Monday, September 29, 2008

Morales Strengthens & the Media Luna Wanes

Sept 26 (digitalwarriormedia) Dialogue talks between the Bolivian government and opposition prefects remain suspended until Monday despite President Morales’ willingness to include some demands made by the opposition prefects (governors) of Beni, Pando, Tarija, Santa Cruz and Chuquisaca.

Last week before traveling to New York City for the 63rd General Assembly of the United Nations, Morales sent a signed proposal to the opposition. But the prefects refused to sign any agreement.

Morales returned to Cochabamba on Thursday seeking further dialogue on autonomy, the sharing of gas revenue from the Direct Hydrocarbon Tax and the proposed new constitution. These issues are central to the stall in political progress between the administration and opposition governors and are central to the protests, roadblocks and violence that erupted in Bolivia over the past several weeks.

Acts of Sedition and Treason

On Friday, the government implicated those responsible for the massacre in Pando on September 11 that left at least 17 dead. According to Presidential Minister Juan Quintana Ramona there was a network of people who attacked the peasant supporters of President Morales that were working under the direction of the now deposed prefect of Pando, Leopoldo Fernández.

Julio Cesar Villalobos, Director of the Provincial Road Service (Sedcam), was identified as the leader of the massacre. Eyewitness accounts from the ambushes at Porvenir and Philadelphia describe the presence of departmental road service vehicles and workers from Sedcam. Most of the names released on Friday were those of Sedcam officials or employees, but also implicated were civic leaders and prefect officials.

Cesar was in charge of the distributing vehicles, machinery, fuel and financial resources to mobilize people into municipalities and communities.

During a press conference at the Palacio Quemado on Friday, Quintana said the prefect used regional funds, presumably from the Direct Hydrocarbons Tax, to bribe the media and finance subversive activities perpetrated by members of the Civic Committee of Pando, Sedcam, peasants, motorbike drivers and even some of Fernández’s relatives.

Information that Fernadez was financing and training a paramilitary group in Pando date back as far as 2006.

Ex-prefect Fernández was arrested last Monday and is being held in the San Pedro prison in La Paz on charges of violating the constitution and promoting murder. Ana Melendez, chair of the Civic Committee of Pando has fled to neighboring Brazil. Currently Rear Admiral Rafael Bandeira serves as Pando’s interim prefect, appointed to the position by the Bolivian Supreme Court on September 20.

Meanwhile as the central government waits for the opposition prefects to return to the negotiating table, Indymedia Bolivia and ABI are reporting that Branco Marinkovic, head of the Civic Committee of Santa Cruz, is making his own regional tour of Latin America. Marinkovic traveled to Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Paraguay serving as a representative of CONALDE - a political-social organization made up by opposition prefects and regional civic committees - seeking regional alliances in what ABI has termed an effort to establish an “international protectorate”.

Interim Prefect in Cochabamba, Rafael Puente called CONALDE’s actions “unprecedented treachery,” drawing similarities to the separatist movement within Kosovo (ancestral homeland of Marinkovic) which sought autonomy from Yugoslavia. “This is an insult to Bolivia," said Puente.

Earlier this month, the opposition made attempts to expand its regional legitimacy by requesting participation in an emergency session of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) held on September 15. Meeting in Santiago, Chile, South American heads of state met to discuss the political crisis in Bolivia which is largely perpetrated by the activities of the rebel governors. The opposition sought an audience with the regional body as a way to mediate the crisis, but UNASUR rejected CONALDE’s request.

However this past Wednesday UNASUR held a follow-up meeting to address Bolivia’s crisis while several presidents were in New York City for the UN General Assembly. It was the first meeting for the regional group at an international agency.

Morales at the UN

Latin American heads of state used the world stage to display their growing regional integration and power.

On the platform of the world’s most high-level annual meeting, Chile’s Michelle Bachelet, Argentina’s Cristina Kirchner and Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula Da Silva each took the opportunity to explicitly express not only the support of their respective national governments, but also the support of the entire South American community for the democratically elected government of Evo Morales.

“The La Moneda Summit will forever symbolize the moment at which South American nations decided to strengthen their commitment to democracy, wherever it is threatened anywhere on the continent,” said Bachelet.

In his address before the 63rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, President Morales once again denounced the global capitalist system and the policies of the United States towards governments that seek true democracy.

For all of the U.S. government’s rhetoric in the War on Terrorism, the U.S. has still failed to condemn the acts of domestic terrorism that have taken place on Bolivian soil in recent weeks.

While speaking at a press conference at the United Nations on Tuesday evening, President Morales spoke at length about the new emerging identity of Latin America, recognizing the shift in political and economic policies led by the grassroots social movements of the people.

"In Bolivia and throughout Latin America there is a process of liberation underway and it can't be stopped. And its not because Evo Morales wants it. Many other leaders want it to. There's a great sense, a great feeling , an aspiration to liberate ourselves," said Morales.

