Friday, November 30, 2007

Tough Week To Be A Bolivian Cop

A demonstration in Cobija, capital of Pando province, came amid rising tensions between the governors of six wealthy provinces and the National administration of Evo Morales, who is pushing through a constitutional reform to redistribute resources to benefit Bolivia's majority populations of the Indigenous Under-represented.

Hundreds of supporters of Bolivian President Evo Morales' socialist reform movement were attacked by opponents Friday, with four people injured and the town hall occupied by demonstrators.

While waving white handkerchiefs & asking for peace hundreds of demonstrators who turned out in Cobija to support the Morales administration were then attacked by ¨university students¨ and the local government. National Police have tried to protect those freaky Peace-niks but were then set upon. In exactly the same manner that had happened in three other provinces earlier this week.

Governors of these Provinces have taken either direct action against the national government or have encouraged violence against those being ask to hold together a nation. A Country being assaulted by those with power that comes through the wealth of corruption and exploitation of the large populations of the Indigenous.

Violence against Police Officers is seemingly encouraged by the European press in a typical racist manner; El País of Spain reports that the shadow of civil war is falling over Bolivia. The article is titled ‘White shirts against red ponchos’. As most police come from Native populations, it would be difficult to roll back the reforms known in Bolivia as ¨El Cambio¨.

How-ever the country is 80% native. Nationally the only way to over take the democratically elected government reform minded Government maybe peaking. Unless, of course the workings of western Governments begin once again to look to further their causes through the escalation of violent tactics and of the world wide media.

Yes there will seemingly be more attacks on the supporters of Morales. The National Police are throwing themselves in the way and getting the brunt of the anger. This type of thing has been seen in the United States, in times of Jim Crow/Segregation and most recently the anti-immigration policies of some states.

The street corners, cafes and ques are abuzz with gossip,¨The power of the few white elite that force workers and servants to attack fellow Bolivianos¨ is the big talk about. Then mentions of ¨Yugosalvian War Criminals being utilized in these attacks¨ have been heard also. But these have only been overheard rumors on the street & not in any way confirmed.


Un Dia En Bolivia (via media)

Watch and decide for yourself
Notice how it is portrayed a different way!


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Final Battle in Bolivia?


Evo Morales, the first Indian president of Bolivia, is forcing a showdown with the oligarchy and the right wing political parties that have stymied efforts to draft a new constitution to transform the nation. He declares, “Dead or alive I will have a new constitution for the country by December 14,” the mandated date for the specially elected Constituent Assembly to present the constitution.

Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linares states, “Either we now consolidate the new state…with the new dominant forces behind us, or we will move backwards and the old forces will again predominate.” A leading trade union leader, Edgar Patana, put it bluntly: “The final battle has begun, and the people are prepared for it.”

For over a year the oligarchy centered in the eastern city of Santa Cruz has conspired to frustrate the efforts of the Constituent Assembly in which the governing party, the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), and its allies hold 60 percent of the seats. First the right wing parties in the Assembly, led by Podemos, insisted that a two-thirds vote was needed even for committees to approve the different sections of the new constitution.

When the opposition was overruled on this point, the oligarchy then won allies in the city of Sucre, where the Constituent Assembly is being held, by asserting that the executive and congressional branches of government should be moved from La Paz to Sucre, which used to be the center of government until the late nineteenth century. This was also a racial strategy as La Paz and its sister city El Alto are at the heart of the country’s majority Indian population that support Morales and mobilized in 2003 to topple an oligarchic president in La Paz who murdered Indian demonstrators in the streets.

In Sucre in recent months right wing militants have menaced and assaulted delegates of MAS, including Silvia Lazarte, the Assembly’s indigenous women president. The Assembly has been effectively prevented from functioning since August 15.

Then in a move to more equitably redistribute the country growing oil and gas revenues, Morales in mid-October declared that a retirement pension equal to the minimum wage would be extended to all Bolivians that would come directly out of a special hydrocarbon fund. Morales simultaneously cut the payments from the fund that go to municipal governments like Santa Cruz with no congressional oversight. This caused an uproar in the Media Luna (Half Moon) region, comprised of the department of Santa Cruz and allied departments, with many of the business interests of the country threatening to create shortages and sew economic chaos by withholding their produce from the market.

