Telesur in Bolivia (Not Yet)

With the launch of television channel TeleSur, seek funded primarily by Venezuela, help the reaction to it has been mixed. David wrote an excellent recap at Global Voices Online on how others around Latin America have been responding to this new media source.

As my small contribution to that entry stated, the local cable company we have used in Cochabamba had no immediate knowledge of TeleSur, when I sent them an email inquiring whether it would be added to the roster of channels.

If TeleSur does become an option for Bolivian television viewers, who will get to see it? According to the Instituto Nacional de Estadística in Bolivia, approximately 54% of Bolivian households own a television. That number is not too shabby considering the high levels of poverty in that country. There are a respectable number of local channels the one can receive using the old bunny ears.

However, TeleSur, if and when it becomes available in Bolivia, will most likely be an exclusive to the cable companies. Data from the PNUD found that only 6% households had television cable connections. Likely that number is higher due to the frequency of clandestine hookups. In addition, the cost per month for cable varies between $18-25 per month, which an exorbitant amount for many Bolivians. Due to this high cost, most that currently enjoy television cable are working, middle and upper classes in the urban centers.

So is this the audience that TeleSur is targeting? I wonder if TeleSur reports glowingly on Evo Morales, will it be those who have cable connections who would nod their heads in agreement?

Los Tiempos Politics Forum

Forums are mostly free-for-alls where anyone with a keyboard can chime in, attempt to be serious and thoughtful or troll the hell out of it. Los Tiempos, the Cochabamba newspaper, has lauched an online forum for political discussion, specifically about the December elections. So far, the online conversation has been rather civil, but it’s just a matter of time until it gets out of control. I give it 8 days.

Take a look at this thread: Evo Morales es nuestra unica esperanza (Evo Morales is our only hope)

It starts off well, with a couple of Evo-apologists, a couple of users with insults and some very good thoughtful criticisms of Mr. Morales. However, come page three, it starts to unravel.

Look East

Everyone knows how important the Santa Cruz vote will be in the December elections. After all, capsule it is the fastest growing region in Bolivia and its economic importance cannot be disputed. In years’ past, the Occident has consistently voted for the traditional political parties, although that may change with the current high disapproval ratings for the old parties.

It is expected that all of the major candidates will clamor for a Cruceño Vice President. Even Evo Morales (MAS) wants to appeal to the Santa Cruz, where his party made a respectable showing in last year’s Municipal elections. The Frente Amplio candidate Rene Joaquino has already extended an invitation to Mariano Aguilera, a Cruceño sugar industrialist, who said he will consider the invitation. Samuel Doria Medina (UN) has called a press conference in Santa Cruz on Friday for an expected VP announcement. It was also speculated that Tuto Quiroga (AXXI) is making overtures to the former Santa Cruz mayor, Roberto Fernandez (brother of silly Johnny Fernandez (UCS)).

However, Santa Cruz may not limit itself to being represented by just a VP candidate. It is expected that Hormando Vaca Diez will be the candidate of MIR, after being so close to succeeding Carlos Mesa last month. The MNR candidate was thought to be the Cruceño Juan Carlos Duran, who recently said he would not be the candidate because of “gonismo”. The Civic Committee and business groups of that city have yet to announce what, how or who they will support or present for the December elections.

Samuel Doria Medina Interview – La Razon

La Razon has begun a series of interviews with the candidates that have officially announced his participation in the December 4 elections. Today’s feature is on businessman and former MIR cabinet member Samuel Doria Medina. Currently he is leader of the Unidad Nacional (UN) party that is trying desperately to shake the perception that he and Tuto Quiroga are one in the same.

The cement magnate and owner of the Burger King restaurants in Bolivia calls his proposals for the “popular center,” which he explains in food terms. His plans are “llajwa” (the national hot sauce) and not “ketchup”. (It’s interesting to note that in the Burger King restaurants, llajwa is available upon request.)

Doria Medina also addresses the fact that many have labeled him as “uncharismatic”, a charge that he readily admits. He doesn’t want to be the politician who greets hundreds of people each day, as he would rather be the one that solves problems, creates jobs and finishes successful projects.

His two main rivals also were mentioned by Doria Medina. At one time, he said he had more in common with Evo Morales, than with Tuto Quiroga. He explains that in December 2004, Evo had opted for the democratic route as he was unofficially part of Carlos Mesa’s government. However, when he decided to blockade in 2005 and move away from democratic means, that is when any similarities ended.

The criticism towards Quiroga is based largely on Quiroga’s being out of touch with Bolivian reality. Doria Medina says that Quiroga has been absent from the country ever since his term ended in 2002. He noted that it doesn’t seem that Quiroga thinks that a change is needed.

Finally, in attempting to shake the “neoliberal” label, he says that it is true that much of his proposals are economic nature because that is at the root of Bolivia’s problems. But, he wants to work with the informal sector and the small businesses to be at the basis of this economic revival.

Yet, he prides himself on being a candidate that can work with any of the regions in Bolivia. As a businessman, he has had many dealings with Santa Cruz and much of his advisor team comes from that Department. But his business also has taken him to the Occident and other parts of the country. His ease in working with all parts of the country is something that his two main competitors would find difficulty, with Evo in Santa Cruz, as well as Tuto in El Alto

Election Buzzword #1 – Gonismo

Gonismo” – It’s hard to put your finger on what it actually means, diagnosis but you better believe that many of the candidates, especially Mr. Evo Morales will be using the term liberally over the next four months.

