.

I am still rather new to the area and I am still learning my way through the nuances of this community. Besides knowing most of the Bolivian restaurants by heart and news gathered from Los Tiempos USA, I do not hold a vast knowledge of this community’s history.

A loosely related group of cultural organizations, small businesses and media outlets that cater to Bolivians provides this community with a link to their homelands. Yet, this lack of unifying force really emphasizes what is missing. That is where I see the Escuela’s vast potential for being this all inclusive organization. I may be actively taking over responsibility for the website, which could serve as a sort of virtual meeting place providing resources, links and up to date information for this community.

Yet, I am still puzzled by the large gap between recently arrived immigrants and Bolivian-Americans who may operate primarily in English. There has to be a way to bring those two groups together, by possibly providing lectures, Bolivian movie screenings, and other activities that cater to others like me (Bolivian-Americans). Any ideas?

Update
: We are still looking for others in the area who are interested in serving on the Board. If you would like to be considered or would like more information, please email me: eduardo [at] barrioflores [dot] net

Update 2: I have been getting some really good emails from Bolivians in the area who share that they too would like to get involved in general with the community. Please write me an email or leave a comment, on what you would like to see in the community or what information would help you feel part of it all.

Evo and Juan del Granado

Evo Morales’ chances to win the next Presidential elections have just improved with the announcement of an alliance with a popular mayor. Earlier this week, medicine La Paz leftist mayor Juan del Granado (MSM) announced that he is entering a “Frente Amplio ” with Evo/MAS. No word what that actually means, but more than likely it may be an Evo/Juan Sin Miedo ticket. This self-described anti-neoliberalism alliance appears to be the favorite until the Jorge “Tuto” Quiroga (ADN), Samuel Doria Medina (UN) and others declare candidacies and/or alliances.

One wonders why del Granado announced this alliance so early. Some may have seen del Granado as that center option so badly needed in Bolivia. Now that he will probably allow Morales to be the Presidential candidate, many middle class Bolivians who cannot stand Evo may now look elsewhere. Theoretically, del Granado could have run as the MSM candidate and given Evo his votes in Parliament forming a coalition, which would have accomplished practically the same purpose. However, now that Bolivians now del Granado’s intent, a vote him would mean a vote for Evo.

Meanwhile, del Granado has already started his own politicking, throwing jabs at El Alto mayor Jose Luis Paredes (PP). On the traditional coldest night of the year, June 23, also known as “San Juan”, del Granado was out in full view pleading Paceños to resist the urge to light bonfires, which has been a longstanding tradition to combat the frosty nights. These fires, in which old tires and other garbage are the main fuel also contribute to an environmentally awful day after, have been prohibited by nearly every urban center. Yet, laws were made to be broken apparently because the public still light these fires everywhere. Juan Sin Miedo was seen riding around in pick-up trucks asking the public to protect the environment and take advantage of free concerts in the city’s main plazas. He criticized Paredes for not doing the same, saying that Paredes is already thinking about Prefect elections by allowing Alteños to do as they please. Where was Juan during the mobilizations that suffocated La Paz and caused more damage than some watery eyes and smoggy horizons?

Finally, La Paz daily La Razon provided some interesting behind-the-scenes looks at the days surrounding the events leading up to the new Presidency of Eduardo Rodriguez. La Razon reports that if Hormando Vaca Diez or Mario Cossio did not decline their right of succession, then Carlos Mesa would have dissolved Congress and remained in the Presidency until new elections took place ruling by decrees.

Apparently Vaca Diez caught wind of this plan, and decided to turn down the Presidency opening up for Rodriguez to be Bolivia’s third president since 2002. In an interview with a Colombian newspaper, Mesa said, “Ten minutes after Vaca Diez’ speech (where he declined the Presidency) everything we planned to do ten minutes prior changed. If I had the misfortune of making a decision ten minutes before, the country’s history would have changed.” Would he have gotten away with what he saw as what was best for the country because a Vaca Diez administration would have meant unrivaled conflict between Bolivians? Probably, because most likely Mesa had the Armed Forces on his side all along and they would have ensured that Mesa held Bolivia together.

Evo Website

In a similar vein to the fake George W Bush campaign website in 2004, a new satirical Evo website was launched in order to make fun of the man who wants to be President. Upon first glance, it appears to be a site supporting Evo’s bid, but clearly it lampoons the party leader, even suggesting that all indigenous are uneducated and unable to know what they’re deciding.