When asked by a reporter about his charges of conspiracy against the U.S., Morales pulled out a laundry list of actions against him linked to the U.S. Embassy, which date back to at least 1996 when he was a union leader in the Chapare and included assassination attempts against him in 2002.

“We could tell you about so many instances but we want the American people to ask their government," said Morales, as he explained the reach of USAID which uses millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars for subversive purposes throughout his country.

"In the Middle East and Latin America, the policies of the U.S. will be defeated. Because capitalism does not provide solutions for the majority of humanity," explained Morales. "The people will move ahead with or without leaders. Think of the hunger, think of the inequality they suffer and that will compel these people to organize and rise up and this is happening in different parts of the world."


Monday, September 22, 2008

Bolivia's Crisis - A Week in Analysis

The Right-Wing Coup

  • Chossudovsky draws links between former U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia, Philip Goldberg, Kosovo and Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte who is “known as one of the main architects of regime change and covert support to paramilitary death squads both in Central America and Iraq”.

Read the full article here at Global Research


Bolivia: a Coup in the Making? by Jeffery R. Webber

  • “Bolivia on the Brink,” is a phrase too often uttered by passing journalists unaccustomed to the country’s regular politics of the streets. But events of the last two weeks cannot be passed off as the ordinary business of protest. Rather, a right-wing coup attempt is in the offing in the five departments (states) governed by the right-wing opposition to President Evo Morales, of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party.

Read the full article here at Counter Punch


A Matter of Morals, Not Morales: Respect Bolivia's Democracy! by Olivia Burlingame Goumbri

  • The tactics used by opponents of President Chavez during Venezuela's short-lived coup in 2002 are currently being replicated in a "civic coup" in neighboring Bolivia that is designed to undermine the democratic government of Evo Morales. That nation, though different from Venezuela in so many ways, seems to be travelling down a strikingly similar road, not least in terms of the role of the media in encouraging right-wing, anti-democratic opposition groups and the active support of that process by US officials.

Read the full article here on AlterNet



The Massacre in Pando


Reactionary Rampage: The Paramilitary Massacre in Bolivia by Forrest Hylton

  • The massacre in El Porvenir was the worst in Bolivia since right-wing President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada presided over the slaughter of more than 70 unarmed protestors in October 2003. This time, however, the violence was not orchestrated by the central government, but by regional officials: departmental prefects in league with civic committees. On September 11, death squads armed with sub-machine guns massacred unarmed Morales supporters on their way to a mass meeting in El Porvenir. The meeting had been called to discuss possible responses to increasingly violent attacks on government supporters. The central government was slow to react and hesitant when it finally did. In a televised interview, the presidential delegate in Pando, Nancy Texeira, asked in a halting voice choked by pain and sadness, “Why doesn’t the government in La Paz do anything? We have been abandoned here.”

Read the full article here in English at NACLA
Read the full article here in Spanish at Rebelión


Oscar Olivera, on the Pando Massacre by María Eugenia Flores Castro

  • Oscar Olivera, General Secretary of the Federation of Factory Workers of Cochabamba, together with organizations and unions from this department express their solidarity with their bothers and sisters in Pando.

Read full testimony here at Ukampacha Bolivia


Testimonials from the Pando Massacre

(English Translations)


Bolivia-U.S. Relations


A Profound Breakdown of Communication with Latin America L. Birns & R. Rivero

  • In an extraordinary shift from a decades-long hegemonic status-quo during which Washington exercised de facto hemispheric supremacy, the U.S. role has dramatically diminished, at times becoming almost irrelevant. Washington cannot continue to conduct itself as if it had a backyard in which Latin America could be firmly found. The U.S. has been absent from the region for far too long to attempt to roll back the tide of anti-private capital, anti-U.S. sentiment that has swept over much of the region. In its stead, the region yearns for a “third way” and for change. The near breakdown of relations between Washington and La Paz in the midst of the Bolivia crisis, perfectly exemplifies the disastrous consequences of the inherent intolerance and disrespect that the U.S. has long exhibited towards the region.

Read the full article here on Council on Hemispheric Affairs


U.S. Ties to Bolivian Opposition "Shrouded in Secrecy" By Haider Rizvi

  • Critics of U.S. foreign policy towards Latin America and the Andean region voiced deep concern over the George W. Bush administration's reluctance to disclose details regarding the amount of U.S. funding and its recipients in Bolivia.

Read the full article here on Inter-Press Services

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

UNASUR Shows Morales Unwavering Support

Sept 16 (digitalwarriormedia) Yesterday, during an emergency meeting of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), Bolivia ’s President Evo Morales told his fellow heads of state that the opposition had just attempted a coup against his government.

Gathering in Santiago, Chile at the urgent calling of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, representatives from 12 countries in South America responded to Bolivia ’s internal crisis that threatens trade and stability in the region.

Weeks of roadblocks, coordinated by anti-government protestors and instigated by the opposition-led National Democratic Council (CONALDE) have disrupted trade between Bolivia and neighboring Argentina and Paraguay.

Last week pipelines to Brazil were sabotaged, resulting in at least a 10% drop in natural gas exports. Brazil receives 50% of its gas from Bolivia.

