Wedding Bells for Evo Morales

According to the Santa Cruz newspaper, El Deber, Bolivia’s President-Elect will wed MAS substitute councilwoman Adriana Gil on December 31. Gil is a well known commodity in Santa Cruz, as she represents an unlikely supporter of MAS and has been heavily criticized by many in that Department. However, she is on the verge of becoming Bolivia’s First Lady.

The ceremony presents another predicament. Will Morales will formal wear to his own wedding?

The MAS leader confirmed that he will not wear a suit nor a tie. “I am getting married with my jacket and my grey shirt.”

Adriana Gil is 22 years old and has been studying Law in UPSA. She began her political career three years ago, serving as substitute councilmember for Osvaldo Peredo.

More information after the jump.

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Positive First Steps

President-elect Evo Morales, prostate along with Vice-President-elect Alvaro Garcia Linera were in Santa Cruz this evening to meet face to face with the Committee Pro Santa Cruz. After the gathering, cialis many are calling the meeting a historic event. Many expected a confrontation between two sides generalized as having polar opposite views. However, in the meeting and press conference broadcast live on Bolivian television both sides were open to dialogue and Morales vowed to remain very open to the suggestions and recommendations by this Civic Committee. These words drew applause from members of the Civic Committee that were in the audience. Morales guaranteed the Referendum for Autonomy and promised that the bidding process for El Mutún would continue on schedule. The newly elected President also said that he learned a lot from the meeting, admitting that he was not aware that this Committee was diverse containing workers, laborers and other social sectors. His attitude was very humble and vowed to continue the dialogue, anytime, anyplace. Stories will follow in tomorrow´s papers.

In other news, Morales announced that he will halve the Presidential salary. In administrations past, the President received Bs. 27,500 per month (approximately 3,500 USD per month). He said that the new salary will not exceed Bs. 15,000. This austerity measure is very symbolic for the country. He wants to set the example, as deputies, senators, ministers and vice-ministers will also receive reduced salaries. Deputy substitutes will not receive any wages. Many on the street are applauding this move, because of the economic crisis of the country. The minimum wage for the working class is fixed at Bs. 450 per month.

The Big Question

The most talked about topic around Cochabamba:

What will Evo’s cabinet look like? How will he handle the bids for El Mutún? Why are people still talking about the radio prank call?

Nope.

Will he or won’t he? Wear a suit and tie to the inauguration, that is. Seems like everyone has an opinion whether Evo Morales will shed his usual attire, which is very casual (shirt and blue MAS jacket), for the customary and traditional suit and tie. Many say that it would be a lack of respect to the guests in attendance and to the office of the Presidency if he does not wear a coat and tie. Others say that he should not change who is for the occasion. However, there are plans for two different inagurations, one in Congress and the other in the Plaza San Francisco of La Paz. Many predict that he will wear the suit for the official swearing in and wear a traditional poncho for the symbolic affair.

But is it really that big of deal?

The entire country waits for January 22 for the answer.

Christmastime in Bolivia

Crossposted on Global Voices Online.

Take a deep breath. Watch your belongings. Say goodbye to personal space. If you want to partake in some holiday shopping at a place where you can find anything and everything, sovaldi it would be best to heed that advice. Every year, stomach the Feria Navideña in Cochabamba, prescription Bolivia overwhelms the senses and invades every available open space near and around the large, local open-air market known as La Cancha. Normally, this market is chaos in itself throughout the year, but around the holiday season, an influx of informal vendors bring their wares to take advantage of the innate need for holiday purchasing. The market appears to multiply tenfold during the month of December, but that doesn’t keep the holiday shoppers away, as many brave the harsh conditions in hopes of finding bargains in one convenient location.