Three hundred peasants, who came to Sucre last week to protect the Assembly members in its efforts to reconvene, were violently expelled from their sleeping quarters at the Pedagogical Institute by right wing students and Lazarte was prevented from convening the Assembly. Then Morales moved the Assembly meeting site to an old castle on the outskirts of Sucre that also serves as a military school and barracks. The head of the armed forces, General Wilfredo Vargas, backed the meeting of the Assembly at the castle, saying “it has to meet to continue …to modernize the state in all its features.”

Then Vargas in a swipe at one of the regional political leaders allied with the Media Luna who claimed that Cuban and Venezuelan military units where in the country, declared: “No information exists of such units. And if it were the case, they are military units of the State and as part of the State they represent the Bolivian people.”

The Bush administration is also jumping into the fray. Earlier this year Morales denounced that US backed agencies and non-governmental organizations that are providing direct support to right-wing political parties and allied institutions, ordering that all such funding would now be channeled directly through the government. Then at the recent Ibero-American Summit in Santiago Chile, Morales declared that “while we are trying to change Bolivia…small groups of the oligarchy are conspiring in alliance with the representative of the government of the United States,” referring to the US ambassador to Bolivia, Philip Goldberg. To support his claims a photo was shown of Goldberg in Santa Cruz with a leading right wing business magnet and a well known Colombian narco-trafficker, who had been detained by the local police.

On November 15, the US State Department spokesperson, Sean McCormick, responded by demanding that Morales stop launching “false” and “unfounded” allegations of conspiracy by the ambassador. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called the Bolivian ambassador in Washington to deliver the same tough message.

The delegates of the right wing parties led by Podemos boycotted the meetings at the castle, declaring that the Assembly is “illegal.” On Friday 139 of the 255 Assembly members met and approved the broad outlines of a new constitution to carry out the reforms championed by Morales and the country’s social movements. The next step is for the Assembly to adopt the specific clauses and content of the constitution.

But before that process could begin, the opposition in Sucre, led mainly by students and young people, violently took over all the major public buildings using dynamite and Molotov coctails, demanding the resignation of “the shitty Indian Morales.” Parts of the city were in flames as the members of the Assembly abandoned the castle on Saturday, and by Sunday rioting mobs controlled Sucre, forcing the police to retreat to the mining town of Potosi, two hours away. Three people, including one policemen, are dead, with hundreds injured. The right wing and the business organizations in Santa Cruz and allied departments are threatening to declare autonomy and even talking of cession.

“We are at a national impasse” says Manuel Urisote, a political analyst and director of the Land Foundation, an independent research center in La Paz. “The right wing led by the Santa Cruz oligarchy is in open rebellion, but Morales, the Movement Towards Socialism and the popular movements will not back down. The military is supporting the president. As a national institution it intends to maintain the territorial integrity of Bolivia and it will not accept decrees of cession by Santa


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

BOLIVIA: Threat of ‘Secession’ from the East

By Franz Chávez for Inter Press Service

SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia,(IPS)- The protests against the draft constitution approved by Bolivian President Evo Morales' supporters in the Constituent Assembly continued Tuesday in the country's eastern regions with an announcement by a large landowner and local civic leader, Branco Marinkovic, of measures aimed at winning regional autonomy.

Speaking to hundreds of middle class demonstrators, students, landowners and members of the business community in the central square in the eastern city of Santa Cruz, Marinkovic urged people to "make sacrifices" to oppose the draft constitution passed by the constituent assembly in a preliminary vote Saturday in Sucre.

The session, which was boycotted by the delegates of rightwing opposition parties, sparked violent protests in the city of Sucre by those opposed to the Morales administration's rewriting of the constitution, which is designed to give greater participation in decisionmaking to the country's impoverished indigenous majority.

Three protesters and one policeman were killed in the clashes between demonstrators and the security forces over the weekend in that southeastern city.

For four months, the opposition had kept the Constituent Assembly, which has a December 14 deadline to come up with a new constitution, from reconvening. On Saturday, the representatives of the governing Movement to Socialism (MAS) party and their allies decided to hold a session in a military academy in Sucre.

But the protesters attacked the police and military cordon set up around the academy, torched local police stations and stormed a jail, setting 100 inmates free.

The call for "sacrifices" issued by Marinkovic Tuesday in Santa Cruz was interpreted in different ways, ranging from an "economic blockade" against the government to the cut-off of basic services and food supplies to the population, to apply pressure to overturn the initial approval of the draft constitution, which was voted by 138 of the 255 Constituent Assembly members.

President Morales, who is the leader of the country's coca farmers, joined a march Monday by campesinos (peasant farmers) and other poor demonstrators calling for the Senate to pass a bill that would provide a lifelong income of $25 a month to people over 60. He walked 11 miles (18 km) at the head of the column of protesters.