Anti-government protesters sacked and looted government buildings in five provinces last week, attacking the police and the military. The worse incident occurred in Porvenir, near the capital city of Cobija in the northeastern province of Pando. Paramilitaries ambushed a group of government supporters with automatic weapons, leaving at least 15 dead and over 100 wounded.

UNASUR unanimously condemned the actions of the opposition governors and threw their support behind President Morales.

The meeting was attended by: Cristina Fernandez (Argentina); Lula da Silva (Brazil); Alvaro Uribe (Colombia), Rafael Correa (Ecuador), Fernando Lugo (Paraguay); Tabaré Vázquez (Uruguay) and Hugo Chávez (Venezuela), as well as representatives from Suriname and Guyana, and the Foreign Minister of Peru, Jose Antonio Garcia Belaunde.

Last night, President Bachelet read aloud the Declaration of the Palacio de La Moneda - an 8-point manifesto that was unanimously signed and adopted by all 9 heads of state in attendance. The regional bloc also created a commission to investigate the massacre in Pando.

Morales expressed his appreciation for the solidarity that the regional body, individual governments and social organizations had shown in the wake of Bolivia ’s current political crisis.

“I want you to know that my government, together with the social movements, only works to seek equality for all Bolivians, profound transformations in the social and cultural structure, and in democracy,” said Morales.

He said what had happened in recent days was undemocratic and the actions of these groups had violated human rights.

Justice Sought

According to Mario Uribe, Bolivia 's chief prosecutor, Governor Leopoldo Fernandez and other top officials in Pando, will be charged with genocide for provoking "a bloody massacre."

Four survivors of the massacre at Porvenir gave testimony that the paramilitaries were organized into groups that ambushed the marchers at three different places and pursued people as they tried to carry their wounded into the woods, shooting indiscriminately.

Meanwhile in La Paz, more than a thousand government supporters marched on the U.S. Embassy yesterday, burning an American flag and chanting anti-American slogans while demanding justice for those massacred in Pando. Bolivians also marched in the city of El Alto denouncing Governor Fernandez and calling for his arrest.

The army arrested 10 people on Monday accused of organizing anti-government protests in Cobija. Reports from the Bolivian government indicate that some of the gunmen from Pando have escaped to neighboring Brazil. The Brazilian government has been asked for cooperation in finding and detaining the perpetrators.

UPDATE: The prefect of Pando, Leopoldo Fernandez Ferreira, was arrested at around 11:00 am on Tuesday as he boarded an aircraft, presumably headed to La Paz, although this information was not confirmed by any official source.

Fernandez did not put up any resistance to the military operation. He is accused of being the ringleader of a conspiracy that led to the slaughter of peasants in the region of Porvenir, Pando. In a press conference, President Morales said the ambush of his supporters last week left at least 15 dead and 37 injured.

Anti-Morales activists seized buildings last week in Pando and three other states to protest a planned vote on a new constitution granting greater power to Bolivia's poor indigenous majority.

According to Morales, the arrest was made pursuant to constitutional and legal norms governing the country, in particular Articles 111 and 112 of the Magna Carta.

(Sources: AP and Agencia Boliviana de Informacion - ABI)


Monday, September 15, 2008

The Bloodiest Slaughter in Bolivia’s Democracy

"The Indian may fall, but the Bolivian people will not fall. The people's revolution will not fall. We will defend this process of change no matter what it costs." - Bolivian President Evo Morales

Sept. 13 (digitalwarriormedia) - A week of violence in Bolivia ended with almost 30 dead and more than 100 wounded. As more details come to light the number of deaths and injuries continues to be revised.

Throughout the week groups associated with the prefectures (governors) of Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni and Pando took over and looted government agencies, clashing with the military and police forces.

Anti-government protestors made up of youth and civic groups, demanded the replacement of 30 percent of departmental income that the central government takes from local hydrocarbon revenues to pay for a national elderly pension program.

President Morales was forced to declare martial law on Friday in the northeastern department of Pando after marching campesinos were attacked near the town of Porvenir on Thursday by an armed anti-government paramilitary group.

The presidential decree issued for Pando, banned protests, limited public gatherings and initiated a curfew from midnight-to-6 a.m. throughout the province. Police and military units were deployed throughout the capital city of Cobija to prevent further violence.

The Morales administration blamed the violence on Pando’s Governor, Leopold Fernandez, and said the governor was responsible for hiring “thugs” to attack peasants and supporters of the government. Meanwhile Governor Fernandez blamed the deaths on the campesinos.

The initial death toll from the attack at Tres Barracades was at least 9 with dozens injured, but that number has quickly grown as bodies are found in the area.

Crimes Against Humanity

Most of the individuals killed on Thursday were peasant supporters of President Morales. "These people were massacred," said Morales during a press conference in La Paz on Saturday.

Eyewitnesses say a group of about a thousand government supporters were marching through the woods towards Cobija when they encountered a roadblock.