The website may have had the right idea, but clearly a lot of the language crosses the line into the territory of racism. Venturing into the forums shows some pretty awful racist attitudes out there. Sure, Evo is full of contradictions and uses rhetoric to polarize the entire country. However, rational and intelligence arguments would do the country more good than a lot of garbage that is out there, especially in anonymous fora in cyberspace.

It’s okay to disagree with Evo because of his policies and tactics, but we’re at a point in time where many disagree with Evo because he is an “indio“. Such generalizations and the lumping of all indigenous people as uneducated and irrational can further divide the country. The Evo for President website defends the actions of the Civic Committee of Santa Cruz and includes Carlos Mesa as one of Evo’s allies. The website contact info is “indio@evopresidente.com“, which clearly shows the website designer’s sensitivity.

If Evo Morales and his party were truly serious about winning the election and implementing relatively moderate policies (in comparison to others out there), he would allow someone else to be the Presidential candidate. Much like the Cochabamba mayoral race, where centrist and non-controversial figure, Gonzalo Lema narrowly lost the election, MAS will never again capture the “protest vote” from the middle class and urban working class that they did in 2002. Instead of bringing people in, he is a divider, not a uniter (sound familiar?), and now those who may agree with nationalization would never vote for such a polarizing figure like Evo.

Everybody Wants Nationalization

Already some are strategically using the obscure poll that reports that nearly 76% of Bolivians want nationalization of its hydrocarbons. Even if Evo and Co. do not represent the majority of Bolivians, doctor nor the majority of poor Bolivians, sales they are saying “see, capsule most Bolivians agree with us!” Funny thing is that Evo never really pushed for nationalization until most recently.

I am not going to critique polling methods, nor question the reliability of the findings. However, I think as this El Deber Op/Ed piece states correctly that most people don’t really understand what nationalization really signifies and its possible consequences.

Nationalization seems like a noble thing. I think everybody in Bolivia wants to see the fairest deal that we can get. I am all for strategically using Bolivia’s god-given natural resources to be used to help many Bolivians up the ladder out of poverty. I even think that the oil companies should hold some sense of social responsibility and not see the Bolivian situation as a free-for-all, where profit is the only guiding principle.

The question asked in the poll was “Do you approve or disapprove of the nationalization of the hydrocarbons?

Being no expert in polling techniques, I have a hard time coming terms with such a black and white question. I wouldn’t want to corner myself into such a position without offering some other countering questions of my own, such as, “I approve of nationalization only if the administration of the state company was fully depoliticized even if it means bringing in foreign experts who hold no loyalties to the ruling party that placed them in that job” or “I disapprove of nationalization if it means placing Bolivia in such monumental debt due to the required indemnization”.

Would the 76% of 850 Bolivians who answered with the approval of nationalization have said so if they knew that the administration of YFPB would be such the same as any of the pre-capitalized industries that were teaming with party cronies? Such a monopoly gives no incentive to provide efficient service and really provides the ruling coalition parties greater access to state resources.

Would the 21% of 850 Bolivians who answered that they disapprove of nationalization have said so if they knew that perhaps the proposal meant still partnering with foreign oil companies, splitting profits but keeping ownership of the reserves in state control? No one really knows what nationalization really means as it only remains as a simple query: for or against nationalization. Those on the left are not doing a good job of articulating of what they mean when they say nationalization.

Boca Meltdown

I finally saw the replay of the Boca Juniors – Chivas game in Buenos Aires where the Boca players and fans lost their minds. The game featured the Boca coach spitting on the Chivas player Adolfo Bautista as he was being escorted off the pitch, as well as a couple of Boca “fans” who came onto the field to take swings and kicks at the Chivas forward. Finally, the game was halted when the referees could not guarantee safety from the projectiles sent from the stands. Chivas moves on to the finals of the Copa Libertadores on a 4-0 aggregate score. I considered myself a Boca sympathizer, having been to la Bombonera (Boca’s stadium) and admiring many of their players (Riquelme and Tevez), but I now see why many non-football fans in Bs. As. abhor any mention of Boca.

This Last Week

After such a whirlwind of a ride throughout the three weeks trying to keep up with minute-by-minute action in Bolivia, check I decided to step back for this past week. However, medicine things continued to gather steam as President Eduardo Rodriguez tries to take advantage of a relatively peaceful country.

As all of the social movements agreed to lift all blockades, pharmacy President Rodriguez formed his transitional cabinet.

It is a given that new Presidential elections will be held sooner rather than later, but now some are saying that to make this transition complete, there needs to be a complete overhaul of Congress through new elections. Everyone has their opinions on this proposal, some say that the public elected the lawmakers, thus they should complete their full term (and not give up their cushy salaries).

