Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Holidays Marred By Explosions, Terrorism Suspected

(digitalwarriormedia) Over the last two days Bolivia has been hit with three different explosions in the cities of Santa Cruz and La Paz. At a time when President Morales has called for dialogue and peace during the Christmas holidays, charges of terrorism are leveled against far-right opposition forces by government officials and supporters.

The latest incident occurred on Monday morning around 8:30 a.m. when dynamite explosions rocked the headquarters of the Bolivian Workers’ Union (COB). The detonation happened in the entry way to COB’s offices, close to the bedroom of its Executive Secretary, Pedro Montes.
The explosion shattered windows on the first floor of the building and caused significant structural damage, but failed to cause any injuries or fatalities.

Fortunately, Montes was away from his office for the holidays. According to some reports, the explosion blew apart the door to his bedroom. Montes claimed that he has received "several death threats" via telephone and indicted "political enemies” for the events.

President Morales indicated his belief that the attack on COB’s headquarters was because of the organization’s active support of the new Constitution. The COB has publicly blamed far-right groups, the US Embassy and the “Media Luna” departments for the recent acts of violence, stating that such measures will not deter their struggle for democracy.

Vice Minister Rubén Gamarra expressed concern over the presence of terrorist organizations in the country that are aiming to generate anxiety and insecurity among Bolivia’s population.

On Saturday, two explosions occurred in the city of Santa Cruz – one at the home of MAS Assembly member Carlos Romero the other in a lot adjacent to the hotel Casa Blanca, where President Morales usually stays during official visits to the lowland city. Neither incident resulted in any injuries or casualties.

All three incidents are currently under investigation by local police and special anti-crime units.

Concern for the safety of Bolivia’s democracy was the subject of words written by Danielle Mitterand and published on Sunday in La Razon. The former French first lady and widow of President Francois Mitterrand called on all European leaders, intellectuals and media to defend democracy and the rule of law wherever it was threatened.

Mitterrand is the founder and President of France Libertés Fundation – a non-governmental organization that advocates for human rights. She noted that within Bolivia there are groups of neofascist and paramilitary gangs “financed by the bourgeoisie and certain foreign interests" that are creating an atmosphere of fear in the indigenous regions. She condemned the actions of the departmental governors of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija.

*Photos: La Razon


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What Is What In Bolivia?

Bolivian President Evo Morales rebuked the United States in public comments at a meeting of the South American trade bloc Mercosur in Uruguay's capital Montevideo.

Washington has repeatedly denied allegations it seeks to influence politics in Bolivia. Morales has also made similar charges, prompting President George W. Bush's administration to publicly tell Bolivia last month to "knock it off."

On Tuesday, Morales reiterated accusations that the U.S. ambassador in La Paz was involved in a conspiracy to damage his government. "It would be good if the United States would advise its ambassador to practice diplomacy, not politics," he said.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Constitution Brings Demonstrations of Unity and Division

LA PAZ (digitalwarriormedia) Thousands of Bolivians filled the Plaza Murillo in the capital city of La Paz on Saturday, celebrating the arrival of a new constitution. Constituent Assembly President Silvia Lazarte spoke for an hour as she placed the document in the hands of President Evo Morales.

Supporters representing social organizations and the 36 indigenous peoples of Bolivia marched around the square for hours as the military guard looked on.

Surrounding the governmental palace, the enthusiastic crowd was filled with young people, the elderly and families, all representing the vast variety of ethnic groups and social classes that make up Bolivian society.

President Morales called the Constituent Assembly delegates heroes and said the new constitution is considered the “best Christmas gift for all Bolivians”. He assured that the document will soon be submitted to popular referendum.

Two referendums must be put to popular vote next year. One referendum will address
Article 398 - determining the amount of land to be held in private hands - and another will determine whether the Bolivian public accepts or rejects the new constitution.

