Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bolivia: Looking Forward

Jan 27 - LA PAZ (digitalwarriormedia) - International observers are virtually unanimous on the conduct of Bolivia’s referendum vote on Sunday, which went smoothly and without any violence.

“We did not see any irregularities that could affect the outcome of the vote.” said Dr. Jennifer McCoy, Director of the Americas program at the Carter Center during a press conference on Tuesday. “This is a very important, democratic experiment for all of the Hemisphere to watch.”

As a special envoy for President Jimmy Carter, Dr. McCoy supervised a mission that sent observers into both rural and urban areas in the departments of La Paz, Santa Cruz and Tarija.

The Carter Center was one of several international agencies that arrived in Bolivia at the behest of the Bolivian government to observe and report on the referendum voting process.

Calls of fraud on the part of the opposition have been virtually quelled by reports issued from the Organization of American States (OAS), Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), the Carter Center, Southern Common Market (Mercosur) and the European Union.

About 300 observers attended the vote, which National Electoral Court President Jose Luis Exeni said was “the greatest presence of international observers in Bolivia’s democratic history.”

With almost 87% of the votes counted as of Tuesday evening – 100% from the departments of Pando, Beni and Cochabamba – the numbers demonstrate that the 60-40 victory called early on January 25 is secure.

Moving Forward

The opposition prefects of the eastern lowland departments of Beni, Pando, Tarija, Santa Cruz and Chuquisaca note that the 60% approval of the constitution indicates Morales has lost support since winning a national recall referendum by 67% in August of last year.

It has emboldened the opposition leadership to say it is necessary for the central government to work with the departmental leadership to avoid polarizing the country.

Initial reports indicate that Morales has rejected calls by the opposition prefects to reach a pact between their departments and the central government. Morales has said that his priority is to implement the constitution as it stands.

For 12 hours on Tuesday, Morales, cabinet members, and some social movement leaders met in Huajchilla - about 7.5 miles outside of the center city of La Paz –to lay out a strategy for implementing the new Political Constitution of the State (CPE).

According to Minster of State Recuperation Hector Arce, "All agreements have to be established, through the New Constitution, which wasn’t approved by Congress, or any assembly, but by the Bolivian people, and our Government has to respect responsibly this decision.

The OAS and European Union have called on both sides to reach an agreement of compromise. Stalemates between both sides over the drafting of the constitution led to violence that left several dead since the Constituent Assembly convened in August 2006.

"I appeal to all parties," said European Commissioner for External Relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, "for dialogue and to build consensus for the development of the country."

In the days leading up to the referendum vote Morales and his supporters have stressed the importance of improving Bolivia for the majority of its diverse population. They have called for peace and a desire for the ongoing change taking place in the country. Regardless of the margin of victory in this vote in comparison to the approval vote for Morales to stay in office last year, 60 percent of the Bolivian people have spoken and that is the decision that should be respected.

Photos: Digtal Warrior Media

To follow Bolivia's official electoral count in real time with statistics and graphs,
visit the Corte Electoral Nacionale website here.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Bolivia's Referendum Results - What Next?

LA PAZ (digitalwarriormedia) – Coming off of the euphoric high of yesterday’s vote that passed a new constitution for Bolivia – today was another normal day in La Paz. Just as in the days before Sunday’s vote, used car workers maintained their vigilant lunchtime street march to reject a recent government ban on used car imports.

Accurate number results from the referendum remain a moving target as the National Electoral Court (CNE) continues to count ballots.

According to the latest information from the CNE – the constitution has passed 59.53% to 40.43% nation-wide with 90% voter participation rate.*

It is the first time in 183 years - and 15 different constitutions - that the Bolivian people had the opportunity to vote on the future structure of their country.

And while Bolivia’s vote made world-wide headlines, most media chose to focus on the same narrow descriptions of constitutional changes.
Journalists from around the globe descended upon Bolivia to cover the constitutional referendum and many had the same story to tell…that Bolivia will remain polarized because the new constitution grants more power to Bolivia’s indigenous people.

Few mention some of the progressive social pacts between the government and all Bolivians – namely entitlements for the elderly and school-aged children, universal healthcare, education, the right to water and basic services such as electricity.

While stories simply note that the government will have greater control of the Bolivian economy, those constitutional provisions are a necessity given the central government's promise of services in Latin America's second poorest country.

At a time when developed nations are throwing hundreds of billions of dollars at banks and investment houses - with few or little conditions - nationalizing certain sectors in the Bolivian economy may be wiser than following free market capitalism. Bolivia already has a mired relationship with the economic prescriptions of foreign nations and multinationals.