Fair or not, former and exiled President, Gonzalo “Goni” Sanchez de Lozada is synonymous with the current crisis that Bolivia finds itself. Whether for the capitalization of several key industries or the yet-to-be investigated events in October 2003 where too many Bolivians were killed, Goni is public enemy number one to blame for Bolivia’s ills.

No one wants to be associated with him, even though almost every current politician has some links, i.e. Samuel Doria Medina (ex-MIR), whose party has been allied with both of Goni’s presidencies. Even some in his own party, MNR, want to distance themselves from their current/former party leader (depends on who you ask). If MNR wants to save some face in the December elections, it must show that it is Goni-free.

However, Evo will try his hardest to link the other candidates as collaborators of the former President, by perhaps suggesting that anyone who has ever worked with Goni, been in the same room as Goni, or even shaken hands with Goni, as guilty of having the mark of “Gonismo”.

Immigrants Arrested in Bolivia, A Look Back

This recent article published in Erbol News, “La fiscalía cruceña detiene a 27 bengalíes” immediately reminded me of a similiar story nearly two years ago.

Via, the defunct Southern Exposure (scroll down to December 4-5) to a similar incident where it was feared that similar arrestees were attempting to hijack a plane on route to Buenos Aires. After the individuals were released without any hard proof of this supposed plot, I had not really thought of that incident until today.

All the information available so far seems to come from this release of ABI (the Bolivian government’s press agency). It indicates that 16 Muslim people from Bangladesh -that’s not the same country as Pakistan, Crónica!- have been arrested following a tip by French authorities that they could be implicated in a (presumptive) plan to hijack a plane in the La Paz-Santa Cruz-Buenos Aires route and direct it against US targets (most likely, I presume, in Buenos Aires). You can read about these reports in Reuters Alertnet (other articles, like Wired’s, are just rehashings of Reuter’s somewhat skeptical notice of the ABI press release).

This is from the entry from Southern Exposure, but too bad none of the online media links are still active. No links to terrorism, rather human trafficking seem to be the issue at hand here.

Cochabamba Poll

Now it’s Cochabamba’s turn to weigh in on its choice for President with its own poll. The Universidad Mayor de San Simon (UMSS) and its Political Science Department polled approximately 1,100 from the Cochabamba Department. Included in this poll, were individuals from the 14 municipalities that make up el Cercado, as well as the other 6 rural provinces including the MAS-supporting Chapare.

The results may indicate a bit of a surprise because many of the other polls only included responses from the urban centers, which includes many who despise Evo’s radical measures that he supports. This poll included rural respondents and the rise in both Quiroga’s and Evo’s support eclipses other polls where each only reached 16-17%.

Tuto Quiroga (AXXI) – 29%
Evo (MAS) – 28%
Doria Medina (UN) – 11%

This just shows that this election will be fought along so many different divisions: indigenous vs. mestizo/white; occident vs. orient; and now urban vs. rural.

Evo's Chances

Boz draws attention to the recent Council on Hemispheric Affair’s Article titled: A Coca Grower to Lead Bolivia? The analyst argues that Bolivia is on the verge of electing Evo Morales, partly out of his Anti-American views. Q: But, what happens when that candidate is anti-Bolivian as well? A: High disapproval ratings. What else do you call views that jeopardize the incomes and livelihoods of thousands of working poor through the support of blockades and other anti-democratic measures, such as coercion and threats?

I certainly am not against what Morales hopes to reverse: economic and political exclusion, institutional racism and an economic model that has not delivered what had been promised (also the fault of a flawed system that encourages corruption). However, instead of building upon the historic finish in the 2002 election and Congressional victories, he has taken several steps back and alienated such a huge part of the country. His means do not justify his hoped net result, where other means were available to him.

In spite of the high disapproval rates, Morales doesn’t have zero chance of being President as Jim thinks in his entry in Blog from Bolivia:

I think that Evo has about as much chance of becoming President of Bolivia after next December’s elections as I have of being Bush’s pick for the US Supreme Court

His chances of becoming President are not entirely up to him. Likely he will not poll in the top spot and with the emergence of Samuel Doria Medina and the Mayors’ candidate (which we’ll get to later), where he could find himself in third place. But crazier things have happened, as there has been some rumblings of an alliance between the Mayors and Evo, but with the announcement of Rene Joaquino as the candidate for this “Frente Amplio”, Evo will not be their candidate for the elections, as previously thought, and will need their support should they finish behind MAS.

It is highly unlikely that there will be an alliance between all of the actors on the extreme left including Abel Mamani, Oscar Olivera, Jaime Solares and Felipe Quispe. Such a grouping could tally around 30% for Evo/MAS, but due to the distrust among these groups, each are likely to field their own candidate, which would further disperse the vote from the far-left.

More Bolivian Movies

The movie “Di Buen Dia A Papa” opened in Cochabamba. Almada attended the premier complete with small symphony near the escalators.

Yet another Bolivian movie is set for release soon. “American Visa,” based on the book by the same name by Juan de Recacochea is a story of a Bolivian professor who seeks a visa to enter the United States. Directed by Juan Carlos Valdivia, who currently lives in Mexico, received help from the actress Kate Del Castillo, who is better known for her roles in telenovelas.

Addition: A commenter in the first Bolivian Movies entry called this movie to my attention: The Devil’s Miner, which is a documentary about life in the mines for a young boy in Potosi.