Meanwhile, Marinkovic, one of the largest landowners in Bolivia's wealthier eastern region, called for greater provincial autonomy.

His demands, described by the government as "secessionist," include strict controls to curb the inflow of Bolivians from the poor western highlands, self-determination and greater regional control over revenues from the country's vast natural gas reserves.

Bolivia, South America's poorest country, is basically divided between the western altiplano, home to the impoverished indigenous majority, and the richer eastern departments, which account for most of the country's natural gas production, industry and gross domestic product. Much of the population of eastern Bolivia is made up of people of partly or predominantly European (primarily Spanish) descent.

Marinkovic's calls for autonomy are shared by six of the nine departments that make up Bolivia.

The demonstration in Santa Cruz was the start of a renewed political battle against the Morales administration. Similar protests are planned for Wednesday in the departments of Beni, Pando, Chuquisaca, Cochabamba and Tarija, where, as in Santa Cruz, "civic committees" are aligned with the rightwing opposition and are preparing a 24 hour business strike.

Santa Cruz Governor Rubén Costas said the strike will be held in homage to the victims of what he called "the massacre of La Glorieta", in reference to the protesters killed in Sucre, and against the draft constitution.

Since Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, took office nearly two years ago, the country has grown increasingly polarised over the changes he is attempting to push through.

The leftwing leader renationalised Bolivia's natural gas reserves, strengthened agrarian reform efforts aimed at providing landless indigenous campesinos with small farms, and created social assistance mechanisms for the poor, such as a $25 monthly subsidy paid to families for each child who stays in primary school, and the monthly pension for the elderly.

The proposed land reform has drawn ire in the east, and especially Santa Cruz, where much of the redistribution of rural property will occur. The land to be granted to campesinos will be state-owned property, privately held land that has been left unproductive, and property that was illegally acquired by large landholders or handed out to them by dictatorships in the past.

Morales is aware that the changes he is promoting, which touch on the privileges long enjoyed by the middle and upper class elites, have made him unpopular among those sectors, who call him a "totalitarian tyrant" and accuse him of being a "servile" follower of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

Addressing some 30,000 people in a plaza in La Paz, the president pointed out that under his government, the country’s foreign reserves have grown from $1 billion to over $5 billion.

"We no longer have to ask for a loan to pay the Christmas bonus" of public employees, he said, while wondering where so many millions of dollars had gone during previous administrations.

"In Santa Cruz they refuse to accept that their cushy deal is over," said Morales, who blamed "economic warfare" against his government for the difficulties faced by homemakers in the country's poorer regions due to the rising prices of food. Presidential spokesman Alex Contreras said Bolivia was experiencing "a democratic revolution" to enfranchise the country’s indigenous people, which he said is being interpreted by the people of Santa Cruz as an effort to exclude those who own vast expanses of land in forestry, ranching and cash crop export areas in the east.

Far from his home region, the head of the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Eastern Bolivia (CIDOB), Adolfo Chávez, said in La Paz that under the new constitution, the land that was taken from the country's native people will be restored to them.

Thousands of people gathered in La Paz to celebrate the initial approval of a new constitution, which must now be debated article by article before being put to voters in a referendum.

Photographs from ABI, El Deber and Reuters


Monday, November 26, 2007

Our Compatriota Lola Almudevar

Karah Woodward,

Very interested in your posts which I would like to quote in an article I am writing for the Guardian Newspaper or better still a direct interview? If you read this before the close of Wednesday 10 October please mail me:

For reference I am a stringer in Bolivia, mainly working for the BBC and certain newspapers like the Guardian.

Best wishes Lola


Lola Almudevar died near La Paz in the early hours of Sunday morning after the taxi she was travelling in collided with two trucks, which had already crashed.

Four others, including the truck drivers, also died, while Reuters journalist Eduardo Garcia, a Spaniard who was travelling with Almudevar, was seriously injured.

Almudevar, 29, was heading towards the city of Sucre after deadly clashes had followed the approval of a draft constitution by a special assembly there.

She was travelling by road after flights had been suspended to the city following the disturbances.


2007 Constituent Assembly & International Media Monitoring Initiative

After more than a year of legislative debate, Bolivia ’s Constituent Assembly is finally set to announce its results. Upon widespread demands of the nation’s social organizations, assembly delegates assumed the responsibility to refound Bolivia ’s democracy and eliminate discrimination against the nation’s indigenous population.

