Monday, January 29, 2007

Chavez and Venezuela Q&A

If you have interesting questions about Chavez and Venezuela and would like to see a panel of experts answering them, you can ask the questions to a panel of experts here. Alternatively, you can email your question to

The Q&A session is being held by the Financial Times and the people in charge of selecting and answering the questions will be the Financial Times Latin American editor, Richard Lapper, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC, Mark Weisbrot, and the former Chief Economist of the Venzuelan National Assembly, Francisco Rodriguez.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Evo Morales on the Conflicts

Evo has finally returned from his trip to Nicaragua. Bolivian Blog Plan B (in Spanish) reports that he has made a statement to Bolivia on the conflcits. Plan B makes a summary of what Evo said and what he did not say. The following is a translation of Plan B's post for those who do not understand Spanish:

What Evo said:
  • Manfred Reyes is responsible for what happened.
  • He accuses the Governor for trying to hold an autonomy referendum.
  • Evo assures that the government will guarantee the security of the people.
  • Evo condemned the violence "of those we know".
  • Evo defined yesterday's conflict as racially motivated.
  • He calls "his comrades" to peace.
  • He states that dialogue is always open.
  • Evo calls "his brothers and sisters" to a new meeting, in order to get to know what the people (i.e. his supporters) want.
  • Evo also asks the social movements (aligned with him) to respect the constitution.
What Evo didn't say
  • He was silent about the deaths or the wounded. He did not say he is mourning the victims.
  • He wants peace to return.
  • He did not take the initiave to meet with the opposition.
  • Evo did not condemn violence from both sides. He just condemned violence arising from those not aligned with his platform.
  • Evo did not say that he is responsible for the actions of the cocaleros, although he is the president of their federation and it was them who started the violence and who have been blocking the roads for the past 5 days.
  • He was silent about reported cocalero agressions against the press.
  • He was silent about the citizen's effort to help those in need by donating blood, medicines or food.

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The Conflict in Images (2)

Evo in Nicaragua

The Youth for Democracy meets the police...

... and keeps going.

Both sides meet.

Policemen help an injured member of Youth for Democracy.

One cocalero dies.

The police is finally able to control the masses.

The next day (today) begins calmly...

... but cocaleros start protesting again.

Note: All images are from AP and Reuters via Yahoo! News.

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The Conflict in Images (1)

The Cocaleros against the Police, Janury 8th.

Burning Cochabamba's State Capitol and property.

Blocking Cochabamba's roads.

The Youth for Democracy.

Note: All images are from AP and Reuters via Yahoo! News.

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Cochabamba Conflict FAQ

I have complied a FAQ on what is going on in Cochabamba, Bolivia. If you missed the genesis of the conflict, you will be able to catch up, while more news appear in the media.

How did the conflict start?

On December 14th, 2006, a day before the Crescent Moon Departments (Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni and Pando, which form a crescent moon shape in Bolivia's map) organized a mass protest against Evo Morales' intrusion in the Constituent Assembly (here), Cochabamba Governor Mafred Reyes Villa also organized a town hall meeting. In this meeting, he expressed support for the Crescent Moon call for autonomy and 2/3 in the Constituent Assembly. He also said that he would call for a new autonomy referendum in Cochabamba, as he considers that population was misinformed during the July 2006 one, when Cochabamba rejected autonomy with 63%.

On January 4th, the "social movements" aligned with MAS decide to ask for Reyes Villa's resignation for 'treason'. The aforementioned social movements are comprised by only 6 of 35 social groups of Cochabamba's Workers' Union (COD). All of them are Coca Growers Unions, which are incidentally commanded by Evo Morales.

On the 5th they start the siege of Cochabamba. No violence is registered thus far and Reyes Villa says he will not resign.

On January 8th, things get out of hand. The "social movements" start getting violent. Cabinet member Alicia Munoz orders the police not to intervene -because it would be repression. Commanded by MAS legislators, the movements set the Cochabamba State Capitol on fire (here). The government is quick to denounce Cochabamba's Governor as the main culprit, while acknowledging that it was their grassroots movements who set the building on fire. Newspapers report that Governor Reyes Villa had to evacuate the building disguised in a fire truck.

