Monday, October 29, 2007

Political Council to Decide Future of Constituent Assembly

LA PAZ, (digitalwarriormedia) – The fate of the Constituent Assembly is set to be decided on Monday during meetings in La Paz. Either the body will transfer its remaining plenary sessions to a new location and continue a political dialogue, or the Assembly will be decommissioned.

Monday’s meetings among heads of Bolivia’s political parties and the Political Council, will address issues that still lack agreement.

At the center of these areas without consensus is the issue of Bolivia’s capital. Disagreement over whether to keep the nation’s capital in La Paz or move it to Sucre in the Chuquisaca department has halted the Assembly’s progress since September 8.

According to government sources, the most recent position taken by the Inter-Agency Committee of Chuquisaca will not allow the Assembly to resume unless delegates consider the capital issue.

Last week, the Political Council - a group created specifically to accelerate the work of the Assembly - proposed to declare Sucre the historic, judicial and election capital of Bolivia but the proposal was rejected.

Instead, the Chuquisaca committee has demanded the immediate removal of the Legislature from La Paz to Sucre following approval of the new Constitution and the gradual relocation of the Executive branch to Sucre as well.

The capital issue forced the suspension of the Constituent Assembly for the past six weeks after violent attacks and sustained protests in Sucre during September. Radical sections from Chuquisaca and the eastern provinces threatened violence against members of the Assembly which led delegates to seek another location for the continuation of the plenary body.

There are implications that the Chuquisaca committee is working under the influence of opposition interests in the "crescent" departments of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, and Tarija, including Santa Cruz vice-minister, Carlos Dabdoub.

On Friday, Roberto Aguilar, governor of the Oruro Department and Constituent Assembly Vice President, handed a letter to the chairman of the Constituent Assembly, Silvia Lazarte. He indicated that the city of Oruro would welcome all members of the plenary body for future sessions. Similar offers have come from civic and political parties in Cochabamba and La Paz.

Once a new location is decided, the Assembly will be called into emergency sessions within 48 hours, as there is much work to accomplish before the body’s December 14 deadline.

National Unity (UN) delegate Angel Villacorta cited the unyielding position of the Chuquisaca committee as the main cause for the possible failure of the Assembly. He condemned those whose real aim is to derail the Assembly and thereby end the only way to achieve change in the country.

In a press conference on Friday, Vice-president Alvaro Garcia Linera, said the Political Council would define the Constituent Assembly’s future. Garcia, who has served as moderator of the Political Council, expressed regret that an uncompromising opposition could cause the Constituent Assembly to fail. He stated that these individuals would have to be responsible for such a result.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Healthy Housing Ideas From Unhealthy Habits

NEW YORK (digitalwarriormedia): A group of professionals collected 25,000 bottles & donations to complete a project to build housing with recycled material.

Bolivians are taking the cause of the livable earth upon themselves in helping the environment & families in need by building homes made of recycled bottles. The first of the 'Casa de Botellas' was finished recently in an poorer neighborhood of Warnes - a town in the eastern province of Santa Cruz where housing needs have seemingly little or no representation in the provincial government.

A group of young professionals spent months collecting over 25,000 bottles & raised private donations to complete the project. Local neighborhood volunteers filled the thousands of bottles with sand. The bottles were then connected together & reinforced with cement & re bar - creating walls that seem far sturdier than those of the wooden shanties that dominate the landscape.

Due to centuries of economic exploitation, many parts of Bolivia lack even base waste disposal and recycling systems. New innovations in the government's approach to economic development in Bolivia would seem to encourage building homes from recycled materials while keeping non-biodegradable products from ending up in rivers or strewn across fields.

With numerous other residents of Warnes needing desperately to replace the substandard units they live in, some have proposed to make several more 'Casa de Botellas' units & turn the area into a tourist attraction that educates people on local and global environmental issues while sustaining the local economy.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Indigenous Peoples Mark Historical Victory, Next Steps Begin

BOLIVIA (digitalwarriormedia) The three-day indigenous summit convened from October 10-12, took delegates from the capital city of La Paz, to the ruins of Tiwanaku and then to Chimoré as attendees hammered out a 14-point declaration and celebrated the 515th anniversary of indigenous resistance to European colonization.

Hosted by Bolivia’s social organizations, the “Gathering for the Historical Victory of the World’s Indigenous People” received more than 130 indigenous delegates - mainly representing countries from the Americas and New Zealand.

The purpose of the gathering was to commence a movement that will work to realize the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It serves as a starting point for the indigenous campaign that will seek to incorporate the UN Declaration into the national legislation of member states.

Speaking during the first day of the conference, President Morales stated that there is a need for the world’s indigenous people to build a joint agenda on the right to land, territory and natural resources.

"Here begins a new struggle for the Declaration to be ratified by (national) Congresses and implemented by all states," said Morales. He recommended that an Indigenous Parliament commence traveling to other nations in order to accomplish this task.

Morales called on Latin American parliamentarians to approve and ratify the declaration and he stated that this request has already been submitted to Bolivia’s National Congress. Morales anticipates Bolivia will be the first nation to incorporate the UN declaration into its national legislation.

On the second day, attendees traveled to the ruins of Tiwanaku, located about 40 northwest of La Paz. It was at these very ruins that Morales received spiritual blessings from the world’s indigenous community on January 21, 2006 – one day before he officially assumed the Presidency of Bolivia.

