Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Fidel Castro, Bolivian President

An article titled Argentina no es Bolivia? shows the worrying results of a survey conducted in July 2005. The topic of the survey is simple: if you could vote for these Latin American leaders to become Bolivian presidents, who would you choose? It seems that the voters' preferences lie with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, in both Argentina and Bolivia.

In Bolivia, Castro obtains the first place with 21% of the preference. This is the same preference that allowed Sanchez de Lozada to win the presidency in 2002. The runner-up is Hugo Chavez, with 19%. Thus, the Castro-Chavez axis gains a 40% voter preference.

The article ventures two explanations for the support to Castro. First, positive association with Che Guevara. Second, Castro's defiance to the US. While the first seems weak, the second explanation, combined with the inflammatory rhetoric that has been Morales' trademark for the last few years, may be more accurate. According to Morales, the "neo-liberal" system is the culprit for all of the world woes, so it is not impossible to picture people yearning for radical change.

The article explains the support to Chavez with his anti-neo-liberal position. Morales' influence is also notorious here.

Another possible reason why these two leaders would be the most voted may be their media exposure. Fidel Castro has been the cuban dictator for eons and is well known in all the region. In the case of Chavez, he has appeared often in the press for the last 8 years. Both leaders have also visited Bolivia and staged popular appearances. So, some respondents may have chosen these options just because they did not know the rest.

However, instead of looking for explanations, let's take a look to two important implications. A first implication is the election of two leaders openly opposed to democracy, human rights and economic development. Bolivian political system has been severely weakened in the past few years and the last thing we need is supporting authoritarian practices. Also, being the poorest country in the region, we don't need anachronistic ideologies to bring us back to the 1800s.

A second implication is how this translates into Bolivian politics. Support for either Castro or Chavez tranlates into support for Morales. Morales is already first in voter preference surveys. This means either one of two things: First, he wins the elections, but is not elected president in the congress, in which case he will take the street and paralyze Bolivia ance again (if he were to lose the elections, he will also be quick to yell "fraud" and take the streets). Second, he wins the elections and becomes president, in which case he won't leave power for generations (remember: one of the main points of his government programme is drafting a new constitution), will make coca legal, effectively turning Bolivia into a pariah narco-state and destabilize the region.

So, it seems that the wishes of those who want bakcwardness are about to be granted.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Bolivian Election Links

Quiroga's Podemos present their government plan this week, so it should be here in short time. It is also interesting to note the inclusion of three letters directed to Hugo Chavez (under the link "En Defensa de Nuestra Soberania") protesting for his meddling in Bolivian internal issues. Is there any chance he got the message? It is also interesting to note that Quiroga's color (red) and symbol (a star) are often associated with communism. Perhaps he's hoping to gain the votes of a couple of confused leftists.

Morales' MAS also present their government plan to the CNE this week. In the meanwhile, you can read MAS' 10 points on which their programme will be based. It is also interesting to note the inflammatory rhetoric used by them. The web site itself is not very functional. On the topic of colors, MAS' is blue. This used to be the color of the Falange Socialista Boliviana, a fascist party that ceased to exist in the 80s.

Finally, Doria Medina's UN website has their government plan for some time now. Also includes issues of the party's newletter (in pdf) and a vocational test (?). The website is not very user-friendly, so prepare to have a lot of new windows open.
A UN-related website, where Doria Medina explain where all his money comes from and how much he will spend on his campaign is Dinero Limpio (Clean Money). It is also not very user-friendly, but it is a welcome move move on the issue of campaign funds. I would really be interested in knowing where Morales' funds come from.

All three websites are in Spanish, with MAS including some Aymara. It is also interesting to note that most Bolivians outside the cities do not have much access to the internet, and even if they had, it is doubtful they would visit these sites or base their vote on their content. For us Bolivians living outside, it is a welcome move.

New IDB President

Today, Colombian Luis Alberto Moreno inaugurates his mandate as new Inter American Development Bank President. His aim is to create an "elite institution, not an institution of elites". He also emphasized the necessity to let go ideologies and theoretical artifices and create a results-based institution.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

When Democracy equals Voting

What makes a democracy a democracy? Democracy has been analyzed in detail for 2500 years, as Dahl puts it, without a consensus being reached on what it means. Yet, two fundamental pillars can be easily discernible in modern democracies. First, a system of checks and balances. There are three equally powerful, independent branches, i.e. the legislative, the executive and the judiciary, that supposed to control the other two, so that if branch strays away, they can bring it back to order. Thus, each brach is accountable for their actions to the other two. Second, the fact that all individuals have rights and obligations.

In Bolivia, nonetheless, the concept of democracy is somewhat simpler. In Bolivia, democracy means voting (which is only one of several rights). Thus, in the past years we have heard Bolivians praising ourselves and our perfect democracy because a confusing referendum on energetic resources and mayor elections took place. And we were so busy praising the votes that we did not notice that everything else was missing.

By now, the legislative branch has grown so powerful that the combined forces of the executive and the judiciary cannot bring it back to its senses. What should be a simple matter of following the constitution has turned into a circus. The reason? Following Occam's Razor, I think it is rather simple. Normally, MPs have had 5 years to profit from the position. Now that the law requires to shorten their mandate, they just don't feel like it. They want to keep getting paid for a job they are not doing for as long as possible. The fact that they are not representing the people that chose them has taken the backseat to them shitting all over the constitution. It seems these people has their rights, but no obligations.

Thus, neither pillar of modern democracies exists in Bolivia. What this means is that Bolivia is not a democratic country, regardless of elections. If the lawmakers themselves don't give a crap about the constitution, how did we ever expect it to work?