While acknowledging that the new constitution does allow for regional and departmental autonomy as well as that of indigenous groups, President Morales stated that autonomy does not include political territorial divisions. He denounced any attempts to divide the country and stated such actions would not be permitted.

While addressing the rally at Plaza Murillo, Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera announced that the Bolivian government is still fighting for unity and that nine million Bolivians would defeat the oligarchic groups that plotted to tear the country apart.

The Vice President noted that opportunities were sought to meet with the opposition but they refused to participate with ideas that would improve the new constitution. He called on the Bolivian people to defend the nation's integrity against attitudes of hate, violence and racism.

Meanwhile, as government officials announced their support for the months of work produced by the Constituent Assembly, a large demonstration was held in Santa Cruz as opposition leaders rejected the new constitution and demanded regional autonomy.

In the streets of Santa Cruz, thousands waved the region's green-and-white flags and listened as council members from the Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni and Pando departments publicly announced statutes that would create a permanent separation from the Bolivian government.

The council members announced their intent to legitimize the autonomy statutes via a referendum that would be put to the people in their respective regions. The goal is to effectively separate these regions from the central Bolivian government and the administration of President Morales.

These regions, among the wealthiest of Bolivia’s nine departments, hold about 35 percent of Bolivia’s population. Departmental governors are fighting to hold onto a greater share of the oil and gas revenues that are generated in their respective regions. Last Thursday, Santa Cruz, backed a statute under which it would keep two-thirds of its tax revenues.

Autonomy referendums in these regions passed by popular vote in July 2006. And it is still unclear how the new constitution will recognize regional autonomy, so in defiance of the national government, departmental governors are taking matters into their own hands.

*Photos from AFP and La Razon


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bolivia's Constitution in the Hands of Legislature

LA PAZ (digitalwarriormedia) At 9:41 p.m. on Friday evening, Silvia Lazarte, President of Bolivia's Constituent Assembly, officially handed over the text of the nation's new constitution to National Congress President and Vice President of Bolivia, Alvaro Garcia Linera.

A ceremony took place at the Central Bank of Bolivia, allowing the Constituent Assembly to meet their deadline of December 14th.

Adopted by 164 Constituent delegates on December 9th, the constitutional text recognizes the existence of 36 indigenous nations as well as Afro-Bolivians for the first time in Bolivia's history. The document declares Bolivia an inclusive, social, multi-national and democratic nation that has a mixed economy.

Representatives from the opposition party PODEMOS tried to challenge last night’s ceremony with posters and slogans that denounced the new constitution and alleged that it was illegal, but eventually they were required to leave the premises.

In his speech before representatives from Bolivia's nine departments, Vice President Garcia Linera addressed opposition claims that the new document is illegal. He stated that the new constitution and the actions of the Assembly were within the framework of the law which enabled the mandate to be completed.

He offered his congratulations to the Assembly for its hard-work and success in overcoming the many obstacles that attempted to derail them from bringing about a document that is historic for its inclusiveness of all Bolivians.

Garcia Linera called on the four political parties represented in Parliament (MAS, PODEMOS, UN and MNR) to work for the people, without betraying the process and approve the law on Referendum Dirimidor.

The legislature must still approve a referendum bill on Article 398 that would limit the landholdings of large private estates (latifundas). Through a referendum vote, Bolivia's citizens will determine the result of an issue that was unable to pass with two-thirds approval at the Assembly deliberations held last weekend near Oruro.

Now, with the document officially handed over to the National Congress, President Morales will call for a constitutional referendum so that the people of Bolivia can vote to adopt or reject the new constitution.

On Saturday, thousands of demonstrators will celebrate in La Paz as well as in other parts of the country in support of the Constitution. But the day has also been designated as a deadline for opposition prefects to further their quest for regional autonomy.

In public ceremonies held in the departments of Santa Cruz, Pando, Tarija and Cochabamba, regional officials are expected to hand over statutes that will define the new structure and powers of regional governments separate from those of the nation.

