Rescue Simulation in Cochabamba

The sounds of low flying planes, helicopters, and speeding ambulances filled the air of Cochabamba this morning.  The volunteers of SAR – FAB (Rescue Service of Bolivia) sponsored a rescue simulation in response to an earthquake that hypotheticallly shook the city this morning.

Earlier that morning, drivers of a couple of public transport lines blockaded the interesection of Ayacucho and Heroinas in the heart of the city because of conflicts they had with other public transport lines.

It’s refreshing to know that in the event of real emergency, that many groups (not just transport) are willing to block important access routes and further hinder rescue efforts.

Possible Candidates For Bolivia Elections in 2009

Specuation only and it is really early….

  • Evo Morales
  • Samuel Doria Medina
  • Carlos Mesa
  • Felipe Quispe
  • René Joaquino
  • Ruben Costas
  • Manfred Reyes Villa
  • Mario Cossio
  • Eduardo Rodriguez Veltze
  • Victor Hugo Cardenas

    I think the VP candidates would be more interesting. Many say Evo received the middle-class city vote because of his choice for VP, order who ironically turned out to be more radical than Evo himself.

    Anyone I am missing from the list?

  • Obama Loses at School in Santa Cruz

    Not all of Bolivia subscribed to the rest of the world’s desire for Barack Obama to be elected as president. The secondary school students at the Santa Cruz Cooperative School preferred McCain-Palin.

    As Aka Lusi wrote:

    I figure most kids vote their parent’s politics, and most of our parents belong to the anti-Evo Morales crew. Evo’s party translates to “Movement towards Socialism.” Obama was seen as wanting to make the US socialist…and for some reason a lot of our students were sure that Obama wanted to be friends with Chavez in Venezuela. I’m really not sure if had any specific statement on that, but I figure it was based on his whole idea that we should engage our friends as well as our enemies. Also, it’s strongly Roman Catholic, old school, which means no abortion, no gay rights, strict definition of marriage, etc.

    On the other hand, we did have some kids make informed decisions. One kid told me he was going to vote for McCain, then asked me who I was going to vote for, and why. A few days later he came back a few days later and said he picked Obama because of what I told him about the environment, and that he still didn’t like abortion but that it wasn’t his say. 10th grader. Great kid. Oh, and the teachers were overwhelmingly in Obama’s camp, too…I think 21-3 or something (it’s in another picture).

    Unfortunately, I heard some pretty racist comments by some Bolivian residents in the U.S. that they would never vote for a black person, and subscribing to some of the smear campaigns that were being waged by the Republicans (i.e. that he was a Muslim, that he was a socialist, etc.)

    Photo by Aka Lusi and used under a Creative Commons license

    Near Lynching

    I spent a considerable amount of time in the suburb city of Quillacollo back in 2005. It has grown quite a bit and is suffering from the same problems as its neighboring city of Cochabamba — crime. A group of neighbors decided enough was enough and hoped that by spraypainted an ominous warning that the problem would subside. “Attention potential theives, we will catch and we will burn you.”

    One afternoon as I was catching a trufi mini-van for the 12 km trip back to Cochabamba, out of the corner of my eye I noticed a man fleeing. Trailing not far behind was a rapidly growing crowd, including several bystanders who, in an impromptu manner, decided that this affair was now their business as well. “Ladron!” (Thief) some would yell. Finally they caught up with him and soon surrounded the accused criminal. Coincidentally, the crowd stood rather close to the stencil message, and the man’s fate rest in the hands of the 25 captors.

    I walked towards them for a closer look. I noticed that some of the men who had recently joined the cause were now the ones confronting the accused. How could they possibly know the details of the alleged crime?

    I’ll never forget the look in the accused eyes, as it was one of sheer terror. He was unsure whether he would fall victim to street justice. I was not close enough to hear the explanation, but they eventually set him free where he went running back into town, not before receiving a swift kick in the rear. I still don’t know what I would have done if they followed through on their claim, watch helplessly as the crowd that outnumbered me 25 to 1 set the man ablaze? or try to stop another human being to be punished in a brutal way?

    What struck me is how people who were not directly involved in the alleged crime, joined in with great confidence that the man was indeed guilty. They figured that since there were a number of people chasing after him, then he was obviously guilty.

    Bolivia: Recent Lynchings Cause Concerns

    Originally published on Global Voices Online.

    A string of lynchings and attempted lynchings around Bolivia has caused a bit of concern around the country. The latest and most high-profile case [es] took place in the Altiplano town of Achacachi. Reports say that 11 men and women, who were allegedly accused of robbery were captured by local residents and were set ablaze. Two of the accused died, and the other 9 were badly burnt, but were saved when soldiers and the town’s mayor pleaded that the lynching should stop.

    Unfortunately, this is becoming a common scene, which widely shows up on the television news, as Renzo Colanzi writes [es]:

    En Bolivia los linchamientos y la toma de la justicia por propia mano, son hechos comunes que se dan en los noticieros a cualquier hora, sin proteger al televidente de la violencia de las imágenes, sin importarle de la sensibilidad de los más pequeños que puedan presenciarlas. Pareciera que todos hemos creado una cierta barrera que nos permite mirar y permanecer impasibles ante estos hechos terribles. Los policías de Cochabamba se quedaron bien muertos y el caso sin culpables. Lo mismo que en Montero y así podemos encontrar situaciones similares en casi cualquier región del país.

