Thursday, April 20, 2006

Chaos in Bolivia

A quick read of today's newspapers show a country submerged into chaos, inefficiency and corruption. Morales administration is an easy prey for "social" interest groups that are giving MAS a taste of its own medicine and has fallen into the same kind of corruption it vowed to eliminate.
The 47% of Bolivians that did not vote for Evo knew that MAS didn't have any plan besides the shameful Constituent Assembly and now the lack of anything remotely resembling a plan is starting to show. Moreover, the administration has no respect for the rule of law, the separation of powers and (property) rights, while powerful "social" interest groups are fully aware of this administration's powerlessness, unpreparedness and lack of coordination.
The result is a mess, which does not resemble a country in any way. Just take a look at today's headlines, which I have put in the following categories:

Government's disregard for the rule of law:

Evo wants the Brazilian iron factory out of Bolivia
Evo said in Paraguay that enterprises operating out of the law in Bolivia had two choices: leave the country or be expelled. He was talking about Brazilian iron factory EBX. Now, it is obvious every single enterprise should operate according to the existing laws and those that do not should be punished. Punishment, however, should come once it has been proven, beyond reasonable doubts, that the enterprise was operating illegaly. EBX says it is operating according to the law and so far this is just the word of EBX against that of Evo. Moreover, it should be the Judiciary and not the Executive power the one that decides if the enterprise's guilt and the punishment. By taking matters in his hands, Evo is just showing his authoritarian tendencies and a complete disregard for the rule of law.

MAS attacks the Caja Petrolera de Salud
The Caja Petrolera de Salud is a national health service that is supposed to be "instutionalized", i.e. independent of the government. MAS militants tried taking a hospital that belongs to this service by force. They tried to impose Ascencio Mamani, a MAS militant, as director of the hospital and doctors and nurses had to fight to keep him out. This is just the latest of a series of attempts of taking over government institutions. Migrations, Customs, the Internal Revenue Service, the COD, the Caja Nacional (both health services), SEDUCA and INRA already had to deal with MAS' angry masses. Has anybody been arrested? Nope. They are MAS militants, after all.


Torrico asks for leave and his replacement is denounced
Whoever thought things would change with MAS, was right. Nobody said that the change would be for worse. In just under three months in power, MAS has been caught extorting the public sector workers, the President, (yes, Evo) has signed a Supreme Decree in order to build a road for an extra $30 million than estimated, has had to retire the ambassador to Japan because of corruption and now the Chief of Deputies from MAS, Gustavo Torrico, has asked the parliament for indefinite leave. HE says he wants to clear his name of all charges levied against him and sue former fiscal Catacora, who accused Torrico of using his influences to try to have a family member hired. Yesterday, Torrico was denounced once again of nepotism. According to Podemos, Torrico made FONVIS hire at least 84 persons since January. Among these people, 4 are related to him and members of MAS: his sister and three nephews. Of them, his sister and two nephews earn Bs. 6500 a month and the other nephew earns Bs. 5800. Minimum salary in Bolivia is around Bs. 450. His successor in the parliament will be Filiberto Guachalla. He is one of the signataries of the letter that asked public sector workers for 5% of their salaries. Also, according to some people, his signature is necessary to to get a job in the public sector.

In a different case, President of the Senate, MAS Senator Santos Ramirez, has been denounced for wrongdoings while he was still a MP. It seems that the Tiguinpaya municipality hired contractors from a company owned by Ramirez. According to Ramirez, the opposition is making this up, because they don't have anything else to do. Probably the best response by an accused official yet. Read it here.

Social Movements:

Several pieces indicate that MAS is against an evergrowing tide of discontent. You can read about two conflicts with miners. In both of them, miners are threatening to take over two mines. One is in Caracoles and belongs to Comibol (here) and the other is in Inquisivi and belongs to Grupo Minero Bajadeiro SRL (here). In both cases, the disregard for private investment from the government and the "social groups" is obvious. Most worrying is the fact that the government is not willing to stand up for propoerty rights.

Also, the ministers that were held captive by the people who don't want EBX to go released them, after hours of mistreatments and nobody has been detained because of this. Can you imagine Gordon Brown or Condeleeza Rice being held hostage and the police not arresting anyone? This move will just give the attackers the impression that they were right to trample all over the ministers rights and not be held accountable. More here.

It is not a matter of liking or disliking MAS' administration; in either case, one has to admit that the social movements have stepped over the line. Who are these people to take elected officials hostage? Who are these people to take over private property?

In other cases, the COB will define today if they will support Evo or not (here), while the Santa Cruz Civic Comittee will start a strike if Evo does not attend its demands in 7 days (here). It seems that Evo's methods can also work against them. Funny, in a way.

The Result:

UDAPE reports that Bolivia is losing foreign investment. In fact, according to the UDAPE report, Bolivia is the only country in the region where FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) has become negative: During 2005, FDI grew in $38,100 million in South America, while Bolivia lost $280 million. Although these trends started in 1999, the signals Bolivia is sending are not helping to get the FDI back. Read it here.

It seems there is no light at the end of the tunnel. And, it must be said, most of this capital flight is Evo's responsability.

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Blogger La Ventanita said...

Dios mio Alvaro, what a sad sad picture. But in a way I expected something like this when Evo got elected.

7:34 PM  
Blogger Alvaro Ruiz-Navajas said...

Hi Ventanita. Very sad (but not unexpected) picture indeed. What surprises me is how quickly the 'social groups' turned against Evo. I thought their support would last more than 3 months. Also, the carelessness of the administration for their corrupt deeds is unheard of. This shuld show the degree of inefficiency in the administration.
I wonder what the opposition is thinking. Evo himself could be tied to an important case that overvaluated a road ($30 million) and they should have turned the case into a major scandal, but I have not heard a word since the case was first reported. WTF? The opposition's too bland and doesn't have what it takes, it seems. This makes things sadder.

9:14 AM  
Blogger La Ventanita said...

Give them time. Maybe, as you are, they are taken aback by the sudden turns against Evo and are taking a wait and see attitude.

If the social groups bring Evo down, it will be seen as democracy. If the opposition brings Evo down, for sure it's the elitist, capitalist, right wingers with the help of the USA.

6:32 PM  
Blogger Alvaro Ruiz-Navajas said...

That's true. However, if they wait too long they may lose the train. The least opposition should do is start looking for a new leader. Otherwise you have just chaos.

10:16 AM  

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