Defense Minister Walker San Miguel said the army had been put on alert in case of disturbances over the weekend and 400 extra police officers have also been sent to Santa Cruz in order to protect public and private assets.

Photo from: ABI


Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Sporting Perspective On A Better Bolivia

LA PAZ (digitalwarriormedia) Wednesday night in La Paz, the National Championship game was held between teams from San Jose FC & La Paz FC. In a low scoring, but heated contest that saw San Jose repeat its victory as national champions, the celebration that followed was well managed by the authorities and even the fans of the losing side congratulated the winners. If this could be applied to the political situation here in Bolivia it would be something else.

Both teams had a mix of Indigenous peoples, Mestizos, and Euro-Bolivianos, playing together in a manner that could make some of the more violent politicos ashamed of the tactics and epithets used most recently in Bolivia.

Without taking aim at the opposition's ethnic make up, both teams gave their all in an exciting and well played match. San Jose played an aggressive offense. Playing hard, yellow penalty cards were everywhere, but both sides knew that their aggressive play was not personal. It was just a game, and yes there would be the opportunity for a re-match next year.

Elections can be knock-down, drag out fights, but when completed, like in soccer, you shake hands and congratulate the other side. Yes, it can get hectic and chaotic; yet when it comes down to the bottom line, when it is all over, a hand shake in celebration and respect for the opposition can better prepare you for the next round of competition. There is always next year.............

Yet, the major international media is itching for a fight in Bolivia that just doesn't seem to exsist in the manner described by the Euro-American press services. Most citizens around the world are tuning into or reading stories that exclude facts and omit from the context the real situation on the ground.

For Instance:
  • Like Jim Crow, Euro-Bolivianos wish to exclude rights from the native population and enforce a racial caste system that denies the majority of the populace even human rights.
  • With natural resources being sold at higher prices each day, the regional political bosses need to maintain corrupt practices in place from those golden years of graft and provincial theft.
  • Some may also wish to know the while the US economy is falling as fast as we print bills, the Bolivian currency is stronger internationally and is expected to have further economic growth.
  • With major news outlets omitting the social & capital investments in the country in Science & Technical Education, Healthcare, Social Security for retirees, Agriculture enhancements & informational technologies, some would think that Bolivia is still a "third world" throwback.
  • Some are being told of violence in Bolivia at super heated & highly confrontational level, yet in the United States, across the country killing sprees & economic collapse is interestingly happening during the most "giving" holiday season.

In Bolivia, they are celebrating Human Rights & a prosperity not seen in the Country for an overwhelming amount of time during this festive time of year. Yes the political conversation is highly devisive, but most Bolivianos seem very unwilling to regress as a nation....


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Governors Want Autonomy, Morales Calls for Dialogue

LA PAZ (digitalwarriormedia) Bolivia’s new constitution gained the approval of the Constituent Assembly on Sunday, but four provincial governors continue with their plans to force their agenda of regional autonomy in protest.

The prefects of Cochabamba, Beni, Pando, and Santa Cruz announced their intention to adopt de facto regional autonomy on December 15, one day after the Constituent Assembly’s official deadline.

According to reports, civic committees and regional governments in each of the five provinces are drawing up the documentation for signatures to advance autonomy, and in some cases even install interim governmental agencies.

Deputy Minister Ruben Gamarra called them “acts of sedition and separatism in our country," stating that the administration will not accept any violation of the unity of the country.

Last week Commander Wilfredo Vargas, indicated that Morales has the "full support" of the Armed Forces. However, both President Morales and members of his Cabinet have expressed a desire for dialogue.

Presidential spokesperson, Alex Contreras, has said that the parties can discuss a joint agenda to draft language to recognize autonomy. However Beni’s governor, Ernesto Suarez, announced that the prefects distrust President Morales and will engage in dialogue only with the participation of international organizations, the Catholic Church and the media.

Meanwhile, inflammatory language and actions have increased among the opposition. According to one national paper, a thousand protestors have joined in hunger strikes in Santa Cruz, Beni and Tarija, with some now in their eighth day.