On January 9th, Evo Morales censors minister Alicia Munoz and travels to Nicaragua, leaving Vice-President Garcia Linera in charge. Bolivian police is confused in regard to what their function should be. Garcia Linera supports the cocaleros and says that Manfred Reyes Villa's call for a referendum is illegal. Cocaleros start blocking the roads of Cochabamba, causing at least $3 million in loses for exporters and thousands of stranded travellers. Civic Committee calls for a 'march for peace' to be held in one of Cochabamba's main squares.

On Janury 10th, the cocaleros take over the square designated for the Committee's march. People from Cochabamba, tired from the excesses of cocaleros, reunite somewhere else and start marching towards the cocaleros. There is no violence, but the Civic group, called Youth for Democracy, give 24 hrs to the cocaleros to leave town. Anti-Evo chants can be heard on one side of the street (Evo, Cuidado, El Pueblo Esta Emputado - Evo, be careful, the people are pissed off) and Anti-Autonomy chants on the other (Autonomia, Nunca, Carajo! - Autonomy, fucking never!). Secreary of Cochabamba's COD admits that most social groups are not taking part in the protests and that they screwed up (metieron la pata) by demanding Reyes Villa's resignation (here). The Governor of La Paz supports Reyes Villa and proposes that the autonomy referendum be nationwide (here). Santa Cruz and the Crescent Moon departments express their support for Manfred Reyes Villa and democracy. Garcia Linera says that the government will retreat its forces iff Reyes Villa does not call the autonomy referendum (here). Cocaleros put two people in hospital, just because they had Eastern Bolivia accents. They also get violent with reporters (here and here).

This chain of events leads to...

What happened yesterday?

Youth for Democracy (YfD) get together again and give one more warning to the cocaleros: they have until 3pm to get out of Cochabamba. Once the deadline passes, a force of 8,000-10,000 start marching to the site where cocaleros are posted. There is a small police force in the Cala-Cala Bridge, but they are easily and non-violently surpassed. They arrive to the Banderas Square, where cocaleros are surprised and flee to the Prado avenue. Violent clashes are registered, and the YfD follow the cocaleros. There are more cocaleros waiting in the Prado avenue and chaos takes over. Cocaleros throw dynamite to the YfD and some gunshots are heard, although most battles resort to sticks, fists and stones (here). 400 policemen/women are deployed to deal with the conflict (here).

Reyes Villa is in La Paz, in a meeting with all non-aligned Governors. This, unfortunately leads to MAS pressure groups getting together and starting the conflict in La Paz. They are maintaining a siege of the hotel where the elected officials are meeting and issued orders to take over the international airport, in order to prevent the Governors from getting out or support from coming in (here). Reports of food scarcity in La Paz and Cochabamba appear. Santa Cruz is also in alert and preparing to support Reyes Villa and Democracy (here).

MAS Vice-President says that all 4 members of YfD caught with guns will be processed. Surprisingly, he does not say a word about what will happen to cocaleros caught with guns or dynamite (here).

What is the toll of the conflict so far?

SO far, two people have died and more than 100 are wounded, 3 of which are fighting for their lives as of now. Other media outlets report more than 200 wounded and one person with cerebral death.

The dead are:

16 year old Cristian Urresti, from the YfD. Death was caused by several machete wounds to the head. He was the son of a LAB pilot and his 17th birthday was today.

41 year old Nicomedes Gutierrez, from the cocaleros. Death was caused by a bullet wound to the chest.

Some media have reported a third death, but it is unconfirmed as of now. The wounded are aged from 12 to 65, on both sides. The majority of injured belongs to the cocaleros, though.

Only 400 policemen/women to control 10,000 persons?

Yes. The crisis in the police was caused by cabinet member Alicia Munoz. When police was disbanding violent attacks from cocaleros with tear gas on Jan. 8th, she sacked the newly appointed police chief for repression. The police retreated and the cocaleros were able to burn the State Capitol. She also said that "when the minister is in charge, no governor is [in charge] (Donde manda ministra, no manda prefecto)", making police men and women fear for their jobs if they acted. It is clear now that police acted on their own and were just doing their jobs, i.e. protecting the city. Reyes Villa and the sacked chief of police deny giving orders. So, it is likely that police officials are reluctant to act for fear to MAS' apparatus.