Antonio Moreno told the Associated Press that there was some fighting between the two groups — mostly with clubs and rocks — when a man emerged from a vehicle and fired on peasants with a submachine gun.Moreno said the campesinos “fled to the mountain, while others jumped into the river".

According to Roberto Tito, a survivor of the attack, there were snipers in the trees that shot indiscriminately on the crowd of men, women and children. He said the culprits were employees of the prefecture and of the Provincial Road Service. Tito said he lost about 10 friends in the ambush.

Abraham Cuellar, a Senator from Pando, said people fled from the road into the woods asking for help and some were found and killed.

The death toll from Thursday's clash was expected to rise as authorities continued to encounter more dead and wounded.

A story in Bolivia’s La Razon indicates that some wounded survivors of the attack, who are being treated at the city’s hospital, are afraid for their lives. They received death threats saying they will be killed if the military decided to take control of the entire city.

"The magnitude of the slaughter that occurred in Porvenir exceeds the slaughter of October 2003 in El Alto, where there were 60 dead, and Porvenir is approaching thirty. If we make a comparison with the population of El Alto and Pando,” said Prime Minister, Alfredo Rada, “then we are facing the most bloody slaughter that has occurred during {Bolivia’s} period of democracy.”

Pando, Bolivia’s least populated province, has a population of approximately 60,000 inhabitants whereas El Alto is the second largest Bolivian city with a population of more than 890,000.

While making remarks at the Presidential Palace on Friday, Morales called the attack, “crimes against humanity”. The government demanded that the Congress initiate an investigation of the acts of genocide.

International Support and Regional Unity

After Morales declared U.S. ambassador Philip Goldberg a “persona no grata” on Wednesday, other Latin American countries have responded with their support.

Honduran President said he is denying the credentials of the new U.S. ambassador to his country. Venezuela expelled U.S. ambassador Patrick Duddy from Caracas and President Chavez recalled his Venezuelan envoy from the U.S.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega says he will reject an invitation to meet with President Bush at a Central American Summit out of "solidarity" with Bolivia. Argentina, Chile and Brazil have also issued expressions of solidarity with Bolivia and support for President Morales.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet called an emergency meeting of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) in Santiago, Chile for Monday. UNASUR issued a statement last week that condemned the continuation of acts of violence in some departments within Bolivia.

As of late Sunday it was unclear how many heads of state would be able to attend the UNASUR meeting, including President Morales.

Other organizations expressing statements in support of the democratic process in Bolivia were the United Nations, Organization of American States, and the European Union.

Chavez said he would send troops to Bolivia if the opposition attempted a coup against Morales. However, any external intervention has thus far been rejected by the central government and military forces.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, U.S. ambassador to Bolivia, Philip Goldberg, denied the accusations made against him stating that they were “false and unjustified”. Morales said the U.S. Embassy was fomenting division in Bolivia by funding opposition groups with the assistance of USAID.

More Dialogue

Although the violence of the past week can be attributed to the funding and organization of the anti-government opposition, the central government has continued to call for dialogue.

Talks were expected to commence at 6 pm on Sunday at the Governmental Place in La Paz.

Tarija’s governor, Mario Cossio, will serve as representative for the opposition.
On Sunday, Presidential Minister Juan Ramón Quintana stated that the government was willing to send an aircraft to bring Cossio to La Paz.

As the weekend came to a close the emergency actions were constrained to Pando. President Morales indicated that the government did not anticipate extending the state of emergency to other parts of the country.

"If the prefects return the public institutions and end the attacks against national resources, in other words, gas pipelines and refineries, the government would not declare a state of siege in other provinces," he said.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Suspension of the 9th CLACPI Festival in Bolivia

Violence & racism quell the indigenous film festival in Santa Cruz
La Paz, Sept. 10, 2008

The violence experienced on September 9 in the city of Santa Cruz has forced organizers to suspend, for security issues, the events planned in this city to launch the IX International Festival of Indigenous Peoples Film and Video. Following occupations by "civic" groups of the opposition of different Public institutions and communication media centers related to the government, fearing potential attacks to participants of the festival. These have reasons forced the indigenous organizations to suspend the Festival in Santa Cruz.

Since 1985, the Coordinator of Latin American Cinema and Communication Indigenous Peoples, CLACPI, alongside indigenous organizations and allies of different countries, promotes the development of International Film and Video Festivals of Indigenous Peoples. In this edition, violence and intolerance Have silenced the message of Indigenous and originating in many parts of the world.

After the triumph of violence and unreason, the festival has little choice but to now move on to the city of La Paz, where the film "The Cry of the Jungle", the first indigenous feature film produced in Bolivia, was planned to start next Sunday September 14. This film narrates the struggle of indigenous peoples Defending their territory in the Bolivian Amazon in the face of subjugation suffered at the hands of large landowners. These landowners and other opposition groups are precisely those who now seek to halt the process of empowerment of indigenous peoples living in our country.