The president of the Civic Committee for Santa Cruz, Branko Marinkovic, claimed that there was a plan to intervene in the department, and warned that President Morales and MAS were making plans to militarily occupy Santa Cruz.

In disturbing news, MAS supporters are being targeted for violence in Santa Cruz. On Monday a retired miner, Rene Vargas, was attacked by a group of youths, allegedly members of the so-called Union Juvenil Cruceñista (Santa Cruz Youth Union). The victim was accused of being a spy for the government, chased and beaten as the youths yelled racist slurs.

Reports indicate that in the city of Santa Cruz, “black lists” are being posted with the names of MAS supporters, calling them traitors and inciting individuals to commit violence against persons considered friendly to the Morales government.

Pamphlets are being distributed and in parts of the city, vehicles with loudspeakers announce messages adverse to President Morales.

"I want to [state] clearly that those who were shouting [from] loudspeakers that there will be a state of siege, [it] is false, completely false,” Morales stated from the Governmental Palace on Tuesday. “I want to tell those groups, which only meet in order to intimidate and frighten people, that Bolivia does not need a state of siege.”

The president indicated that “dialogue is the most important thing” and that people’s votes can decide differences among the new Constitution.

In an autonomy referendum that was held in 2006, "yes" won in four departments, but "no" won in La Paz, Oruro, Potosi, Cochabamba and Chuquisaca.

The new constitution approved departmental autonomies as well as adding provincial, municipal and indigenous ones.

The form that these autonomies will take is what must still be decided between the national government, and the power structures that continue to challenge the authority of the Morales administration.


Sunday, December 09, 2007

Assembly Approves Articles, Opposition Boycotts Plenary

ORURO, BOLIVIA (digitalwarriormedia) After 15 hours of meeting and deliberation, more than 400 changes were approved for Bolivia’s draft constitution. Delegates met at the International Convention Center at the Technical University of Oruro (UTO) in Vinto, about 3 miles (5 kilometers) from the city of Oruro.

Almost all of the proposed articles passed, with issues related to large holdings of private property remaining unsettled.

Over a thousand Huanani miners and peasant supporters, with some arriving from El Alto, maintained a vigil outside the university auditorium throughout the night.

At one point, people from the social sectors tried to prevent the entry of opposition delegates, whom arrived late, but were allowed passage after intervention from Assembly members.

The plenary began with 153 delegates, but was then joined after midnight by 9 more representatives, bringing the total delegates present to 164. Those in attendance represented 10 of the 16 national political parties.

Opposition representatives either boycotted the proceedings or those who were present called the plenary illegal.

Opposition party members stated the plenary broke all the rules of procedure, some claiming that the document was not distributed in advance and others claiming that the plenary had no right to move the deliberations outside of Sucre or La Paz.

PODEMOS, one of the strongest and most vocal opposition parties to the Morales administration had only four delegates present for deliberation and voting. Another 12 members arrived at the meeting late, denouncing the plenary as illegal, but when they were unable to disrupt the meeting, took their leave.

According to Boris Medina, a delegate from PODEMOS, the “constitution is illegal and we'll denounce it in every forum we can.” PODEMOS Senator Luis Vasquez Villamor, described the document as a "mistake" because it did not include the voices of the opposition.

The Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party had the greatest representation with 130 constituents present, with all of the other 9 parties having less than 10 representatives each in attendance.

Notably absent were constituents of the center-right Nationalist Revolutionary Movement (MNR) – another strong opposition party with considerable support. Another six parties lacked even a single representative for the deliberations.

The capital issue began to generate heated debate between the representatives from the La Paz and Chuquisaca departments, causing delegates from Chuquisaca to leave the chamber and hold up progress for an hour.

Finally an agreement was reached by which Sucre was defined as "Capital of the Republic of Bolivia." The agreement does not mention the seat of the executive, legislative and judicial branches.

