The State of Bolivian Blogs

Now appearing at the amazing project Global Voices Online is my first contribution. I was asked to write an article focusing on Bolivian blogs in their many shapes and sizes. The article is called “The State of Bolivian Blogs” and I tried to incorporate as many blogs as I could. Hopefully this will the first of other contributions I can make to this site.

If you have not read Global Voices’ Manifesto, please do.

Buzzword Alert

Which Bolivian Presidential candidate recently accused some political actors of falling victim to “Gonismo” during the electoral crisis currently taking place in Bolivia? As I wrote earlier, maladyGonismo” is a popular buzzword used in reference to the negative influence that former President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada still holds over Bolivian politics even when living comfortably in the United States.

It would be logical to arrive at the conclusion that it was Evo Morales who used this buzzword among his arsenal of talking points (also included: neoliberal, fascist, oligarchy). After all, he seems to be anti-everything. Instead, it was Jorge “Tuto” Quiroga, a person often linked to Goni-like policies, even though his ADN party was essentially in the opposition after the 2002 election.

In that context, Quiroga asked the social sectors, political parties and especially the government to “not allow themselves to be influenced by Gonista interests”

As this word is thrown about by anyone, it will continue to lose its original intent and no longer be an effective word to be used in the campaign.

Evo in Paris

The Zapatistas enjoyed considerable success as the international community’s darling through their outreach and solidarity campaigns. Now it appears that Evo Morales and MAS are beginning to attract support in the activist circles. Evo was recently in France where he was the guest of the honor at a dinner to benefit his Presidential campaign.

Dinner for the Solidarity of the
Electoral Campaign of Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) in Bolivia
Guest of Honor: Evo Morales
Presidential Candidate for MAS
Wednesday, viagra September 28 at 20:00
Location: Restaurant-bar 1492
Menu: 20 euros
Proceeds will benefit the MAS campaign. Other additional donations are welcome.

This information was brought to our attention by the creators of Blogs de Bolivia, illness which is an initiative that makes looking for these nice tidbits of information a lot easier on the web. The new blog by the group Comité MAS France will be an interesting one to watch to see how much interest Evo attracts in Europe.

Gustavo identified the connection between the site’s contact person and the editor of the left-wing El Juegete Rabioso, Sergio Cáceres, who is also a correspondent living in Paris.

Elections on Shaky Ground

Bolivia’s Presidential Elections seem more and more unlikely to take place on December 4 as scheduled. The battle for Congressional seats has not been resolved through legislative channels. Interim President Eduardo Rodriguez vowed that elections will still take place on December 4. He is itching to return to the more tranquil post of Supreme Court President. Both front-runners are urging that the necessary adjustments be made to guarantee the vote. Morales said during his visit to France, check “For the first time, unhealthy indigenous groups hold the possibility of winning elections and now the Bolivian courts want to block those possibilities. The neoliberal model is only delaying its own demise.”

Even though elections will not solve fundamental problems in Bolivia, cheap it was seen as a positive appeasement of the protests and marches that paralyzed the country. The way the country works these days, problems are solved in an either/or format. Compromises are foreign concepts in Bolivian politics. Somebody will be unhappy with the final decision.

If the crisis is not resolved soon and elections postponed, the one group that will be happy will be the politicians who have been entrusted with coming up with a satisfactory solution. They were on their way to being unemployed come next January, because an entirely new Congress would be elected. This conflict delays the inevitable and they get to hang on to their cushy paycheck and all of the other unofficial perks associated with being part of the government. In the immortal words of Johnny Fernandez (head of the UCS party), “no roben, pero saquen algo” (don’t steal, but take something). Being a Congressman/woman, there really is not a better legal paying job in Bolivia.

So, it’s no wonder that it’s taking so long to resolve this mess.

Note: For a great entry on the shift in population and redistribution of Congressional seats, see Ciao!

"Newest" Released Poll

Via the Angus Reid site, the “newest” released poll found that Evo Morales still leads among the top three contenders for the December elections. The poll conducted by the company Encuestas & Estudios asked nearly 3500 Bolivians in 9 cities and 161 municipalities between August 20 and September 10.

If these candidates ran for president, which one would you support?

Evo Morales (MAS)…26.1%

Jorge Quiroga (PODEMOS)…22.6%

Samuel Doria Medina (UN)…12.3%

Nearly three weeks have passed since the last person was asked for his/her opinion. One might wonder whether Evo Morales’ recent comments about legalizing coca and ending the U.S.’ policies on coca eradication would have any affect on his polling numbers.

Bolivian Festival in Manassas

Two weeks have passed since the Annual Bolivian Festival in Northern Virginia. If it hadn’t been for the complimentary admission ticket for those distributing information about Escuela Bolivia, site the organization which I am now a Board Member of, mind I would have probably skipped the event altogether.

First of all, treat the event which featured all of the area’s folkloric dance troupes, food vendors and throngs of Bolivians from all across the DC Metro area was located at a great distance from its usual location right in the heart of Arlington (or Arli-bamba as some say). Originally I thought this change of venue was to accommodate the growing number of immigrants who are being priced out of the housing market and obligated to live in the suburbs outside of the Beltway like Manassas, Virginia. However, I learned that the high school in Arlington that normally rented their field, decided to end that relationship with the organizing committee. Apparently last year, the field was left in such utter disarray from the Festival.