However, hardline opposition violence will not prevent the Ninth International Festival of Film and Video of Indigenous Peoples from: asserting full social, political and cultural recognition of indigenous peoples; highlighting the value of images and communication that uphold a pluralistic world in which Indigenous peoples can build the future we seek; motivate the production of film and Video works that give voice to indigenous peoples and that portray indigenous Peoples with dignity; strengthening the ties that bind and Native and non-indigenous people from different continents fighting for a more just world and for the full recognition of self-determination rights.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

"Twenty Families Are Obstructing Governability"

Franz Chávez
LA PAZ, Sep 10 (IPS) - The Bolivian government's determination to hold a referendum, by presidential decree, on a new constitution that it hopes will "re-found" the nation as a "plurinational state," has ceded to pressure from the rightwing opposition. The vote has been postponed several weeks, and Congress will be setting the rules.

Leftwing Bolivian President Evo Morales sought approval from Congress to change the date of the referendum from Dec. 7 to Jan. 25, 2009. But he would need the votes of at least 20 of the 56 lawmakers belonging to the rightwing Social and Democratic Power (Podemos) party.

The National Electoral Court (CNE) ruled that the referendum could not be held without parliamentary approval and forced President Morales to withdraw his original decree, issued after a massive showing of public support in the Aug. 10 recall referendum, in which he took 67 percent of the vote.

The official results announced by the CNE gave Morales a majority of the votes in 82 of the country's 98 provinces, which are subdivisions of its nine departments (regions). Nationwide, he garnered 2.1 million of 3.1 million votes.

It is precisely this avalanche of votes, the greatest proportion won by a president since the restoration of democracy in 1982, that raises questions for sociology Professor Joaquín Saravia, who told IPS that "The government appears insecure, because it has overwhelming social and political support, but this has not translated into real control of the country, which is alarming," he said.

The head of the governing Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) parliamentary group, César Navarro, said that democratic changes being promoted by the government are resisted by the elites, who are accustomed to lives of privilege and benefiting from the state.

Morales and his team have called on their supporters to hold counter-demonstrations against the roadblocks set up 17 days ago by the rightwing opposition on the borders with Argentina and Paraguay and south of La Paz. The opposition is threatening to extend the traffic blockades to highways leading to Brazil, in the eastern department of Santa Cruz.

So far the conflicts have occurred hundreds of kilometres away from the largest cities, like Santa Cruz, Cochabamba and La Paz, which have traditionally been scenarios for the social protests or military coups d'etat that toppled governments throughout Bolivia's 183 years of history as an independent nation.

Although serious difficulties in transporting fuel make it likely that cities near the roadblocks will run out of petrol and cooking gas in less than a week, the government remains calm while keeping a close eye on the protests.

The initial goal of the roadblock protests in the wealthier natural gas-producing provinces in the east was to demand reimbursement to the regions of 49 million dollars in natural gas taxes that the central government had diverted to a monthly pension of 26 dollars a month for the elderly.

But the main aim now is to block the referendum on the new constitution, which includes a legal limit on the size of "latifundios" (huge landed estates).

Professor Saravia estimates that the opposition movement, made up of business organisations, rightwing parties and pro-business and agribusiness Civic Committees, is led and orchestrated by just 20 families of landowners and industrialists. However, they have the power to obstruct governability for the first indigenous president in the history of Bolivia.

Fifty-five percent of Bolivians are indigenous people, mainly Quechua and Aymara, and a further 30 percent are mestizos (of mixed indigenous and European ancestry). The remaining 15 percent of the population is white, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Factbook.

Saravia said he was deeply concerned that in the absence of a government capable of maintaining public order, activists on both the right and the left may try to take the solution of the conflict into their own hands, using violent means. The outcome would be impossible to predict, he said.

"The government is behaving short-sightedly and irresponsibly, because social unrest is growing, and the violent protests are violating the rule of law and showing disrespect for the police and the armed forces," he said.

The opposition has been using radical rightwing youth groups to occupy public offices by force, triggering violent clashes with the security forces guarding the buildings. On Tuesday the airport at Cobija, the departmental capital of Pando, north of La Paz, was still occupied by opposition demonstrators.

Government buildings have been taken over in the southern city of Tarija and also in the small northeastern city of Trinidad, the capital of Beni, where the landing strip was occupied as well Tuesday, according to press reports.

Under these circumstances, "the last recourse of the state for imposing the rule of law and defending the constitution is the armed forces, which will be called out if there is widespread violence," he said.

José Antonio Aruquipa of Podemos, a member of the constituent assembly which rewrote the constitution, told IPS that the president's decree for a constitutional referendum is a way of imposing his draft constitution, which "may be divisive and provoke a confrontation."

Ahead of the parliamentary debate, Aruquipa is demanding that the draft constitution be revised, while reiterating his procedural objections to the manner in which the draft text received its final approval in the city of Oruro, on Dec. 9, 2007.

The new constitution was passed by over two-thirds of the constituent assembly with very little discussion, at a marathon all-night session that was boycotted by the rightwing opposition..

The government has called a march by social movements and trade unions which is to arrive at La Paz on Wednesday, Sept. 16, in order to exert pressure on Congress during the debate on the constitutional referendum bill.