Is it likely for the conflict to spread to other regions?

The conflict has already spread to La Paz and Santa Cruz (here).

What is Evo Morales doing to solve this conflict?

Nothing. Evo Morales is not even in Bolivia, he's in Nicaragua with Hugo Chavez, celebrating former dictator Daniel Ortega's return to power. His trip was not authorized by Congress, so his visit to Ortega should be considered personal and not official. He travelled one day after the Cochabamba state capitol was burnt by his followers, which indicates where his priorities lie.

You are lying because you are a damn oligarch. Evo Morales is the Messiah.

No, he's not. He's a very naughty boy.

So, who is responsible for this conflict taking place?

So far, instead of trying to apace the sides, both government and opposition have been busy trying to make the other look bad.

However, if you view things impartially, the government should be held responsible. First, they are the ones that organized the cocaleros and send them to to Cochabamba. If the government were somewhat more democratically-oriented, they would not have panicked from Reyes Villa referendum call. But, since it was with street protests that Evo Morales got into power, they were keen to use it whenever somebody said something they didn't like. They certainly did not count with people going to the streets to defend democracy and react to their burning of the State Capitol. The view of many cocaleros is "if we could oust [former president] Sanchez de Lozada, we can oust Reyes Villa". Once again, this shows Evo Morales' authoritarian leanings.

Second, it was Evo Morales, through years of complaining about state repression against the will of the people, who took away the state's monopoly on violence. Now, MAS officials are too busy trying to look like good guys, opposed to repression, to make the police enforce the law. Now, anybody (who is aligned to MAS) can do anything and if the police tries to prevent it, we soon hear cries of human rights violations and police repression, regardless of how legal the act was in the first place.

Finally, MAS started the conflict, by burning the State Capitol and, instead of calling a truce, blaming the Governor. This was too much for Cochabambinos.

I hear several statements saying that the autonomy referendum proposed by Manfred Reyes Villa is illegal. Is this true?

No. The referendum called by Manfred Reyes Villa is totally legal. This has been confirmed by the country's electoral body (here). In fact, any citizen in Bolivia who can come up with the necessary number of signatures and agrees to pay the costs, can organize a referendum. The legality of the referendum has been questioned by MAS officials and used as a pretext to sack a democratically-elected Governor who is aligned with the opposition. MAS fears that if Cochabamba wins its autonomy, other departments will follow soon and this will be a fatal blow to Evo's wishes of pulling a Chavez -he's trying to increase his power by writing a new constitution.

What is the international community saying about this conflict?
Not much. Yesterday at 7pm GMT, I looked into the BBC (UK's international edition), UK's newspapers The Independent, The Guardian, The Times, The Financial Times and the Telegraph, Spain's El Pais and US' NY Times and WSJ and none had a word about it. None of them even had the Capitol Burning piece. The papers I found to report the incident were the Miami Herald and SF Chronicle. Today, it seems that BBCMundo (in Spanish), El Pais, the NY Times and Washington Post have started following the conflict. No UK newspapers have done so until now.

In terms of blogs, read Manuel Buitrago's MABB and Publius Pundit (links are on the side bar).

Where can I read updates on the situation?
If you can read Spanish, La Razon from La Paz and Los Tiempos from Cochabamba are the newspapers I follow, although el Deber, from Santa Cruz may become a very interesting read now. They only make a couple of updates a day, though. A better website, with more frequent updates, is that of It also includes the headlines for all Bolivian newspapers.
For English readers, keep an eye on the blogs I mention above and this one.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Evo Celebrating in Nicaragua, Bolivia in Civil War

While Evo Morales is making a congress-unauthorised trip to celebrate Nicaragua's new president with his boss, Hugo Chavez, clashes between MAS supporters and the Youth for Democracy group have resulted in 78 wounded and two deaths: 41-year old Nicomedes Gutierrez, from the cocaleros, and an unidentified 20-year old member of Youth for Democracy.
This is the result of Evo Morales' increasingly authoritarian regime, which called the Six Coca Federations to siege Cochabamba in order to oust non-aligned Governor Manfred Reyes Villa.