The political democracy in Bolivia began its transformation with the election of the nation’s first indigenous president, Evo Morales, in December 2005. Almost two years later, Bolivia continues on this path as the nation’s Constituent Assembly completes its work to draft a new constitution and reform the nation’s political, economic and social balance.

This December, again at the behest of socialists around the world, Digital Warrior Media will join Center for a New American Socialist Democracy (CNASD) to dispatch media staff to observe, monitor & report on the status of the democratic constitutional transition taking place in Bolivia .

From November 28th to December 18th, 2007 , Digital Warrior Media will be on the ground to monitor the new version of social democracy at work in Bolivia . Via an on-line web-blog, radio production, and news articles, Digital Warrior Media will produce detailed & comprehensive reports for release on “Wakeup Call with Mario Murillo”. Wakeup Call is New York City’s most socially progressive on-air morning drive time programming on WBAI (99.5FM) of the Pacifica Radio Network.

Staff will travel to Bolivia ’s capital cities of La Paz and Sucre to identify, research and report on a range of issues including: indigenous peoples’ representation within the Constituent Assembly, labor rights, & ultimately the portrayal of the constitutional convention within Western mainstream media.

Digital Warrior & CNASD will continue accruing interviews & video footage for the documentary “Political Inca” - a conversation where the rise of indigenous socialism in Bolivia is examined through the use of new media.

United States Contact Information:
Digital Warrior Media
244 5th Avenue, Suite g-283
New York, New York 10011

*corrected November 28, 2007


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Opposition Protests Fail To Halt Transition

A majority of Bolivia's constituent assembly approved a new draft constitution for the Andean nation Saturday, with the opposition staging violent protests on the streets.

The assembly, called by President Evo Morales to renew the Country’s constitution to Further address the needs of the country's majority Natives populations and the poor, approved the new textual language on a preliminary basis, though it will be considered article-by-article at a later date, the chairwoman of the assembly, Silvia Lazarte, said without specifying that date.

Outside the compound where the meeting was held, protesters clashed with police in demonstrations demanding assembly delegates name Sucre Bolivia's "full capital," and move the seat of government and Congress to Sucre from La Paz, and away from a base of large support for Morales in Bolivia's most populated Metropolis.

"We hope that calm will return to Sucre," Deputy Presidential Minister Sacha Llorenti told a local radio station.

Such was the violence surrounding the"Opposition" protests over the capital had began in August, It had to force the assembly, which sits in Sucre, to suspend debates for three months, prompting the assembly's governing body to move sessions to a secure facility on Friday. The violence was deplorable & the deaths tragic, as local media begins it duty to investigate the loss of life, many contend that clarity be maintained.

The protests had came amid a power struggle various "old guard" conservative groups who put across messages of more autonomy for the regions they govern and support the capital being designated in Sucre.

During the campaign that brought Morales to office nearly two years ago, He has stated that the assembly would serve to cast as a mold for a new state in which a country's indigenous majority would have greater representation.

Since the Conquest of Pizzaro, Sepulveda & the ruling Spanish Hapsburgs & Bourbons have denied the native peoples of South America their humanity for five centuries; Yet notice that political native representation has advanced so & with such little consternation.

However the question always remains and it is the same from that of so many times past, where exactly is this violence coming from during these"peaceful" protest?

Bullets do cost money...and tend to leave behind evidence. Namely the cartridge shells, bullet fragments and the fingerprints of those using bullets to impose bodily harm & fear in the exercise of the democratic process


Monday, November 19, 2007

Another Hurdle in Bolivia-U.S. Diplomacy

Relations between Bolivia and the United States have soured once again as President Morales publicly denounced the U.S. for conspiring against his government. While at a press conference in the town of Viacha, outside La Paz, Morales slammed U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg and called on Washington "to practice diplomacy, not politics."

Morales’ comments were made in response to a demand from State Department spokesman Sean McCormack this week that the Bolivian government should just “knock it off”.

McCormack was criticizing Morales’ actions at the Ibero-American summit in Santiago, Chile last weekend, where the Bolivian president circulated a photograph of Ambassador Goldberg standing with John Jairo Vanegas and a businessman from the eastern province of Santa Cruz.

The Morales government has expressed outrage at the photo – taken during a business expo – because Jairo is considered a criminal and Colombian paramilitary. He is currently in a Bolivian prison, serving time for armed robbery.

In his speech made before heads of state at the summit, Morales said, “I cannot understand this photograph with a Colombian paramilitary and this is an open conspiracy.”