Many sellers set up tables with low hanging tarps, with Christmas lights, wreaths, plastic animals for manger scenes, and Christmas cards for sale. The variety is unsurpassed, as one stand may sell soccer balls, while the next stand over, the seller may be hawking light bulbs and extension cords. There is some semblance of order as the vendors set up orderly aisles for curious browsers to shuffle by. However, the width of these aisles is barely two people across. Once you get entire families that stop to look at the merchandise and some friendly price haggling, it leads to a frustrating congestion. Mix in satisfied customers carrying home large packages, or items such as motorized cars for the toddler, then it becomes even more packed. Those vendors unlucky enough to find their own stable stand are resigned to being wandering salesmen who sometimes venture in these tight spaces to look for interested buyers. These wandering salesmen and women often lug their goods in wheelbarrows which adds to the unruly mess. I even noticed one man who had a fine collection of hand saws for sale, which is not exactly the safest item to sell among the tightly packed crowd.

The municipality attempted to put more order to the fair by not allowing them to spill out on the street and limiting the spaces where stands could be set up. However, many vendors claimed their right to earn a living and set up shop wherever convenient, even if it added to the headache of traffic jams and irritated shoppers. Every year, the local government tries to maintain order, but every year the vendors seem to win.

In other parts of the city away from the hustle and bustle of the large marketplace, Christmas definitely is in the air. Lights are strewn all around the main plaza, 14 de septiembre. The city’s main avenue, la Avenida Ballivian, better known as El Prado, contains the largest concentration of Christmas decorations, including a surprisingly elegant tree constructed out of 2-liter bottles of Coca-Cola. There is also a fair share of gaudy decorations like an out of place plastic Papa Noel (Santa Claus) overlooking the Plaza Colon. Santa hats are also for sale by vendors hoping to capitalize on the festive mood created by these decorations.

Here on El Prado, there are no signs of separation of Church and State, as the Mayor’s Office proudly boasts the sponsorship of the large manger scene. The baby Jesus and shepherds are stored away for safe keeping during the day and assembled when night falls. The three wise men made an early appearance from its usual early January appointment.

The Christmas season also draws contrasts between the haves and have-nots. Every year around these particular dates, hundreds of poor campesinos, usually from the department of Potosí, descend on the large urban center hoping to find a bit of charity from generous city folk. On nearly every corner and especially concentrated around the main plaza, women and scores of children dressed in typical dress from that region, ask for coins from the passers-by. It was observed that many individuals gave loose change, but with the overabundance of beggars, it is merely impossible to give to every single one.

In the city, the most important part of the holiday takes place on Nochebuena, which is Christmas Eve. After attending Roman Catholic Mass, families gather to take part in a late night dinner. The fare varies from family to family, as some prepare turkey, chicken, pork or beef. As soon as midnight strikes, the opening of the presents is an annual tradition. The Christmas celebrated in rural and urban Bolivia varies greatly, as this perspective comes from one spent solely in the city.

Morales Spoofed

During one of his many post-election press conferences, president-elect Evo Morales informed the press that he already spoken with several world leaders including Spanish President, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. However, little did Morales know, that the phone call was a gag played on him by a Spanish radio station.

This had international incident written all over it, but it seems that the radio hosts didn’t hacer la burla too much of the new Bolivian leader. The Bolivian government has issued a formal complaint to the Spanish government, who is expected to “censure” the radio station for impersonating a Spanish president. The government of Spain has also issued a formal apology.

Hear the mp3 here and read the transcript after the jump (in spanish).
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Washington Post Summary

Jefferson Morley of the Washington Post summarized the buzz in the Latin American media after the victory of Evo Morales. The newspaper pictured is from Página 12 from Argentina in reference to Tupaj Katari’s claim of “Volveré y seré miliones”. There are also some interesting comments on that page, many as one might expect, operating off of what they may assume to be true, such already saying that Morales is on the path of being dictator for life. Count on it, they say.

The Christian Science Monitor also published a commentary called: Don’t do Chávez a favor in Bolivia, advocating a more amicable relationship. Without such a relationship, the US’ behavior and rhetoric towards Bolivia could play right into what Chavez wants.