According to MAS, Reyes Villa betrayed the people when he called a new autonomy referendum for Cochabamba (according to Bolivian law, anyone who collects a given number of firms can call a referendum, though). So, they sent the Coca Federations, which reached Cochabamba five days ago. On Tuesday, the Cocaleros burnt the State Capitol as part of their protest, in the midst of severe governmental inefficiency, as several officials started to give contradicting orders to the police. On Wednesday, the Civic Committee of Cochabamba organized a meeting to protest the violence and repel MAS. The Cocaleros, however, took over the place assigned for the meeting in order to prevent it from happening. This only led to several hundred Cochabambinos, who repel Morales' government, to get together somewhere else and march toward the cocaleros with the following warning: they had 24 hrs to leave the city.

One day later, the conflict has escalated beyond recognition. The following is a post from of what is currently taking place (in Spanish). I will post more, including a detailed build-up to the situation, as it becomes available.

18h20. Otro fallecido en los duros enfrentamientos en Cochabamba. Periodista de la red PAT en la morgue del Hospital Viedma afirma que un joven de 20 años falleció por golpes y contusiones. El joven de 1m90 pertenecería al grupo denominado Juventud por la Democracia.
17h40. En el hospital Viedma ingresaron 78 heridos de gravedad. 70 son cocaleros y 8 son de la Juventud por la Democracia.
17h22. El ejercito toma posición entre los dos bandos en la avenida Ayacucho y Heroinas.
17h15. Varios medios de comunicación anuncian oficialmente la muerte de un cocalero. Se trata de Nicomedes Gutiérrez de 41 años, del sindicato cocalero de Chimore (Chapare - Trópico de Cochabamba).
16h20. Según varios medios de comunicación, existen hasta el momento más de 20 heridos de gravedad, principalmente Cocaleros de las 6 Federaciones del trópico. Los mismos están atendidos en varios hospitales de la cuidad. Los hospitales piden urgentemente que todos los médicos se aproximen hacía los centros de salud.
16h15. Los manifestantes de la Juventud por la Democracia siguen enfrentándose a los Cocaleros de las 6 Federaciones por el Prado y por la avenida Ayacucho haciéndoles retroceder hacía el centro de la cuidad, con la voluntad de recuperar la plaza principal, todavía en manos de los Cocaleros desde el jueves pasado.
16h00. Más de 8000 manifestantes de la Juventud por la Democracia han desalojado violentamente de la plaza de las banderas al norte de Cochabamba, los Cocaleros de las 6 Federaciones del trópico que ocupaban dicha plaza desde el día de ayer. La policia fue totalmente rebalsada y hubo duros enfrentamientos con varios cocaleros heridos de gravedad.

Los cocaleros piden la renuncia del prefecto de este departamento, Manfred Reyes Villa por haber llamado a un referéndum autonómico. Mientras tanto, los manifestantes de la Juventud por la Democracia piden el cese de los bloqueos que desde el día martes aíslan la cuidad de Cochabamba y el desalojo de la plaza principal de esta cuidad en manos de los cocaleros desde el pasado jueves.

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Monday, July 03, 2006

Constituent Assembly

Ten day ago, my computer broke down and I have not blogged since. The computer's still broken and may take up to a month fixing it (as long as my thesis is intact, I'm happy, I must say). I could not cover the final race towards the Constituent Assembly, but here I am reporting the first results.

According to El Deber, the Crescent Moon has voted for autonomy. The crescent is made up of four departments (Pando, Beni, Santa Cruz and Tarija) and is the economic core of the country. As such, this region is far more progressive than the Altiplano in the west.

According to the graph below, the region that most supported the autonomy is Beni. Meanwhile, the vote is still being counted in Pando, but according to Mori agency's surveys, autonomy has won with 54%. There is no doubt about the wishes of the other 3 departments that chose autonomy and people went to celebrate autonomy after learning the results. Although 56% of the population voted against autonomy on a national level, Evo has admitted the autonomy of the four regions and cautiosly said that it will be up for the constituents to decide on this issue.
On the other side of the spectrum, Oruro is the department that feels most strongly against autonomy. The other departments that have voted against autonomy are La Paz, Cochabamba, Chuquisaca and Potosi. Chuquisaca appears to be the most divided department, with 56% voting against and 44% voting for autonomy.