Bolivian Ambassador: "persona non grata"

(digitalwarriormedia-New York) US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement that Washington "officially informed the government of Bolivia of our decision to declare Ambassador Gustavo Guzman persona non grata.

The United States offical statement was as follows:

``In response to the unwarranted action and in accordance with the Vienna Convention, we have officially informed the government of Bolivia of our decision to declare Ambassador Gustavo Guzman persona non grata,'' said Heide Bronke, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department.

Guzman on negotiating with the World Bank.


Domestic Terrorism Rocks Bolivia

The right-wing opposition has taken to acts of terrorism with anti-government groups attacking government buildings in several Bolivian cities and sabotaging a natural gas pipeline to neighboring Brazil.

Yesterday a gas pipeline attacked by anti-government protestors in the department of Tarija has reduced Bolivia’s natural gas exports to Brazil by as much as 10 percent, or about 3 million cubic meters per day.

In a press conference, Presidential Minister Juan Ramón Quintana and interim president of Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB), Santos Ramirez, condemned the acts as terrorism and blamed right-wing prefects and civic committees for prompting the attacks.

According to Finance Minister Luis Alberto Arce, repairs to the pipeline could take up to 15 days to fully restore gas shipments to Brazil. Arce said military security for Bolivia’s natural gas operations is being doubled.

Brazil gets half of its natural gas from Bolivia and official statements from Brazil indicate that the nation will have to take emergency measures to counter the shortage.

Ramírez said the decrease in export volumes will cost Bolivia on average, $8 million per day. These costs will be covered by prefects and civic committees that have instigated and supported these attacks.

Parts of the country are already experiencing diesel shortages following weeks of anti-government road blockades that have stalled trade between Bolivia and neighboring Argentina and Paraguay.

Domestic Violence

On Tuesday more than 600 members of the Unión Juvenil Cruceñista (UJC) and other opposition groups - armed with sticks, stones, and explosives - stormed and looted several government buildings in the city of Santa Cruz.

Protesters clashed with the military and police officers who attempted to keep the protestors at bay and prevent looting at the Servicio de Impuestos Internos(Internal Revenue Service) offices, the Governmental Entity for Land Reform (INRA) and state-owned telecommunication company ENTEL.

When the military forces withdrew, the mob looted computers, telephones, televisions and other equipment from the state offices. They also burned documents at the Internal Revenue Service offices and even stole a police motorcycle.

According to the radio station Red Patria Nueva, the UJC members, employees of the prefect of Santa Cruz and COTAS workers attacked military officers while chanting “autonomy”.

Last week, President Morales called for the unity of the Bolivian people against the “civil coup” that threatens the country.

Leaders of the CONALDE group - made up of the opposition prefects of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, Tarija and Chuquisaca as well as their civic committee supporters – claim that the only way out of the present conflict is a return of hydrocarbon revenue and an end to the central government’s pursuit of a constitutional referendum vote on December 7.

compiled & derived from various wire services


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The U.S. Ambassador's expulsion

The US ambassador to Bolivia has been ordered to leave the country by President Evo Morales

Mr Morales accused Philip Goldberg of supporting the opposition and encouraging the division of the country.

He said the foreign minister would inform Mr Goldberg that he "should return to his country at once".

Morales, saying he ``isn't afraid of the empire,'' gave the speech at the presidential palace hours after the government blamed opposition groups in eastern Bolivia for damaging a natural gas pipeline to Brazil, the newswire reported.

via wire services


Thursday, September 04, 2008

Interview with Former Bolivian Justice Minister Casimira Rodríguez


Casimira Rodríguez spent decades organizing her fellow domestic workers into a union, which she founded in 1985. When Bolivian Evo Morales was elected president of Bolivia, he tapped Rodríguez to become the nation's Justice Minister, a post she held for year. She spoke with Nancy Romer about her experience in government, the opposition to the government, the president's relationship with social movements, and even offered advice to U.S. workers.

Rushing in from another meeting in downtown Cochabamba, Bolivia, Casimira Rodríguez settled into her chair in the garden of a restaurant near the public Universidad Autónoma de San Simeon. Her traditional indigenous dress, a wide, crinoline skirt and peasant blouse, frames her strong facial features and intense, intelligent eyes. After years of union organizing and a stint in government, she’s obviously used to back-to-back appointments and collects herself immediately.

Casimira Rodríguez was a founding organizer of the Bolivian domestic workers’ union, Trabajadoras del Hogar, in 1985. It was the height of the neoliberal, free market frenzy in Latin America—a difficult time to be starting a union of any kind. But after several years of traumatic experiences as a domestic worker in Cochabamba, she developed a plan to organize these most exploited and oppressed women workers.

Rodríguez was catapulted into the international spotlight in 2006, when recently elected president Evo Morales appointed her as his first Minister of Justice, a post she held for a year. She was asked to step down following complaints that she did not have sufficient legal training. Some critics have suggested that Casimira’s dismissal was a response by Morales to pressure against his extensive placement of indigenous leaders in powerful positions. She quickly became a public symbol of the power of indigenous women and workers. I interviewed Casimira Rodríguez at the end of June 2006.