Although the prospect of President Morales being elected to an unlimited number of consecutive terms received a tremendous amount of speculative attention, the measure was not included in the draft constitution.

The President is permitted to be elected to a second consecutive term. If the new constitution passes and Morales is re-elected to a second five-year term, then he could remain in the Executive office until 2018.

In general, private property is to be respected, however a referendum will be put to the people for deciding the fate of the latifundas – large swaths of private property that often are synonymous with the haciendas of the colonial and post-colonial eras.

The measure set to limit the size of individual land holdings to 10,000 hectares (24,700 acres) was unable to obtain a two-thirds majority of the assembly members present.

Bolivians will be able to express their opinion in a referendum vote on the entire constitution next year at an unknown date, although some have speculated it could be as late as September 2008.

(Photographs from El Nuevo Diario and Los Tiempos)


A Constitution that will Celebrate Diversity

La Paz (digitalwarriormedia) The draft constitution, completed on November 24th by a majority of delegates from Bolivia’s Constituent Assembly, demonstrates an overall conviction to recognize the multiculturalism of the nation.

According to John Harbeson, Political Science professor at the City University of New York, “A constitution is what orders the political society within which a government operates.” It is a means for identifying the rules by which the national government is obligated to abide.

One need only take a cursory glance at the draft document to see that it has been written to enshrine the acceptance of Bolivia’s diverse populations and a respect for the culture of a multitude of ethnic groups.

Within the first 10 articles that address the fundamental basis of the state, recognition of Bolivia’s diversity in language and culture is clearly spelled out as an integral part of a democratic and inter-cultural nation.

The official language of the state is Spanish. However Article 5 also identifies each of the languages of Bolivia’s 36 indigenous groups as official languages in their respective geographic locations throughout the country. The draft document, also includes the ethnic values of “do not steal”, “live harmoniously”, and “live well”.

Those critics who say Morales is governing only for his Quechua and Aymara power base and ignoring the middle class in the nation’s urban areas, have missed the point.

The same can be said of the international mainstream media that prefers to claim the new constitution will allow Morales to be president for life or is putting the country on course for further ethnic divisions.

The draft document is more than 100 pages long, with specific articles that relate to the rights of young people, the elderly, and people with disabilities. It speaks to gender equality and a respect for all Bolivians regardless of ethnicity or social class, urban dweller or those in the rural areas.

In a country where citizens often self-construct their own homes without proper access to running water or a sewage system, the constitution spells out that all levels of government are responsible for providing equal and universal basic services.

Parts of the draft document have been reprinted in Bolivia’s local and national papers. The document in its entirety is available for anyone with internet access to download from the Agencia Boliviana de Información website.

And throughout the capital of La Paz, a complete copy can be obtained on the street for about 50 cents or received for free by walking into the offices of the Senate.

For the international press to continue to focus on ethnic divisions and a supposed grab for power by President Morales, demonstrates a bias and sensationalism that is irresponsible and clearly misinformed.

Rather than focusing on the historical significance of a national document that is written to protect the rights of a widely diverse population of people, there are those in the mainstream press who choose to write about authoritarianism.

The work of the Constituent Assembly must still be voted upon by the Bolivian population - who may choose to accept or reject it. That process alone demonstrates a clear respect for democracy.

The diverse peoples of the Bolivian nation will have the opportunity to express their desire for the governing order of their future society. It a choice that few global citizens have had the opportunity to exercise in their own national constitutions, including most nations that profess to value and respect democracy, such as the United States.


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Latino Americà Updating Democracy

Be Sure to tune into


6am to 9am EDT
Wake-Up Call
Mario Murillo


Again, Putting Democracy First In Bolivia

La Paz (digitalwarriormedia): President Evo Morales announced Wednesday he would ask for a referendum on whether he should remain president, & has now challenged the country´s nine regional governors to do the same.