Mayan activist Rigoberta Menchú addressed the gathering at Tiwanaku and publicly criticized the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand for failing to pass the UN declaration.

Menchú noted that indigenous people continued to suffer as these countries tried to derail the declaration by objecting to the concepts of “indigenous peoples” and “self-determination”. She stressed the need for indigenous people to recover their natural resources and demand that public services like water to be recognized as human rights.

Menchú called Morales the president of all the world’s indigenous people and stated that "we must harness our struggles of self-esteem”. With a collective identity, language can be strengthened so that the universal declaration can be put into practice.

Menchú, also expressed a willingness to carry out a new international campaign that would support President Morales' candidacy for the Nobel Peace Prize next year. The Guatemalan national was awarded the prize in 1992 and she hopes Evo will be the second indigenous person to receive the prestigious award.

On Friday, delegates convened in Chimoré - located in the Chapare region of the Department of Cochabamba. Here delegates convened for the closing ceremony and the signing of a declaration of principles. They were joined by thousands of coca growers, who were present to celebrate more than 500 years of indigenous resistance. Indigenous leaders presented a 14-point declaration that calls for the preservation of nature and peace, among other issues.

Ecuadorian representative, Blanca Chancoso,
read the declaration of principles at the closing ceremony that called for a “culture of life” and demanded significant steps to end the capitalism that is destroying Mother Earth and abusing natural resources. Declarations also touched upon agribusiness, the use of biofuels, women’s rights, immigration rights, national sovereignty and the plight of indigenous political prisoners.

Lastly, leaders declared October 12th "the day we begin our fight to save Mother Nature", before vowing to continue on the long struggle to return the planet to balance and save humanity.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Indigenous Initiative Answers the Capitalist Model

Each year, during the second week in October, one of Spain’s most widely recognized conquistadors is honored in the United States and other parts of the world. These celebrations ignore the far-reaching role of European imperialism that destroyed native cultures and pillaged the globe in the endless pursuit of capital.

While the western world honors the centuries-long genocide of natives, Bolivia will receive indigenous representatives from around the world for the first International Gathering of Indigenous Peoples.

From October 10 to 12, the international summit will meet in Bolivia, where more than 100,000 participants from 120 countries are anticipated. The gathering’s purpose is to begin an agenda that helps realize the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People – ratified by the General Assembly this past September.

Delegates from the United States, Central American, Caribbean countries, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru have confirmed their attendance, including Nobel Prize Laurete Rigoberta Menchu.

Representing the Wiphala

As the leader of the largest indigenous nation in the world, President Evo Morales came to power on a platform that promised recognition for the indigenous values that have been marginalized by more than 500 years of oppression. These values include respect for all people and our Mother Earth.

When Morales stood before the UN last month, he clearly articulated his democratic and socialist beliefs - firmly grounded in the traditions of indigenous people.

While in New York, Morales constantly articulated that luxury and over-consumption in the West are at the root of mankind’s problems. He uttered the same urgent message: if we are to save humanity, the capitalist model must come to an end.

President Morales recognized the recent passage of the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and thanked the 143 nations who approved the document, except for four – Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the United States – who voted against the measure.

His words were in stark contrast to that of President Bush who believes global problems - from climate change to poverty - demand solutions that can only be found in the expansion of free market capitalism. Bush also suggested that the expansion of global markets is a means of combating terrorist ideology.

Indigenous Values vs. Capitalist Ideology

In addressing the international community, both Bush and Morales discussed human rights and democracy, but from distinctly different perspectives.

Bush turned to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to justify liberating people from tyranny and violence, while Morales cited the culture of war as a major obstacle to reaching true equality and justice in the world. In front of a high-level meeting on climate change, Morales asked why countries never look at the economic and social cost of weapons.

He called for change in a capitalist system that allows nations to systematically amass weapons for war. As a result, President Morales announced that Bolivia will formally renounce war when drafting the country’s new constitution.

While the U.S. turns towards the free market to address climate change, Morales disagrees with using the current global economic model, especially the increased use of biofuels. He made a point to express the indigenous beliefs that Pachamama (Mother Earth) and her resources, such as water and food, are gifts to humankind and not just commodities for sale.

Throughout his presidency, Morales has spoken of the right of all nations to operate with sovereignty and dignity. He explained how Bolivia’s economy suffered under international financial institutions that promoted free market capitalism and shared his country’s experience of earning billions in tax revenue since moving away from these policies.

For decades, the U.S. has represented the world’s greatest “consumer culture” and the strongest proponent of a capitalist model, with the tactic support of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Currently the U.S. accounts for 5 percent of the world’s population, but 40 percent of the world’s resource consumption.

By failing to ratify the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, the U.S. has failed to recognize the inherent human rights of more than 300 million people, who account for 80 percent of the world’s cultural and biological diversity, and occupy 20 percent of the world’s land surface.

Meanwhile the activities of Christopher Columbus are recognized by a national holiday complete with street parades and one-day sales at retail stores.

President Morales and the Bolivian people have expressed the desire for a culture of life, peace, dialogue and equality. So while Americans enjoy a shorter work week, indigenous people will be doing something that has been done for centuries – working against the capitalist model that covets their land and resources by continuing to carve out spaces for their collective native identity.