Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Fulfilling Democracy

LA PAZ - President Morales ended a five-day hunger strike today as the Senate approved an electoral bill that had been stalled by opposition parties in the upper house of parliament.

Passing the law at 4 am on Tuesday, it took the Senate seven hours to individually approve all 76 articles of the Electoral Transition Law (LET).

Meanwhile supporters from Bolivia’s social organizations heeded calls from leaders of the National Coordination Committee for Change (CNC) and the Bolivian Worker's Union (COB), by gathering at the Plaza Murillo to maintain a massive demonstration in front of the Parliament building.

Morales welcomed the law, signing it before the thousands assembled in the plaza and said, "the people of Bolivia continue to write history." He expressed "deep respect and admiration" for the 3,000 workers and union leaders in Bolivia, Argentina and Spain who also joined the hunger strike.

Prior to holding the vote, the Senate had been locked up for a continuous 24 hours in the last round of negotiations to draft the final law. It required compromise among senators from MAS and the opposition parties.

Minority indigenous groups only gained seven of 130 seats in the lower house, instead of the eight seats originally set aside to increase their representation. The electoral law does extend voting rights to Bolivians living overseas – a win for the Executive branch.

And the law also meets a demand made by the opposition for a new, more secure voter registration system. Opposition leaders claimed that the current voter system contained weaknesses that would enable electoral fraud in favor of Morales and the ruling MAS party.

The Bolivian government will invest $30-35 million to adopt a modernized biometric voter system prior to the general elections that will be held on December 6.

In addition to elections for the President, Vice President and Parliament, six autonomy referendums - for departments of Oruro, Potosi, Cochabamba, Chuquisaca and La Paz as well as the Gran Chaco of Tarija province - will also take place in December.

The opposition-controlled Senate had been blocking the bill, claiming that it would aid the re-election of Morales. If Morales is victorious in December, he will serve an additional five-year term as president.

Last Thursday, President Morales declared a hunger strike to protest the delay by Congress. He maintained a vigil with 13 leaders of Bolivia’s social organizations; ingesting water, coca tea and chewing on coca leaves – a natural appetite suppressant historically used by indigenous people of the Andes for its medicinal properties.

With the end of the hunger strike, Morales is clear to resume his full agenda. He will be traveling to Trinidad and Tobago for the Summit of the Americas this weekend where he will meet with 34 hemispheric leaders, including President Barack Obama.

And next week, Morales will be in New York City on April 22nd to meet at the United Nations and deliver a public speech in Harlem.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Hunger in the Andes

(LA PAZ) - Bolivian President Evo Morales is on a hunger strike demanding that the Senate pass an electoral law, paving the way for parliamentary elections this December 6.

On Thursday, Morales, the National Coordination for Change (CNC) and the Bolivian Workers’ Union (COB) declared a massive hunger strike from the Government Palace. They have refused to eat until the Electoral Regime law is approved by the Senate.

Bolivia's new Constitution approved on January 25 required Congress to pass an electoral law in 60 days, but the deadline has passed as the opposition-controlled Senate stalled the bill that will regulate December’s presidential and legislative elections.

The lower house, with the majority of seats held by the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party, already approved the electoral law but the opposition-controlled Senate has refused.

Opposition senators reject the law on the basis that it will grant 14 special indigenous districts and allow citizens living abroad to vote in Bolivia’s elections. They claim that the current census is not reliable and are calling for a new electoral roll prior to holding the election. Bolivia’s National Electoral Court says it will take at least nine months to create such a register, likely forcing a postponement of December’s vote.

Bolivians from various social organizations throughout the country joined President Morales in solidarity. Pedro Montes, Executive Secretary of the Bolivian Workers’ Union (COB), said at least 3,000 union workers were also refusing to eat.

Internationally there is a growing underground network of people on various networking sites that have also joined the hunger strike in a show of support for the Bolivian people.

Photos: ABI


Monday, April 06, 2009

Morales Addresses G-20 Hubris

(LA PAZ) President Evo Morales had strong criticism for world leaders who met at the G-20 summit in London last week and called on the Obama administration to represent real change by breaking from past U.S. policies.

On Friday, Morales predicted that agreements reached by the G-20 would intensify the global crisis rather than solve it.

The one-day summit of the world’s largest industrialized nations was lauded by some as a "turning point" in the world economy. However Morales said the current economic model must be reformed in order to end “the free market and speculative capitalism" responsible for the crisis.

The elite group’s decision to infuse a $1.1 trillion stimulus into the International Monetary Fund was welcomed as a sign of hope even though the world’s leading economic powers still disagree on how best to revive the global economy.

An often critic of the current capitalist economic model, including the policies of the World Bank and IMF, Morales said, “It is not possible that countries which caused the financial crisis are now the solution, when more than 180 countries are suffering from this crisis.”

Morales called for serious reforms of the IMF and World Bank or the creation of different international economic entities.These international financial organizations have been criticized for their impacts on developing countries, in particular policies of loan conditionality that force nations to divest domestic spending on social programs and privatize essential industries such as water, electricity and telecommunications.

Bolivia's first indigenous leader said a global gathering at the UN should be held before the end of the year that included all nations, not just the largest industrialized countries. “They are talking of another G-20 at year's end, why not a summit of all the presidents?” Morales asked.

Real Change

Morales also had criticism for U.S. President Barack Obama who was enthusiastically received in Europe with his wife Michelle. In a challenge to Obama’s political rhetoric of “change”, Morales said the new U.S. president needed to break from current policies that reflect the ideology of his predecessor George W. Bush.

In particular Morales questioned the U.S. stance towards sending additional troops to the Middle East, the U.S. war against drugs, and the blockade of Cuba. “I am sorry that the policies of Bush remain in place,” Morales said.

While acknowledging the difficulty in overcoming these policies in a short period of time, Morales insisted that if Obama really wants change and to transform the U.S. it will not be easy. “It will cost a lot,” Morales said, noting his own experience of struggling for change in Bolivia over the past three years. But if Obama will rise to the challenge, he could be the critical catalyst needed to solve the economic crisis and help remedy other issues that people face around the globe.

Photos: ABI & Celsias.com


Thursday, April 02, 2009

Evo Celebrating Mother Earth In NYC...

Salem United Methodist Church

April 22, 2009
6:00pm - 8:00pm

The Bolivia Transition Project
is Proud to co-sponsor a Lecture by

Evo Morales Ayma
of Bolivia.

The America's first indigenous president comes to Harlem
Ideas for a world with respect for the earth & human rights.

Email The Bolivia Transition Project to reserve seating.
April 22, 2009
Time: 6:00pm - 8:00pm