The pre-amble to the document addresses the plurality of Bolivian society but also recognizes the particularness of its indigenous people who have been discriminated against since the time of Spanish colonialism.
In a country where 60% of the population voted in favor of the constitution, calls for polarization -mostly from the descendants of the wealthy European elite -indicate their unwillingness to observe the democratic majority of Bolivia.

On Sunday night, while addressing a jubilant crowd of thousands at the Plaza Murillo, Morales said the new constitution would put an end to neoliberalism and re-found Bolivia. However the process could take up to 100 acts of Congress, according to reports from the Morales administration.

Tomorrow, Morales, his cabinet and deputy ministers begin the arduous job of bringing Bolivia’s legislature within the framework of the new political constitution of the state.

* The most up-to-date vote results are in real-time based upon ongoing count by Bolivia's National Electoral Count (CNE).

Photos: CNE and Digital Warrior Media


Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Vote to Refound Bolivia

LA PAZ (digitalwarriormedia) Jan. 25 - Pachamama smiled on the city this Sunday as people headed to the polls to vote for Bolivia's new constitution.

It was a beautiful day in La Paz and in several voting stations, Bolivians expressed their desire to see the passage of the constitution in today's vote. For many, this is a grand expression of democracy and the best opportunity for a hopeful future in Bolivia.

Throughout the city and in neighboring El Alto, the polls were filled with families who brought their children, elderly parents and even their pets to enjoy Bolivia's historic day.

A ban on cars and buses left the streets empty of traffic, but children and adults alike took advantage of the slow rhthym of the day by playing impromptu games of soccer, skateboarding or riding their bicycles in the city streets.

International observers from the Organization of American States and the European Union were readily seen about the city. More than 300 international observers arrived in Bolivia to ensure the transperancy and authenticity of today's referendum.

At one polling station in El Alto a confrontation erupted between supporters of the constitution and the MNR party. The confrontation was only verbal as MNR party members, sporting hats and armbands, tried to denounce the administration of the vote - calling it a fraud.

Those in support of the constitution demanded that MNR members respect the process and that they were violating polling station rules by wearing their party paraphenalia. In response, the opposition said today's constitution was from Venezuela and Cuba before leaving the polling station under the watchful eye of the National Police.

Reports from throughout the country indicate that this was a peaceful process despite the opposition's strong rejection of the constitutional referendum.

The polling stations close at 5:00 pm and most of the results are expected to be in by late evening.

*Referendum Update (6:30 pm local time): Unofficial results indicate the constitution passed with 60% approval nation-wide. The "Yes" vote was overwhelming in La Paz, Oruro, Potosi, and Cochabamba. As expected the departments of Santa Cruz, Pando, Beni and Tarija voted "No" and the vote in Chuquisaca is still too close to call.

Photos: Digital Warrior Media


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Evo Morales Starts Third Year

LA PAZ–(digitalwarriormedia) On the third-year anniversary of his inauguration as president of Bolivia, Evo Morales spent Thursday making a case for his administration and closing the national campaign for the constitutional referendum vote on January 25.

Morales began the day by launching a new state-run newspaper, Cambio (Change), before delivering a four-hour address in front of the National Congress.

Some of the highlights of his speech included the increase of Bolivia’s monetary reserves from $800 million upon his election in 2005 to more than $8 billion in 2008, due to the nationalization of Bolivia’s hydrocarbon sector (and also the fortune of record high commodity prices).

The increase in reserves has enabled Bolivia to finance a national literacy campaign, improve health services and provide entitlement payments to the elderly and school-aged children.
Outside the Congressional building, where Morales’ address was broadcast on loud speakers, Plaza Murillo was filled with supporters holding up compact copies of the new constitution and “Si” signs.

Then it was on to Cochabamba where the president flew to close the campaign in that department as 25,000 people attended the massive event, according to reporting by Erin Rosa in Narco News.

Upon Morales’ return to La Paz in the evening, thousands upon thousands filled Plaza Murillo to capacity as the campaign for the constitutional referendum officially came to a close in the nation’s capital.

The crowd danced along to music performances representing the different regions of Bolivia before Morales spoke. In his speech, Bolivia’s first indigenous leader said the musical interpretations are representations of Bolivia’s plurinational society that includes many cultures.

He defended the constitution as a document that will recognize all Bolivians and dismissed opposition claims that the new national charter would elevate indigenous people above non-indigenous Bolivians.