According to Los Tiempos, the change in the way constituyents were elected affected MAS inveersely. With these changes, MAS only got 52,9% of the seats (which is less than what they got in the December elections and the two thirds that Evo was rallying for). The next force in the constituent assembly is Podemos, with 60 constituyents (23,5%), followed by UN (4,3%) and up to 20 groups with 1 to 5 representants (these numbers are based on exit polls and may not reflect the final result).

The important thing is that according to the law passed to call the Cosntituent Assembly (CA), the new constitution can only be approved if two thirds of the assembly approves it (170 members). As a results, groups in the crescent moon region are interpreting the results as a defeat for Evo, with analyst Alcides Pareja bluntly saying that "MAS' orgasm is over".
Other analysts see the results of the election as a cry for the acceptance of diversity and highlight MAS' need for allies and concertation.

La Razon appears more sensationalist and has headers indicating the triumph of MAS and the defeat of autonomies.

Among the blogs, you can find the first results in Jonathan's Business & Politics in Bolivia, as well as Sunday's headings.

Official results will be ready in 25 days. In the meanwhile, you can check the official results in the CNE website.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Picture's worth a thousand words... (Update 1)

Sergio Candia just sent me a picture from La Paz.

The three amigos appear to be having a great time. This is probably the only thing that Bolivia got out of the ALBA deal with the dictatorships of Cuba and Venezuela.

Thanks Sergio!

Update 1: La Razon reports that the piece of propaganda you see in the picture has already been replaced.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Evo Against the Empire

During a Che Guevara celebration, Evo said that he was willing to take arms in order to defend himself, Cuba and Venezuela from the empire. According to La Razon, he said
It is not the people that rises against the empire anymore. What we are having
is the empire rising against the people. And, if it did so in Cuba, Venezuela,
in Bolivia we are willing to face and defend, also with arms, the motherland,
the natural resources, and those social transformations. (sic)

He also said that some 10 years ago he said that in time there would not be only one Cuba, but several. He said that he was not wrong, and that now we have two commanders of the freedom forces of America [Fidel and Chavez].

Ok. So, let's start in the beginning. What was Evo doing celebrating Che Guevara? Che Guevara was nothing but an assassin and a tyrant. I know that Che Guevara followers always say that he died for his ideals and that that is always very commendable. But in reality, what he did was more like kill for his ideals. And were we to stick to history and not to the romantic notion of Motorcycle Diaries and the like, we have in Che Guevara a foremost example of human garbage (read about the real Che here). So, the fact that Evo was celebrating him already says much. Also, people who follow what is going on in Bolivia should not really be surprised about Evo just replicating Chavez's rethoric. He has followed in whatever his master has dictated, what's wrong with yet another one? The US probably has not even heard about this. Plus, we know where at least some part of the 100.000 AK-47s will end up.

What worries me about this celebration is not Che or Evo following his master's voice. Perhaps we should have seen that coming. What worries me is the fact that Evo defiantly implied that he wants to create a new Cuba in Bolivia. And the fact he will probably get armed up to the teeth. Everything indicates that this tale will not have a happy ending. I wrote about a month ago that
Future generations of Bolivians, when MAS is (hopefully) long gone, will judge us and unanimously agree our stupidity. After all, we have had all possible warnings. We have seen what happened in Venezuela and we can be sure Evo is nothing but a puppet. We could also have resorted to our own history, when decades of dictatorships and left-wing governments destroyed the country's economic apparatus. But no, we did not hear anything, we remembered nothing. Lame excuses will probably mushroom all over the place -"we didn't know", "we didn't think it would be like this", etc. But do not get confused. Evo never hid his intentions. We knew. We just chose to look the other way until it was too late.

And it is already too late.

PS: Told you so.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Industrializing Coca

After a week of relative calm in Bolivia, there is a piece of news that catched my attention. Evo's government will start coca industrialization this Saturday. The plan is to start three factories -one in Chulumani, one in Coripata and the last in the Chapare- with Venezuelan and Cuban financing. While the Venezuelan financing does not really surprise -it may even be useful if you want to view it in light of Venezuela's increasing importance in international drug trafficking (read these posts on VCrisis: 1, 2), that is not the objective of this post.