U.S. officials said the photograph, published by Spanish news agency EFE, was a montage and McCormack demanded that Bolivia stop leveling “unfounded” accusations against Washington’s ambassador.

This is the latest incident in a tumultuous relationship that has unfolded between Bolivia and the U.S. since the election of Bolivia’s first indigenous president in December 2005.

Last month Goldberg was forced to apologize for controversial comments he had made about President Morales. Bolivia’s Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca demanded an apology after Goldberg mocked a suggestion by Morales that the United Nations’ headquarters be moved from New York City.

While addressing the UN in September, Morales remarked upon the difficulty Bolivian diplomats experienced entering the U.S. and suggested that the body move to a more welcoming country.

Goldberg trivialized Morales statement by stating he probably also wants to move the headquarters of Disney World.

In August, Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera reported that U.S. funding was being used to finance a think tank where opposition leaders were orchestrating a campaign against the Morales government. The U.S. has rejected the allegations.

Presidential Minister, Juan Ramon Quintana has stated that USAID is running programs to help the opposition and may be ousted from Bolivia.

Such a move would endanger about $90 million of aid that the Bolivian government receives from the U.S. and potentially jeopardize future negotiations for a $600 million U.S. aid package under the Millennium Challenge Account program.

However, even though Morales continues to denounce U.S. actions at home and abroad, while in Italy to accept an humanitaraian award from the Pio Manzù Center, Morales expressed hope that difficult relations between the nations will improve in the near future. “I have a lot of faith in a change in relations with the United States, because I have good relations with former President Carter, and above all with former President Clinton.”


Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Diplomatic Left Turn

The 17th Ibero-American Summit concluded in Santiago, Chile on Saturday, with leaders from Portugal, Andorra, Spain and 19 other Latin American countries signing the Santiago Declaration, which pledges coordinated efforts to fight poverty and promote social cohesion.

Fifteen agreements were reached at the summit, including the Multilateral Social Security Convention, which will permit nearly 6 million migrant workers in Latin America,Portugal and Spain to transfer social security benefits between their countries. The leaders also called on the United States to end its four-decade economic blockage against Cuba.

The theme of this year’s meeting was “social cohesion”, to which President Evo Morales challenged fellow leaders to begin with “presidential cohesion” by joining together under a new economic model.

Speaking before the heads of state on Saturday, the Bolivian president called on governments to create a new economic model that rejects the neo-liberal system.

Morales recalled his country’s favorable economic situation since nationalizing its hydrocarbon sector. He identified new governmental programs made possible with Bolivia's new found wealth, including the "Juancito Pinto" for school-aged children, the “Dignity” pension for elderly Bolivians, as well as the Productive Development Bank (BDP) to grant low interest, micro-credit loans.

"Everything comes through nationalization, the modification of the Hydrocarbons Law. If that's [our] experience, we must abandon the neo-liberal model," reiterated Morales.

In line with Morales’ call for abandoning the neo-liberal model and the meeting’s theme of social cohesion, Presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, and Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage indicated the impossibility of imagining social cohesion under U.S.-style capitalism, as all three condemned imperialism.

At the beginning of the summit, Chavez - whose speech exceeded the five-minute limit by 21 minutes - proposed a discussion of “transformation towards a just society, towards social justice,"; an idea he believed more useful than "social cohesion".

Yet, the summit’s diplomatic tone took a severe turn on Saturday when President Chavez called former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar a "fascist". Aznar, a conservative and close ally of President George W. Bush, backed the US-led war in Iraq.

The outburst came during the speech of Spain’s current prime ministe, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who defended the former prime minister by stating that Aznar was “democratically elected by the Spanish people and was a legitimate representative of the Spanish people."

Despite his microphone being turned off, Chavez repeatedly tried to interrupt Zapatero, until Spain’s King Juan Carlos leaned forward, pointing his finger at Chavez and said, "Why don't you shut up?"

When Nicaragua’s President Ortega joined in, criticizing the Spanish embassy for interfering in Nicaraguan politics, King Carlos stood up and left the summit leaving Chilean president, Michelle Bachelet, to intervene and restore order.

King Juan Carlos, a descendant of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, Louis XIV of France and Emperor Charles V, was named heir to the throne by dictator Francisco Franco, who skipped a generation to name the prince his personal successor.

Some 79 million people, or 14.7 percent of the population within Latin America, live in extreme poverty, according to the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. Spain’s per capita income is $27,950.

The annual summit has been organized by the Ibero-American Community of Nations since 1991. The next summit will be held in El Salvador.