Support for the document is strong here in La Paz and it is widely expected that the constitutional referendum will pass nationally despite the possibility that opposition to the Morales administration is strong in four of Bolivia’s nine departments.

A majority vote of “Si” will mark a major turning point, not only for Bolivia but for Morales’ Movement towards Socialism (MAS) party. It will re-energize Morales’ base but its passage also begs the question – what awaits on Bolivia’s horizon?

“It’s going to be a long time before they are able to make the constitution real in the lives of everyday Bolivians,” explained Jean Friedman-Rudovsky of Ukhampacha Bolivia about the government’s implementation of new rights guaranteed in the constitution such as the right to health care, water and basic services.

“While certainly almost every indigenous person that I’ve talked to feels like it is a big step forward, I think everyone realizes that it is a step forward that doesn’t necessarily mean people are going to wake up Monday morning with anything different in their lives.”

Photos: Digital Warrior Media


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bolivian Eyes on Obama

LA PAZ (digitalwarriormedia) From taxi drivers to police officers and government workers, Bolivians keep asking about Barack Obama.

While the United States was inaugurating a new Commander-in-Chief, several local radio stations broadcast ongoing conversations about the first Afro-American President of the United States. Bolivia and Latin America in general are all eagerly watching a change of guard in the U.S.

This evening, at the Governmental Palace, President Morales addressed a group of his supporters from the department of Oruro. After participating in an Andean ritual led by the Green Ponchos from Charangas, Morales stood before his indigenous constituents, wearing his striped "Evo" sweater.

The majority of his eight-minute speech spoke to the historic nature of Barack's election and the hope for improved relations with the U.S. After a complete break of diplomatic ties with the U.S. under the administration of George W. Bush, Obama is a welcome change for Bolivia and much of Latin America.

Expressions of hope and comraderie came from Morales who referred to Obama as a "brother". "For the first time in the United States," said Morales, "through a democratic vote they have elected a black brother."

He spoke of the historical discrimination towards Afro-Americans in the U.S. and elsewhere. "I know that black people have been discriminated against," explained Morales, "not just in America, but in the entire world." He noted the struggle of Martin Luther King, who was "assassinated just for defending the rights of black people in the world."

And then he linked the struggle of Afro-Americans to that of indigneous people in Latin America. The Green Ponchos were in the Governmental Palace to show their support for the constitutional referendum which will secure rights for Bolivia's indigenous people.

Morales offered good wishes to Barack and the people of the U.S. saying, "I have much hope for the new president of the United States for better diplomatic and economic relations."

These sentiments were also expressed earlier today by Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca - who said he looked forward to working with the U.S. again to counter drug trafficking.

The Bush Administration suspended Bolivia's preferred trade status under the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act last December, claiming the Bolivian government was not doing enough to combat narco-trafficking. Morales and his ministers have expressed hope that a new administration will re-instate Bolivia's trade status.

Obama's policies toward Latin America remain to be seen but there is wide-spread feelings of hope that a change in leadership under the direction of a black man will mean a positive shift in U.S. relations within the region.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Autonomy Demands whether "Yes" or "No"

LA PAZ – Supporters of the referendum for Bolivia’s new constitution walked through the streets of La Paz today. Marchers were accompanied by bands, while holding banners and flying a number of flags - blue and white for the MAS party and the multi-colored indigenous wiphala, but most prominently displayed was Bolivia’s national flag.

With one week to go before the January 25 referendum vote, the stakes are increasingly high and demonstrations for and against the constitution are expected throughout the country.

Speaking in the department of Tarija yesterday, President Morales urged a crowd in the city of Yacuiba to go to the polls and vote “Yes”. There is wide-spread sentiment that the constitution will be approved by the majority of Bolivians. However, Morales warned that his optimism should not deter people from going to vote.

Over the past three years, the Morales administration has steadily moved forward with its economic and social reforms. The passage of the constitution would solidify Morales’ mandate like never before, but a majority of “No” would be a major setback for the ruling MAS party, Bolivia’s various social movements and its indigenous communities.

The cover of Sunday’s El Diario carried a warning from the opposition-led National Democratic Council (CONALDE) that if the constitution passes, Bolivia will be fragmented into thousands of “mini-autonomies”. The opposition group, consisting of departmental governors and civic leaders from Tarija, Beni, Santa Cruz and Chuquisaca are heading up the “No” campaign.