The Bush administration reacted calmly to Brazil’s 2002 election of socialist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, creating a working relationship with him as he adopted centrist policies.

But the US may see Bolivia differently from Brazil because it exports cocaine and has abundant gas fields. Bolivia is also South America’s poorest nation, with more than half of its population of Indian descent, as Morales is. The US holds big leverage over Bolivia, with trade preferences for its textiles, with sizable aid, and with influence over international finance

I hope the US will start from scratch with its relationship with Bolivia and not rely on what they recall or remember Morales once saying, whose rhetoric has become more moderate in recent months.

El Mutún

Just today, my cousin was talking about this potential mega-project. Unfortunately, I knew little about it. However, Jonathan Olguin’s Journal of Bolivian Business and Politics has all of the info.

The Mutún project represents a long-awaited project for development in Bolivia and the Santa Cruz Department; it’s expected to generate over 10,000 direct and indirect jobs during the length of the project. The site holds some of the continent’s largest iron ore reserves (at an estimated 40 billion metric tons of iron ore base, according to Jan 05, USGS survey) and will begin production at an impressive 1.5 million tons, and generate a tax base of $US 50 million yearly.

One must wonder whether these revenues will be a topic of autonomous conversation in the future, as these natural resources are located in Santa Cruz.

Losing Wager

Perhaps you might remember the ridiculous website created called Evopresidente.com. It was supposed to be a satirical website, but in the end was actually a sorry and racist example of some backwards thinking in the country. The creator(s) also recorded a song which advocated the murder of the Presidential candidate, which ended with sounds of gunfire. This guy was so sure that Evo would not win the elections that he/she issued this statement:

Message to Evo Morales and the general public from the Webmaster:

If Evo Morales emerges as the winner in the election on December 4, 2005, I will put my photo on this page. If Evito becomes the winner, I will put my photo and name on this page. Obviously there will be repercussions as many of the emails received there are a lot of people who hate me for making this page. It doesn’t matter, because if Evo becomes President we are all seriously in trouble.

Perhaps the webmaster will say that the elections were moved to December 18 and because of that, his original offer doesn’t stand.

Blogs Bolivia Election Summary

There is an outstanding overview of what the different Bolivian blogs were saying about last weekend’s elections. Read the article here. There were several blogs that I was unaware of, meaning that I haven’t been up to the task keeping up with the Bolivian blogs for Global Voices Online. The weekly summaries will resume after the first of the year. I am preparing a special Christmas edition.

Some Thoughts

MAS’ decisive victory in Bolivia is a positive step forward for Bolivia. No one believes for a second that miracles will happen overnight (well, some think it should, but more on that later), but more than half of the country desperately wanted a change from the mess that the traditional political parties and politicians left behind. No candidate ever reached such a vote total of over 50% and because of that, there is a clear mandate to fundamentally change the way the system operates. The way the system operated was the the poor, rural and marginalized were deemed second class citizens in a country, where the indigneous groups were the majority of the population. But one sure couldn’t tell that by seeing who ruled the country and the way large corporations had their way with the natural resources through exploitation under terms agreed upon by politicians with no concern with the Bolivian people. And NO, (despite the name) pure socialism is not the goal of this government.

It was amazing to see how a feeling of fear was created through a “guerra sucia” during the campaigning. Late in the campaign, in the Zona Sud of La Paz and in Cochabamba, some ingenious individuals spraypainted the walls of large houses and businesses claiming it as “Social Property of MAS”, hoping to lead some to believe that MAS supporters were getting ahead of themselves by scouting out prime properties. Many people were incorrectly afraid that private property would be expropriated and reverted back to the state. It is unfortunate that the name Morales borrowed “Movement Toward Socialism” stuck, because what has been reiterated on the television interviews and post election press conferences that the private property and business will not only be respected, but they will be protected. The only property that will be returned to the state are the large estates that are unproductive and in many cases, were dished out to a few families through presidential decree. This concept is nothing new as it already exists in the INRA Law.