Manassas is about a 30 minute drive from Arlington. The admission ticket had a pretty hefty price of $15 per person, which included seeing the group Tupay perform later that evening. I certainly wasn’t going to stay another five hours to hear them. Imagine a family of six spending upwards of $150 – $200 with all of the food and drinks, and it may price a lot families out of attending. Yet, there were thousands of people in attendance (although it seemed that the majority were family members of the dance groups).

In the mid-afternoon, the various dance groups (toba, tinku, caporales, morenada, etc) lined up and waited their turn for NoVa’s own version of an entrada. Around this circular road on the Fairgrounds, people brought lawn chairs and displayed an utter lack of enthusiasm. Instead of a typical brass band providing backing music, a pick-up truck was loaded up with DJ equipment and speakers. Things were vastly different than the usual festive scene of Carnaval in Oruro. Perhaps the absence of beer vendors toned down the mood.
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If Elected…

Campaign promises are starting. Candidates are ratting off actions that they would take if elected President. The AP Wire has picked up the story that Evo Morales may possibly reject the U.S.’ policy on coca eradication, as well as push to have the coca leaf legalized worldwide.

During a campaign stop in the city of Sucre, Morales said that United States government’s policies have the sole objective of “eliminating coca” and “tormenting the cocaleros,” the people who grow coca. Currently, the Bolivian government permits the cultivation of 29,600 acres of coca leaf for traditional uses.

But recent United Nations estimates say more than twice that amount is actually grown. In 2004 the Bolivian government forcibly eradicated 20,800 acres with help from the U.S. government.

The former state telecommunications company, ENTEL, may be up for sale according to various newspapers. Morales has hinted that the government should nationalize this company too.

Nationalizing natural resources is one thing, but I don’t think anyone wants to go back to the days where political cronies were controlling telephones and the ability to call loved ones around the world, when it was a state corporation.

Coca and the Elections

Is Coca an Issue?” wonders Boz in a recent entry referencing a Miami Herald article, which states that coca eradication policies could re-emerge during this election season. Attention could certainly be given to the contrasting differences in Tuto Quiroga and Evo Morales’ positions and histories on the topic. Quiroga has already governed during a period where these policies were in full effect with accompanying questionable results. No one really seems to know where Morales stands on the issue, all we know is that he is against it. These days the leaf escapes the headlines in a way that natural gas, Constituent Assembly or tax revenues does not.

Outside the Chapare and Yungas regions of Bolivia, coca eradication directly affects the daily lives of very few Bolivians. Yet, indirectly it affects the entire nation as millions of dollars from narcotrafficking has been removed from the circulating economy over the past two decades.

But what could convert this issue into a national topic could be based on the manner in which these policies are established. The disastrous Ley 1008, which seems to go after the “little guy” like those trying to squeak out a living selling coca to some middle-man or those caught transporting raw materials, was basically written by U.S. advisors. That has set a disastrous precedent. Some might say that it is highly feasible that the U.S. or other outside interests could do the same with the controversial Hydrocarbons Law. National sovereignty is the issue, not necessarily the innocent coca leaf. National sovereignty, as the name suggests, is a national issue.

Many who stand against any form of coca eradication say that cocaine production is not Bolivia’s problem. Demand from abroad fuels the supply. Eliminating coca eradication would be dangerous. There’s no question that fundamental changes need to be made in the manner which these policies are developed. Other accompanying changes need to be made so that farmers growing alternative agricultural products have a fair shot at just trade (i.e. the elimination of farm subsidies). Sadly, coca production must be regulated or else Bolivia could fall victim to another form of capitalism. (Why doesn’t Evo speak out against the exploitation of coca farmers by cocaine manufacturers who profit manifold from the cocaleros?)

Reason would call for an objective study to determine how much coca is needed to supply the national consumption and traditional use. But as article reports:

Where the coca goes after the markets, however, is a question growers don’t have answers for.

”We are just following the legal procedures,” Chipana said. “Maybe some of the coca is going to drug production, but that’s out of our control.”

Like it or not, any military presence in the Chapare reduces the chance that coca production is not allowed to grow out of control, benefiting the real criminals. If Evo wins the Presidency, there could be the temptation to boot the U.S. out of the Chapare. What could result is a lawless region where narcotrafficking rules, perhaps introducing violence and weapons to the mix. That would then, affect the lives of more innocent Bolivians caught up in that circus.

Cochabamba – 14 de Septiembre

Sure, I love my city – Cochabamba, (even though I currently am not living there). However, I am not one of those that prefers to fly the Cochabamba flag instead of the Bolivian flag. I also love many other cities in Bolivia, but for me Cochabamba is the one I know inside and out. In honor of 14 de septiembre – Cochabamba’s Day, here is a song from Tupay:

Tupay – Orgullo K’ochala

Right click – save as.

Also, please check my section on Cochabamba which has three distinct photographs of the Ciudad de las Flores,

Finally, because I have no time these days, find the entry I wrote one year ago today about my fair city.