Autonomy is a major issue that has been called for by government supporters and the opposition. And while opposition governors want greater control over their departmental resources, local municipalities and indigenous communities want greater autonomy from departmental leaders that tend to rule in their own self-interests and historically have been corrupt.

The autonomies guaranteed by a new constitution are much more than what the departmental governors asked for when they held autonomy votes in each of their departments last year. Although not sanctioned by the national government or the National Electoral Court, the departments of Tarija, Beni, Santa Cruz and Chuquisaca each carried out these autonomy votes aimed at advancing their agenda against the central government.

The opposition has long criticized the autonomy that the new state constitution will guarantee for Bolivia’s indigenous communities. And while Morales champions autonomy at multiple levels of Bolivian society, the manner in which this will be implemented is still difficult to ascertain.

For the central government’s part, they say that all autonomies - even those at the departmental level will be stalled if the new constitution does not pass.

And even as supporters of the new constitution demand autonomy, their campaign calls for unity, equality and the process of democracy.

It seems as though those who will vote “Yes” next Sunday want to participate in changing their country, while those who are inclined to vote “No” are satisfied with the current status quo.

Morales has repeatedly asserted that he was elected to change Bolivia for all Bolivians.

Whatever may occur next Sunday in Bolivia, it is destined to come from the democratic demands of the people.

Photos: Digital Warrior Media


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Seeking Global Stability -- Morales Stands Up Again

LA PAZ -- As a small group of anti-government protesters attacked police in the streets of the capital, President Evo Morales announced Wednesday that Bolivia has severed ties with Israel as an act of solidarity with Palestinians suffering from the Jewish state's current offensive in the Gaza strip.

"Bolivia had diplomatic relations with Israel, but in the face of of these acts of grave attacks against life, against humanity, Bolivia breaks diplomatic relations with Israel," Morales said during a reception for the diplomatic corps at the presidential palace.

"The crimes of the government of Israel damage stability and global peace and have brought the world back to the worst stage of crimes against humanity that have not been seen except during World War II and, in recent years, in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda," Morales said in statements cited by the ABI news agency.

Last week, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez expelled Israel's ambassador in Caracas to protest the deaths in Gaza.

Launched Dec. 27, the Israeli campaign in Gaza has left amost 1000 Palestinians dead and 4,600 wounded. The United Nations estimates that half of the dead are women and children.

The African country of Mauritania is the only other country, aside Venezuela and Bolivia, to severe diplomatic relations with Israel.

compiled via various news services & Digital Warrior Media/Photo: Reuters

Rally For Palestine

La Paz Bolivia

January 15, 200


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Evo goes Hollywood -- Oliver Stone goes native

LA PAZ - (digitalwarriormedia) Oscar award-winning film director & screenwriter Oliver Stone, met this warm sunny morning with President Evo Morales Ayma about the possiblity of a major release of a film invloving the President.

The director shared his intentions of making a motion picture and how it would be done. And as is customary for Evo's guests, Stone was expected to and displayed his football skills with the President after the meeting.

Photo: JL Quintana


Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Bolivian Inquisition

(digitalwarriormedia) With only two weeks left before Bolivia holds its January 25 referendum vote on a new constitution, each side is intensifying their campaigns to sway public opinion.

The Bolivian press observed that in urban areas throughout the country, the “No” and “Yes” campaigns are taking to the streets to lobby with stickers, t-shirts, flags and leaflets.

An article in Santa Cruz-based La Razon observed that the opposition was using emails and internet networking sites such as Facebook to make their case.

Meanwhile organized supporters of the constitution are primarily using more traditional campaigning methods like street demonstrations.

What’s God Got to Do with It?

The departmental prefects (governors) of Beni, Pando, Santa Cruz and Chuquisaca have upped the ante in their “No” campaign strategy. On Tuesday, the prefects held a “day of prayer and peace” in Sucre where they met to publicly reject the new constitution. Archbishop Jesús Pérez of Sucre participated in the event which was entitled “Defend Your Faith”.

After failing to attend a meeting called by President Morales on Monday to discuss departmental autonomies, the opposition prefects are drawing criticism for telling voters that if they believe in God – they will vote “No” on the draft constitution.

Congressional representatives Gustavo Torrico (MAS) and Willman Cardozo (PODEMOS) blasted the attitude of the Catholic Church, stating that it should avoid entering the political arena.

In response to the bipartisan criticism, on Wednesday, Bishop Jesus Juarez - secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference of Bolivia – said the archbishop participated, but that he prayed for the unity of all Bolivians and did not make a statement in support or rejection of the new constitution.