What puzzles me most is the objective of these factories: Get coca legalized. According to the article, these factories would manufacture coca tea, liquor and coca flour -I know. On January 2007, the plan is to start with the production of food, cosmetics and medicine.

Now... The rationale behind this Evo venture is showing that coca can be used for something different than cocaine and should therefore be legalized. But there is a very important question Evo is not taking in consideration: markets. First, Evo will have a problem just getting into new markets. What real medicine does use coca, for example? None. But let's assume for a moment that such a medicine has been developed in MAS' headquearters and exists allright. If this medicine is manufactured, will it get the seal of approval outside Bolivia? No. Same thing for food and cosmetics.

So, Evo will end up with a market comprising Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela. In the last two countries, their dictators will probably find a way to stick this production to their people, even though some studies have found plenty of evidence about how harmful regular coca consumption can be (if you can find it, the study is at CEDRO). In Bolivia, the market's too small (and already has legal coca) to make a difference in the plant's legal status. So, will these factories change something? Probably not. At least as far as the legal status of the plant goes.

I have already argued that Evo Morales' coca policy is nothing but a catch-22 trap (here). And my opinion since then has not changed. These factories are probably nothing but a way to justify his coca policy to the international community and a get-rich-quick scheme: I think we can safely conclude that these factories will be nothing but a way of transferring the little tax money that the government is able to get to the coca federations -which incidentally have Evo as their president. In other words, these factories will be the cow from which Evo and his hardcore followers get the milk.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Mexican Debate Resources

The Mexican presidential candidates had their last televised debate yesterday. The importance of this debate lies in that Calderon, PAN's candidate, and Lopez Obrador, PRD's candidate, are going neck-to-neck and the debate could be decisive. The themes discussed were security, governance, migration and foreign policy, federalism and regional development and state reform. Accusations between the two leading candidates were not uncommon.

The debate was also surrounded by an assassination attempt on the family of a businessman involved in a corruption scandal with Lopez Obrador. The businessman was going to show videos involving Lopez Obrador's collaborators in corruption scandals. Nobody mentioned this when security and crime were discussed.

According to EFE, the leading candidates ignored the other candidates, were involved in a war of words and basically said that they were the only ones with chances to win. Calderon said that Mexico has to choose between two projects -his, which is the sensible option and will work inside the law, and Lopez Obrador's, which is not only bad, but is also not viable.

Bloomberg focuses on the fact that Lopez Obrador was first in the polls until a series of ads compared him to Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez. So, the debate was a forum for Obrador to show he is not a Chavista. On a second article, Bloomberg notes the opposed models behind Calderon and Lopez Obrador. Calderon's view is that of promoting growth with private investment and increasing competitiveness. Lopez Obrador's view is that state spending should curb poverty and inequality.

The reactions to the debate are mixed. While some analysts say that Calderon got the advantage because Lopez Obrador took too much time to answer questions and others go for Lopez Obrador, based on his self-confidence, many conclude that it was a goalless draw.

The Scotsman, however, reports that Calderon tore Lopez Obrador apart. From the article, there should be little doubt. This article confirms the Scotsman's impressions.

Finally, you can read a minute-by-minute report on the debate here, here and here (all three in Spanish).

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Monday, June 05, 2006

Peru Elections: Garcia wins

Alan Garcia has won the second round of the Peruvian presidential elections. These are good news.
This election was of paramount importance not only for Peru but for South America. Peru was deciding the future of its democracy and its prospects for development. It was important for South America as well, as Peru was the next country under the shadow of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez (Chavez publicly supported far-left candidate Ollanta Humala and threatened to cut all ties with Peru in case Garcia won -for the sake of Peru, I hope he holds to his word). It is great to see Peru not following the same path Bolivia chose.

Thus, by choosing Garcia Peruvians have shown that they will not be bought off with a couple of populist slogans and half-truths. They have decided what was best (the lesser of two evils, actually) for them and their future. Contrary to other bloggers, however, if Garcia's previous term is something to go by, I am not very optimistic. While Garcia is certainly the better choice, a mediocre/bad term would only serve to give Humala momentum for the next election. So, thinking in the longer term, I do not think that the Chavez/Humala threat is completely gone.