    In Bolivia, lynching and taking justice into one’s own hands, are common events that can be seen on the news at all hours of the day. The television viewer is not protected from seeing the violent images, and even the smallest child is not protected from watching them. It would appear that we all have created a certain barrier that allows us to watch and remain passive regarding these terrible events. The police in Cochabamba remain dead and the case still has no suspects. It is the same in Montero and we can see similar situations in all regions of the country.

    Whether or not lynchings are considered “community justice” is still being debated, and the government has officially condemned the action in Achacachi. They state that taking another life is not part of the indigenous tradition of “community justice.” However, local residents claim that they have little faith in the “ordinary justice” and must take matters into their own hands or the crime will continue. There is also widespread concern because the new draft Constitution, which will be voted upon at a January 25 Referendum, stipulates that “community justice” will be a legal and recognized part of the Bolivian judicial system, that lynchings could continue or even increase and used under the defense of “community justice.”

    Erika Pinto places the blame on the government [es] for the lynchings.

    Por que el presidente morales, tolera la barbarie, se estaba por quemar a una mujer embarazada, emboscaron y llevaron al stadium a un bus a los 11 supuestos ladrones, se veian gente de escasos recursos, muchas mujeres y gente bastante mayor a juzgar por las imagenes.

    Es que acaso esto tambien nos da el derecho de cuando los ponchos rojos hagan las barbaridades que hacen poder matarlos a ellos?

    O es que acaso la “nueva ley” funciona en un solo sentido?

    Se supone que este gobierno era el que nos iba a llevar a un nuevo siglo de progreso pero solo nos esta llevando a la mas atrasada barbarie posible.

    Because President Morales tolerates savagery, they were about to burn a pregnant woman, they ambushed them and took the 11 alleged thieves to the stadium. One could see low-income people, many women, and elderly people judging from the images.

    Does this also give us the right when the “ponchos rojos” (members of a paramilitary group of Achacachi) make their savage acts to kill them too?

    Or does the “new law” only work in one direction?

    It was assumed that this government was going to take us towards a new century of progress, but it is only taking us to most backward savagery possible.

    Mario Durán writes about a journalist who reminds people that the accused were not without guilt. [es]

    Sin embargo, como lo decia la periodista Amalia Pando en Erbol, no eran unos angelitos, pues las personas que fueron capturadas en Achacachi poseian un frondoso prontuario policial… desde robo hasta robo agravado seguido de muerte.

    Sin embargo, al igual que se condena la justicia por mano propia se debe condenar al sistema economico que origina la delincuencia.

    Nevertheless, as the journalist Amalia Pando of Erbol says, that these people were no angels, those who were captured in Achacachi had a long police record… from robbery to aggravated robbery and even murder.

    Nevertheless, as justice by one’s own hands is condemened, so should the ecnomic system where delinquency originates should also be condemned.

    Many indigenous groups are attempting to protect the reputation of “community justice.” Via the blog El Alto Noticias [es], blogger Nelson Vilca [es]interviews a member of the Guarayo indigenous group , who states that “community justice” does not mean “taking another life.”

    Adding Politics to Football

    The Bolivian Football Federation reminded all club teams that campaigning through the use of shirts with political, pills religious or personal messages are prohibited. This was in response to the tshirts worn by the Santa Cruz teams Oriente Petrolero and Blooming. The players came onto the field wearing white t-shirts with “NO” on the front.  Obviously this was their position for the upcoming Constitutional Referendum.

    Morales in Washington

    The Washington Post has a story on Morales’ Tuesday and Wednesday visit to Washington, DC, where he spoke at American University, was jeered at the OAS, and visited the Lincoln memorial.

    For his part, Morales seemed to place great hopes in Obama’s election, saying on several occasions that the two men had much in common as emerging leaders of long-oppressed groups in their respective countries. His first stop in Washington on Tuesday was the Lincoln Memorial, where he placed a wreath and spoke briefly of the struggle for justice and dignity.

    “Who would have believed 10 or 15 years ago that I could become president of Bolivia? Who would have believed 20 or 30 years ago that a black man could become president of the United States?” he said to the OAS special session, speaking in Spanish.

    “The world is changing. The struggles of Tupac Amaru were not in vain,” he said, referring to the last emperor of the Incas. “The struggles of Lincoln were not in vain. The struggles of Martin Luther King were not in vain.”

    I wonder whose idea it was to go to the Lincoln memorial.  Comments like the ones above, and appearances like the successful Daily Show visit, gets non-Bolivians on his side. They see a likable, idealistic fellow, but it is simply not so black and white.

    Protest the Protest?

    So Evo Morales is in the United States this week, ed and some of my friends at American University will be attending his lecture at the school in Northwest DC.  Due to the wonders of Facebook, decease there are some Bolivian residents are organizing a protest at the OAS

    Here is the group invitation:

    And here are some of the attendees or at least that seem to support the idea.

    Of course, there are things in this, and in all administrations that are worth protesting against, but who wants to be associated with something like this?