The Catholic News Agency indicated that media reports claiming the event was organized or planned by the Catholic Church were incorrect. Articles in Los Tiempos and La Prensa point out that the archbishop and Evangelical Pastor Charles Suarez guided the message of the candlelit vigil.

According to ABI, Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera said the new constitution will grant equal status, respect and protection of the State instead of its present hierarchy. Currently Article 3 of Bolivia’s constitution makes specific mention of the Catholic religion, which has led many sources to state that Catholicism is the nation’s official religion.

Minister Hector Arce, said it was "regrettable that some members of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, are giving into a political game."

The relationship between the Morales administration and the Catholic Church has been contentious at times with disputes over education, land reform and now the upcoming constitutional vote. Recently President Morales said the Church should stay out of politics after Cardinal Julio Terrazas Sandoval of Santa Cruz made public statements in December saying, “Bolivia is becoming a country without God or law.”

Mortal Oppositional Forces

On Friday the National Electoral Court (CNE) reported that 3,891,397 people are eligible to vote in the January 25 referendum. The CNE has printed a million brochures for public distribution to demonstrate differences and similarities between Bolivia’s current constitution and the document that will be voted upon in two weeks.

However the departmental electoral court of Santa Cruz has refused to distribute the CNE’s literature contending that it was incorrect and biased because it originated with the central government in La Paz.

Instead Santa Cruz’s electoral body will compile its own materials for distribution throughout the department. CNE President Jose Luis Exeni challenged the electoral court’s claims. Nonetheless, the CNE will not sanction the actions of the departmental body. “They can develop their own materials,” said Exeni in La Prensa. “We only distribute guidelines and the courts make their materials according to their geographical realities.”

Santa Cruz’s electoral court approved a departmental vote on an autonomy referendum last May that was deemed illegal by the CNE and the central government.

MAS Leads On

Meanwhile, in Oruro this weekend during the Seventh Congress of the Movement towards Socialism (MAS), President Morales addressed more than 5,000 party delegates.

The gathering was held to assess the current situation in the country after three years under MAS leadership and also devise strategies the new constitution is approved. Morales said the smear campaign launched by the opposition will be ineffective because he believes “no one can overthrow… the process of change.”

“Whoever leads it,” said Morales, “it is at a point of irreversible return that will never be able to stop this democratic revolution. You are the real social movements and should not stop this revolution, with or without Evo, it must be guaranteed."

Photos: ABI, La Prensa, Telesur


Thursday, January 08, 2009

Bolivia's Historic Milestone on the Horizon

(digitalwarriormedia) In less than three weeks Bolivians will vote on a new constitution. And if a recent poll is an accurate indication of how Bolivians will cast their ballots, the constitution is expected to pass overwhelmingly. According to the Center for Public Management (Observatorio de Gestión Pública -OGP), if the nation-wide vote were held now, 65% of Bolivians would vote “Yes”, 16 % “No” and 19% are undecided.

The results look similar to President Evo Morales’ margin of victory in a national referendum held last August to determine whether he would remain in power and continue to lead the social and political agenda of his Movement to Socialism (Movimiento al Socialismo - MAS) party.
But OGP’s poll - which also showed potential voter behavior in all nine of Bolivia’s departments –demonstrated the same fractures between pro-government and opposition forces at the departmental level.

Morales maintains his support base in the departments of La Paz, Oruro and Potosi - with each showing at least 85% will vote "Yes" - followed by the department of Cochabamba with 67% approval.

In the five departments where political and civic leaders have vehemently opposed the Morales administration, the "Yes" results are mixed.

The department with the lowest level of support is the opposition stronghold of Santa Cruz (41%), closely followed by Chuquisaca and Tarija where poll results showed 47% could vote "Yes".



OGP results: TARIJA

Meanwhile, in both Beni (53%) and Pando (57%) - the new constitution could be approved with a slim majority.

The drafting of this document symbolizes a major victory for Morales - Bolivia’s first indigenous president. Repeatedly over the past year while speaking in the U.S. and at the United Nations, Morales has proudly displayed a palm-sized copy of the new charter.

When voted into office in December 2005, one of the main pillars of Morales’ political platform was to re-write the nation’s constitution and undo centuries of discrimination against the nation’s indigenous majority. Morales often recounted how his Quechua mother could not enter the main plaza in La Paz to illustrate how the Bolivian state historically discriminated against indigenous people.