We spoke as the nation was gearing up for a nationwide recall referendum on Morales’ tenure and that of the “prefectures” (or governors) of the departments on August 10. Morales easily kept the presidency with 67 percent of the vote in his favor. But several of the opposition prefectures were also strongly endorsed in the referendum. Struggle continues between the Morales/MAS forces and the right-wing leaders of the eastern provinces who want more autonomy from the central government, giving them the power to keep the profits from the region’s enormous gas reserves.

Please tell me about your work organizing domestic workers in Bolivia.

Starting in the 1980’s, we in Bolivia began to fight for our rights as domestic workers and as women and to eliminate discrimination. We brought these demands for domestic workers, the right to fair pay, to safety on the job, to basic labor rights, to the Bolivian Workers’ Central organization (COB) in 1991-92 and then began our struggle to win our rights.

What is your relationship to Evo Morales and the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party?

Evo raised the role of domestic workers and women. He asked me to serve as his first Minister of Justice in 2006. Many were afraid that I didn’t have the credentials as I am not a lawyer and just a domestic worker organizer. But Evo said that we are challenging the system and role of women and creating a new independent society and government. I accepted the position to bring back hope and dignity for women and indigenous people. It was a beautiful experience. Women were so happy about my role. We accomplished a Declaration of the Rights of Domestic Workers. The Ministry of Workers created a program to fight violence against domestic workers and others as well. Evo is interested in health, education and jobs for all which is historic for Bolivia.

What do you think you accomplished in your year of office as Minister of Justice?

In general, we were able to elevate “community justice” which is traditional indigenous justice to a higher level. We were also able to elevate the position of women. Human rights were codified and corruption was attacked and decreased. We worked toward increased transparency in all government functions to get rid of corruption and build public trust. While we were not completely successful in routing out all corruption, which is a legacy of colonialism, we were able to make some progress. It will be a long process to succeed completely. We have been successful in raising the position and dignity of indigenous peoples, but racism against us still exists and it will take a long time to rid our nation of this as well. Before, indigenous peoples had no access to power or justice; now we do.

For domestic workers, we were able to establish health care, certification for work, and evaluation processes of workers and employers. We were able to establish a Bill of Rights on March 30, 2006, that defines human rights, rights for indigenous peoples, the values of our communities, the right to justice without payment (so that money no longer equals access to justice), rapid access to justice for all, and elimination of corruption. We have codified an end to discrimination against women and indigenous peoples. Many men did not like having to share power with women but now it is being accepted more.

Do you have any regrets about being in the job of Minister of Justice for just one year?

My only regret is that I didn’t have enough time to finish my work. I wasn’t in complete agreement with Vice-President Linera who has a lot of influence in the running of the government although Evo had the last word on everything. It was a great experience for me.

Please tell me what issues are now involved in the anti-MAS movement for autonomy.

The wealthy people in the wealthier departments (states) want to hold onto all their resources and the money that comes from it. They don’t want to elevate the entire nation, just themselves. To them, “autonomy” means keeping their money and resources to themselves, hoarding from the rest of Bolivia.

Many of the forces on the left are discontented with Evo. Why?

I think they need to understand the process of change, the importance and magnitude of the process of change. It takes a long time to make the changes that we need. Others are not happy because they feel they don’t have enough power. We still need to implement many more changes and people are impatient. Hour by hour things change and we have to keep making adjustments in our work. There are a lot of factions on the left and each has their own criticisms.

Some people say that MAS has tried to take the place of the social movements and has decreased the power of the social movements.

I don’t agree with this criticism. Many of the leaders of the social movements are now in the government. There are constant meetings of the Ministers with the social movements. Many of the social movements want more—each wants its own demands. Evo can’t give everything to each of the movements. There are too many different demands. But Evo is doing the best that he can and needs the support of the nation and the social movements to make the changes necessary over time.

What have been the connections between the Bolivia and US domestic workers' movements?

I first started my contact with the US domestic workers movement in 2003 when I first went to Washington, DC and met with supportive women there. I met with a Bolivian woman who was working in a diplomat’s home and was being abused. The Ambassador of Bolivia was very helpful and made many contacts for me. Also Casa Maryland, a Methodist women’s organization, helped as well. This particular woman was able to reclaim her life.

Because of diplomatic immunity there are many young girls who are undocumented and abused in the homes of diplomats from all over the world. The alliance between me, Casa Maryland, and the Bolivian Embassy helped to initiate change for domestic workers in diplomats’ homes.

Do you have any advice for U.S. domestic workers?

The biggest problems for domestic workers in the United States are that they are not documented and have no rights as immigrants. They need laws and rights. It’s great that they are starting to organize in all the places in the United States. They must get support from all the women’s and workers’ organizations. But without papers it’s hard to demand their rights. They need papers for documentation.