The government has been actively looking for ways to build another highway linking La Paz to Cochabamba that goes through the Zona Sud in La Paz (i.e. not through El Alto). Plans are also in the works to build another international airport in the Zona Sud, as well as keep large reserves of gasoline in that part of the city.

Erasing the debt from the World Bank and IMF appears to be tied into making sure that investments are protected and other structural guarantees are in place. Some speculated that the 18 countries first targeted by the G8 would get total debt forgiveness no questions asked. But, it looks like now that it will be related to these guarantees. Whether or not this includes the privatization of public services or other economic mandates will left to be seen. If Bolivia comes through, it would be mean roughly 2 billion dollars that will not need to be repaid.

Today, the President will meet with some of the Civic leaders in Santa Cruz, where they are still determined to hold prefect elections and autonomy referendum on August 12.

Also, this article states that Jaime Paz Zamora is no longer the head of MIR, the party he established. Hormando Vaca Diez assumes that leadership (officially or unofficially). Paz Zamora is one of the Prefect candidates for Tarija, if there are elections.

Mesa's Future Part II

An article in the leftist news site Bolpress speculated that ex-President Carlos Mesa may return to his old job of television commentary. The station P.A.T. where Mesa was stockholder will soon change most of its analysts according to the article. Out as analysts will be Alvaro Garcia Linera and Gonzalo Chavez and in will be ex-minister of Popular Participation Roberto Barbery, viagra sale close friend of Mesa. Again, sickness it will be interesting to see what Mesa does after his time in the Presidency, as it this is new territory for a ex-President of Bolivia.

Global Voices Online

If you are reading this blog, ed chances are you have a passing interest in Bolivian politics and daily life. Maybe the most recent developments in Bolivia led you here to find out more or get another viewpoint besides the growing number of bloggers writing about that subject. I rarely write much about my personal life without it relating somehow to Bolivia or the Bolivian community. I am grateful that some of my entries have been covered by this wonderful project called Global Voices Online from Harvard University.

The Global Voices Online project focuses on blogs of a similar vein from around the world. The mission of GVO:

The primary mission of Global Voices is twofold: 1) To call attention to the most interesting conversations and perspectives emerging from citizens’ media around the world by linking to text, audio, and video blogs and other forms of grassroots citizens’ media being produced by people around the world; 2) To facilitate the emergence of new citizens’ voices through training, online tutorials, and publicizing the ways in which open-source and free tools can be used safely by people around the world to express themselves.

A daily blog roundup finds the very best entries that focuses on real life developments around the world. I have discovered great blogs such as Sokawanele from Zimbabwe, which really covers the awful things that Mugabe is doing to his own people. Limited time really prevents me from discovering all of the wonderful different blogs covered by GVO.

Life After the Presidency

During last Monday’s resignation speech, Carlos Mesa was emphatic that he was not going to flee the country. He said that Bolivia was his home and he wants the privilege of living there. Now that he no longer holds the title of President, what’s next?

The last three Presidents are either still head of their political party (Jaime Paz Zamora – MIR), looking towards the next election (Tuto Quiroga – ADN), or in exile (Goni – MNR). Hugo Banzer passed away in May 2002.

Mesa’s case is different, as he is not a member of a political party, nor necessarily looking to get back into the race. Although there is a possibility that he could form his own political project for future participation in politics. However, he wasn’t very enthusiastic of the idea

“After 20 months, I don’t know if one would want to return to the Palace as President, it is difficult, very difficult,” he added when the press asked him whether he planned on establishing his own party to continue in politics.

But for now, he is just taking his time after nearly two years as President. He added he would like to begin a discussion on the media’s role in the most recent crisis, which would return him to his media and journalist role.

One suggestion: Mesa is a huge fanatico of football, as he was often seen at the Hernando Siles stadium during the Bolivian National Team games. Perhaps he should head up the Bolivian Football Federation and turn Bolivian football around. Having to deal with Mauro Cuellar (Bolivar’s President) would seem like a piece of cake in comparison to these past 20 months.

Bolivia External Debt

As of March 31, 2005, Bolivia’s external debt totaled $4.88 billion dollars according to the Banco Central de Bolivia. The country owes a large amount of that to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. The 18 countries that were included in the first batch of forgiven countries are expected to spend that money on health, education and other poverty reducing initiatives. Thirty percent of Bolivia’s budget was spent towards its enormous debt.