The following sites have great coverage on the elections:
Publius Pundit has a great roundup, with a great collection of images.

Peru election 2006 has the news on Humala conceding the election to Garcia (here), results as they appear, quick counts and everything related to the election.

Inka's great new blog on Peru, Journal Peru, has a minute-by-minute coverage of the elections.

Peru's Electoral Processes National Office (ONPE) has the official count of the ballots.

Peru's main newspapers El Comercio and La Republica (both in Spanish).

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Saturday, June 03, 2006

Bolivian News Roundup: Land, Lies and Economic Policies

La Razon reports that the dialogue between the government and the Eastern landowners is broken. As no consensus could be agreed, Evo's administration has decided to go on an approve seven decrees in order to continue with his land reform.

In any case, it seems that the dialogue was nothing but an empty promise: The landowners found out that vice president Garcia Linera had announced that the decrees would be approved and land would be granted to the indigenous communities today, while the dialogue was still going on. So, they [the landowners] realized the futility of their actions and stopped the negotiation.

According to Confeagro (the Agro Confederation), it was useless to go with the government over the text of the decrees if they would not accept revisions. Also, they say that the decree is in direct contradiction with the current laws and constitution.

Once again, it seems that this may be the spark that ignites the fire.

Meanwhile, Evo will go to the Santa Cruz central bus station and start the 'agrarian revolution'. His 'revolution' is based on the following principles:
  • Redistribution: Evo will grant all available fiscal land to indigenous communities and original peoples with insufficient land or without land. All lands that does not fulfill a social and/or economic function will be expropriated.
  • Gender: The reorganization will give lands to social groups and productive associations, as well as entitle women to own the land.
  • Forestry: Forestal zones will be ignored. The decree approved by Mesa, that distinguished forestal zones from concession zones will be annuled.
  • INRA: It will require that workers working for the National Institute for Agrarian Reform (INRA) speak the native language of the region where they work.
  • Social control: It will improve access to land in three Santa Cruz municipalities
  • Annulment: It will annul Mesa's 28148 decree, which, as I understand, made certification of land less bureaucratic.
  • Value: It will serve to set the value of land
Evo and other MAS representatives said that they did not really care for reelection. They argued that reelection was an idea proposed by the organizations and social groups behind them. La Razon asked 11 social groups behind MAS whether they proposed the reelection of the president or not and 10 of them said they did not.

The ones that proposed reelection were the Colonists' Federation. From other 8 detailed answers in the article, two social groups were in favour of such a move, two were against it and 4 are undecided. Hardly what Evo and MAS told the people.

Economic Policies
La Razon reports a war currently under way between the entrepreneurs and Evo. The economic policies followed by the current government have not found support from the Bolivian entrepreneurs -and with good reason, I must add.

Seven federations of entrepreneurs got reunited on Thursday and it seems that they decided to make their concerns public by publishing a letter to Evo in all newspapers. The letter apparently asks for sound economic policies and questions Cuba's and Venezuela's interference in the country. Moreover, the president of the Private Entrepreneurs Confederation confirmed that they are seeking to change the wrong direction that policies are taking. He also expressed concern about the Executive ruling through decrees and getting too much power. Finally, he lamented that Evo is creating a poor image of Bolivia in the rest of the world.

Evo answered with another letter published in the newspapers. In typical populist fashion, the letter is full of demagoguery and never really answers the investors' concerns. Evo's letter rather scorns them and accuses them.

Evo's letter says that the 'democratic and cultural revolution' will not go even one step back. Then, he justifies everything he does with the 54% vote he got in the December elections and around 80% of current support. He then mentions several measures that should benefit 'honest and truly patriotic entrepreneurs'. He then accuses the private entrepreneurs of false nationalism, as they do not want the economy to go back to the hands of the state. Then, two questions ask the entrepreneurs why they did not react in previous administrations and to consider their role without political influence, before accusing them, once again, of supporting the multinational corporations that looted the country. Regarding Cuba and Venezuela, Evo defends the treaties with them and says that these pacts are not conditional on anything, as was the rule in the previous administrations. Finally, he also said that now everybody respects Bolivia.

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