There is a double discourse and double values around immigrant domestic workers. Many domestic workers live like slaves, often particularly oppressed by other women in the house. It is a question of justice.

Many middle class and professional women in the US depend on third-world women and women of color to perform the jobs defined as those of women. What do you think about this contradiction between women in different social positions? Can we overcome them?

There is a great division in civilization of the proper division of work and distribution of money and power. The psychological relationships between people can often be colonial, extending colonialism into the family and workplace… We need to create alliances among us. We especially need to teach boys so they will not be abusive or sexist; right now they are learning terrible things from the relationships between men and women, between domestic workers and their parents. They are learning that a person is not a person and that hierarchy is allowable. We must change this. All of us together.

Nancy Romer is professor of psychology at Brooklyn College and executive director of the Brooklyn College Community Partnership. She is University-Wide Officer of the Professional Staff Congress, representing the 20,000 faculty and professional staff of the City University of New York. She would like to thank Elizabeth Siles for arranging and supporting this interview throughout.


Monday, September 01, 2008

Ongoing Opposition & A New Decree

Sept 2 - (digitalwarriormedia) As President Morales travels to Libya and Iran to shore up foreign relations, the scene in Bolivia is increasingly polarized following a presidential decree on Friday that Bolivians will vote on a new constitution this December.

Regional leaders, civic and political opposition rejected the measure that calls for a multiple referendum on December 7 and announced tough resistance, civil disobedience and a commitment to step up road blockades already being carried out.

Within 24 hours of Morales issuing Decree 29691, violent conflicts occurred in several cities throughout the country.

The measure calls for votes on the nation’s constitution as well as the prefects (governors) of Cochabamba and La Paz, sub-prefects and departmental councilors.

Violence Escalates

Incidents against government supporters - initiated by ultra right wing opposition groups - have left several injured. These incidents are just the latest in a series of skirmishes between opposition groups and pro-Morales supporters in August.

One clash, occurred a block from the main square in the city of Santa Cruz, when a group of MAS members marching in celebration of the government decree, tried to enter the city square.

More than 500 MAS members were overtaken by approximately 100 autonomy supporters, some armed with sticks and other weapons.

According to Cochabamba paper, Los Tiempos, several women were beaten, even many who were not involved with the march, but were attacked because they were identified as peasants by their skirts.

In retaliation, a group of MASistas attacked the vehicle of Carlos Dabdoub, Secretary of Autonomy and Decentralization of the Santa Cruz Prefecture, breaking the car’s windows and beating the official.

And in Villamontes, a group of citizens affiliated with MAS, participated in a march demanding an end to the blockades in that city and were assaulted by blockers armed with stones, sticks and other blunt objects. The assault resulted in a clash between both sides that left five people injured.

Blockades called by the National Democratic Council (CONALDE) went into effect on August 19, with the aim of forcing the central government to return local hydrocarbon revenues to the regional departments.

Return of $166 million in revenues from the Direct Hydrocarbon Tax (IDH) remains one of the opposition’s strongest demands. Meanwhile the central government is using the funds to finance social programs such as the Renta Dignidad - a pension for all Bolivians over the age of 60.

Hundreds of trucks were left stranded on the Argentine side of the border, many of them with diesel destined for southern and eastern Bolivia.

According to Enrique Martinez, Chairman of the Bolivian Transportation Chamber, blockades in the regions of Villamontes, Yacuiba and Camiri have halted more than 1,200 trucks, causing shortages of diesel in the Santa Cruz department and as well as disrupted trade between Bolivia and neighboring Argentina and Paraguay.

Last weekend, President Morales ordered troops to secure oil and gas facilities in the eastern regions of Bolivia.

Regional Rejection

Ruben Costas, prefect of Santa Cruz, said that the five autonomous regions (Santa Cruz, Tarija, Pando, Beni and Chuquisaca) will launch civil resistance to the government decree and will not hold the referendum and will continue to take action that will deepen their autonomy.

The opposition calls the government’s latest actions unconstitutional, illegal and undemocratic.

And in Cochabamba, the civic committee also rejected the decree and the appointment of the new interim prefect, Rafael Puente. A departmental mobilization is planned for September 4 to demonstrate opposition to the central government.

For & Against the Decree

Faced with the violent events that occurred yesterday, there are some voices other than the opposition governors that are calling for a repeal of the decree.

The Central Obrera Boliviana (COB) warned that the national referendum decree and approval of draft the new Constitution of the State, was premature and created more clashes in the country.

And on Sunday, Waldo Albarracin, Public Ombudsman, condemned the attacks by both opposition and government supporters.

The human rights activist urged the Morales administration to rescind the decree to stop the violence and called for establishing a dialogue and consensus on both sides in order to avert deaths in the country.

Meanwhile social organizations in support of the decree designated September 13 for commencing a campaign to familiarize the draft constitution and win support for its passage in the December 7 referendum.

According to Fidel Furrow, Executive Secretary of the Confederation of Trade Unions of Bolivia (CSCB), the campaign will begin in Cochabamba with union leaders educating their members throughout the country.