The plans to overhaul Bolivia’s constitution have re-ignited long-running conflicts between the Altiplano indigenous regions and wealthier euro-colonial lowland. This, as many of European descent in the lowlands continue to refer to Morales publicly as "that f%?king indian".

In an effort to address the conflict, the democratically elected President proposed a referendum to decide whether he and nine regional governors should remain in their posts. Six of the country’s nine regions are controlled by his opponents. However, Evo enjoys great support with the overwhelming native majorities, the poor & international agencies pursuing democracy around the world.

If the people say ‘Evo’s going,’ I’ve got no problem — I’m democratic,” Mr. Morales, a once coca farmer, said in a televised speech. “The people will say who’s going and who’s staying to guarantee this process of change.”

He said he would send a bill to Congress on Thursday to call the referendum vote.

Bolivia’s sweeping constitutional changes, a major project for the Morales government, are at the center of a power struggle between Mr. Morales and his Euro-centric rivals, who are concentrated in lowland areas that are also home to large natural gas fields.

That constitutional vote set off violent protests by the oppostion in the southern city of Sucre, the seat of the assembly; at least three people were killed when the opposition attacked supporters of the democratically elected governement.

The Constitutional Assembly will announce on December 14 whether it has approved the new charter in full before it goes to a referendum vote before the Bolivian people.

"If they are really democratic, let's bet on democracy," he said, challenging the opposition among Bolivia's provincial governors.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Opposition Protests Constitution by Fleeing to U.S.

La Paz (digitalwarriormedia): Bolivia’s departmental governors took their opposition to an unprecedented level by departing Santa Cruz’s Viru Viru airport this past Monday - en route to the United States - with plans to demand international intervention into Bolivia’s domestic affairs.

The Media Luna governors: Ruben Costas (Santa Cruz), Ernesto Suarez (Beni), Manfred Reyes Villa (Cochabamba) and Maro Cossio (Tarija), landed in Miami before heading to Washington D.C., with additional plans to seek an audience at the United Nations in New York City.

While at the Miami airport, the group held a press conference at which Cochabamba governor Manfred Reyes told reporters that Bolivia was heading towards dictatorship and "the government plans to adopt a totalitarian constitution."

They publicly demanded that the Morales administration accept a mediator for the ongoing constitutional crisis, indicating that mediation from an international organization was necessary to remove an alleged threat of civil war.

Upon their departure, Morales urged the governors to return and engage in dialogue instead of leaving the country to seek solutions to Bolivia’s problems.

"The problems are not in the United States, but in Bolivia," said Morales.

The next stop on their itinerary was the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington D.C., where the four governors and representatives from an opposition political party in Chuquisaca, met with the Secretary General of OAS, José Miguel Insulza.

On Tuesday, while meeting with Inzulza, Tarija's governor Cossío, requested a mission of observers be sent to Bolivia in order to avoid a worsening of the crisis.

Insulza stated that the OAS was at the disposal of Bolivia to help solve their problems and not to act as an agitator. Insulza indicated that he will also consult with representatives from the Bolivian government and their views would be presented to the OAS Permanent Council to determine how the organization can best collaborate with Bolivia.

At issue, is the governors' claim that the drafted constitutional document is illegal because the assembly members needed a two-thirds majority rather than the simple majority represented by the 139 delegates gathered on November 24.

The prefects are also disgruntled by the passage of the “Bond Dignity” a new pension benefit that will provide income for all Bolivians older than 60 years of age, because the system will be partly financed from departmental budgets.

In a show of support for the opposition, protesters in Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni and Pando have gone on hunger strikes to oppose the new draft constitution.

Meanwhile, an integration and compatibility commission began operating Monday to outline the chapters of the future Constitution. The commission must still decide where the Assembly will continue to convene and finish out the detailed discussions of the document.

The new location could possibly be Oruro as its authorities, civic committees and organizations have offered guarantees for the safety of the Assembly members – a measure that the city of Sucre and its authorities were unable to deliver.