The television channel Unitel was tremendously biased towards the campaign of Tuto Quiroga. In fact, they went out of their way to discredit Evo Morales. For example, often during the news programs, the channel would summarize the words of the speaker at a press conference and place subtitles under the image. In one interview, Morales said that “he didn’t believe in private investment that sought to rip off the Bolivian state”. Unitel would summarize his words as “Morales does not believe in private investment”.

It is amazing to see how subjectivity has entered the world of journalism and continues throughout different blogs. Adjectives seem to be a favorite tool of some writers. Nearly every single headline or story continues some variance of ” (Insert adjectives here) Evo Morales Wins Presidential Elections in Bolivia.” Some of the favorite descriptive terms used are cocalero, llama farmer, indigenous, anti-US, and some have even used far-left radical, which one can safely say is clearly a matter of opinion. How many times in the US do journalists label George W Bush as Far-right radical Bush? There are many who hold that opinion, but if a journalist would dare use that adjective, it would be highly questioned.

Did you know that many so-called Trotskos (Trotsky-ites), those considered to be even farther left than MAS despise him? If Morales is far-left, what are the COB, Jaime Solares and other Trotskos? Perhaps they circled all the way around and are right-wingers again. Many of these groups are already giving a MAS administration deadlines to when all the problems of the country should be solved. Thirty days, they say, or else measures of pressure will be implemented. I wonder if they voted for Felipe Quispe, who said during his close of campaign that if elected, all of the country’s problems would be solved in 5 days max.

Anyone who has followed this blog knows how critical I have been of Morales in the past. I always have higher expectations for the left. However, my two weeks in rural Bolivia really changed the way I looked at my own opinions and I admit that I got too comfortable in giving my opinions without taking a look at what I am doing to affect change in Bolivia. If I wanted things to stay the same, make sure that I could find cheap labor, pay miniscule amounts for goods and maintain the social status that my family retains, then sure I would vote for the status quo, which means Tuto Quiroga. I truly believe that Morales holds genuine concern for those who are powerless and at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. I believe that Quiroga holds genuine concern in maintaining the status quo for him and the rest of those who joined the coalition of convenience, PODEMOS.

Some like to paint him as part of this unholy alliance with Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro, but as underreported, he has friendships and alliances with Lula de Silva, the Spanish government, and recently received an invitation from Nelson Mandela (who coincidentally received the same peace prize from Libyan leader Gaddahfi that Morales received).

Finally, the dirty propaganda war painted Morales as a narcotrafficker, but don’t you think after these ten years that there would have been some proof? Ironically, it has been the traditional political parties that have been accused of having ties with drug dealers. Jaime Paz Zamora’s (ex-MIR and part of every government until 2003) right hand man, Oscar Eid Franco, spent time in jail for his ties with drug barons. Zamora was supported by Tuto during his Prefectual run in Tarija. Many, many MIR transfugas made up part of PODEMOS. Yet, Morales is the one with drug ties, correct?

I would never deny the fact that I considered myself a leftist liberal and find nothing wrong with that label. In the end, I consider myself someone who does not live my life only for myself. I see hundreds of thousands who do not live like I do and that bothers me. Morales in office will not suddenly give college diplomas to cocaleros or improve living conditions of obreros. But it will help change the dynamics in the country so that the marginalized in this country will gain the confidence to feel equals with those like me who have ruled this country.

Sure, I know this sounds all sappy and nostalgic, but the plan for the country seems sound and I feel reassured that there are thousands of professionals, businessmen, intellectuals who are supporting MAS.

Every single candidate said that they were the candidate of change, which was a way to recognize that the system was corrupt. But in the end, MAS was the only alternative left to attempt to make those changes. There will certainly be bumps along the way, but the way that many are painting Morales in the media and in blogs has been very frustrating. It is far too easy to criticize from afar and do nothing about the current situation in Bolivia. People say that the country should now give MAS a chance to see what they can do, but I say, we are all in this together.