Bolivia’s new constitution will officially recognize Bolivia’s 36 indigenous groups and grant legitimacy to indigenous languages, justice systems and autonomy. It will be the first national constitution to enshrine the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

The MAS agenda faces vehement opposition from the Media Luna’s leadership who seek their own version of departmental autonomy from the central government in La Paz. There are also those business interests which reject constitutional provisions that grant greater state control over Bolivia’s natural resources. Others claim that the document will give too much power to Bolivia’s indigenous people and discriminate against non-indigenous people. Even supporters of Morales have criticized the process by which the document was drafted by the Constitutional Assembly and confirmed by the Congress.

The devil is in the details with respects to how these political and judicial spaces will be negotiated between the national interests of the country, the demands of Bolivia’s indigenous social groups and Morales’ political rivals.

Nonetheless, three years and three days after the day he was inaugurated as president, Morales will make good on his promise and allow Bolivians – indigenous, mestizo, white and black alike - to decide the future framework of their nation.

Photos: ABI

Click here to see all the departmental results from
Observatorio de Gestión Pública


Sunday, January 04, 2009

Protecting Bolivia's Economy

(digitalwarriormedia) The Morales administration has taken the first few days of the New Year to issue public assurances that Bolivia’s economy is healthy despite strained relations with the U.S. and the global financial slowdown.

Speaking from Cochabamba on Jan.1, President Morales announced that duty-free textile exports to Venezuela will start shipping by January 15.

Bolivia’s trade preferences with the U.S. expired on December 15, but Venezuela and governments comprising the Common Market of the South (Mercosur) have committed millions of trade dollars to Bolivian exports for 2009.

Morales thanked Mercosur for its support of Bolivia's textiles industry. According to EFE, Morales said that,"When there are problems with the U.S. government - with cooperation or the market - many countries appear to welcome us.”

Morales and President Hugo Chavez signed $200 million in trade accords in October after the U.S. announced intentions to suspend Bolivia’s participation in the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA).

The trade program was aimed at Bolivia, Columbia, Peru and Ecuador to reward national efforts against drug trafficking. The Bush Administration charged that Bolivia was not making adequate progress in eradicating illicit coca leaf production and failed to renew Bolivia’s duty-free trade status.

Uncertainty remains within Bolivia’s textile sector which exported $63 million to the U.S. last year and is expected to be hard hit. Loss of duty-free trade preferences could jeopardize 20,000 Bolivian jobs and $150 million annually. Morales and government ministers called the move a "political vendetta" for the expulsion of the U.S. ambassador to Bolivia last September.

However, just one day after the Bush administration allowed Bolivia’s ATPDEA trade status to expire, Mercosur issued a communiqué during the 36th annual Leaders Summit in Brazil. The communiqué expressed solidarity with Bolivia and committed $30 million in support for Bolivia's textile industry.

Meanwhile the national economy continues to grow, but is expected to feel continuous affects from the global financial crisis.

National Indicators

Last week Minister of Development Planning Carlos Villegas acknowledged that Bolivia’s economy will likely suffer from a reduction in prices of raw materials which will bring down the value of exports. He also recognized an expected drop in remittances from Bolivians who immigrated to the US, Spain and Japan.

Overall, the economic numbers cited by the government indicate that Bolivia will face a slowdown in the coming months. Growth was 6.5% last year, but is expected to decrease to 5%.

To combat unemployment and poverty – the government is poised to create more than 200,000 jobs next year. Numbers in the Bolivian media that were attributed to Villegas varied slightly last week.

According to ABI, Villegas said the government will create 230,000 jobs in 2009, while an article in Los Tiempos quoted Villegas as saying the number was 259,000 jobs.

These new work opportunities, created primarily through government public investment and a housing program, are expected to lower Bolivia’s unemployment rate from 7.1% to 6.8%, said Villegas.

Officially inflation registered at 11.65% last year said El Deber. However there are businessmen and economists that claim the national inflation rate was closer to 20-25% in 2009. During 2008, the government instituted export controls on staples such as cooking oil, corn, rice and meat to help fight domestic inflation.

The planning minister also announced the creation of a special monitoring team to examine the effects of the international recession on neighboring countries. The team will consist of individuals from the ministries of finance, planning and the Central Bank of Bolivia.

And as the government continues to fund social programs, in February a six-year campaign to eradicate extreme poverty in Bolivia by 2012 will begin. The program has the goal of enhancing food, basic services, health, education and production in 100 municipalities, with an eventual roll out to all other municipalities throughout the country.

Sources: ABI, El Deber, EFE, Los Tiempos

Photos: Los Tiempos