Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Historical Reality and 'Autonomies' in Bolivia

There is just too much babble, and too little substance about Santa Cruz' 'autonomy' movement. Since the 'Civic Committee' is run by businessmen, some see it merely as a push by the'oligarchy' to get around the popular movement for nationalization of gas. There is some truth to that, but the reality is much more complicated.

First of all, there is a 'super-consensus' in the Andean region (namely La Paz and El Alto), for changing the way the State has done business with the Oil and Gas Companies the last ten years or so. The 'newer' law was actually drafted by a committe of mainstream politicians from the Center Right to the Center Left, and was passed through inaction of both Mesa and the radicals. It specifically tags on an extra 32% to current royalties, but does not constitute the flat-out nationalization of oil and gas fields and expulsion of multi-nationals that the miners, Aymara nationalists, and some urban residents want. It can actually be viewed as a compromise bill by the centrist parties.

The bottom line is that it is political suicide to defend the 'old' tax structure and contracts with multi-nationals, since it is intimately tied to ex-President Goni. Good number of Bolivian politicians of all stripes, are falling all over eachother, clamoring loudly against Goni and hailing the new 'soveirgnity over 'strategic resources'. President Mesa wanted to publically come out and oppose the new law, but politically he could not do so, or risk the wrath of La Paz' population, and whatever narrow base he has. Essentially, no one stepped up to the plate and made the case for the current contracts from a sensible point of view.

A lot of folks in Santa Cruz do not want this law, including private sector gas and oil workers. They feel it was imposed on them by the Altiplano. There is historical precedent for this too. When popular discontent and elite opinion in La Paz caused General Ovando to nationalize Gulf Oil's holdings some 36 years ago, many Santa Cruz residents were outraged, since many residents off all classes were directly affected by Gulf's pullout, in what was a much smaller city back then.

The 'Civico's' represent this long-held discontent, which has boiled over now that Santa Cruz residents feel -with some justification- that they are the economic capital of the country. The Altiplano - the traditional parties, the urban middle classes, and the new protest movements- in their view dominates the political life, and wields too much power over their economic destiny.
They are also frightened by the 'nationalization' talk and the potential rise of either MAS and/or the Aymara nationalists. Thats why it has not been hard to enlist the other departments, including gas-rich Tarija in their game. They feel that threatening to secede is their only card in the game. To some extent they are right, Evo who in the end is no more than another shrewd Bolivian caudillo will cut a deal if his back is against the wall. They are probably counting on the Aymara nationalization drive - to die out - or in the worst case go on a rampage in La Paz and then settle down as five centuries of Aymara revolts show. But the wild-card as always is in the military, but I would not be surprised if the 'Civicos' throw some major bucks to the Generals to keep them in control.

Silly Lefties Talking Bolivia

Silly lefty lady, finally gets it right here.
After encouraging the same kind of noisy tactics, like striking and blocking roads she says:

Strong tactics will not deliver a satisfying victory if they are not a part of a directed strategy with clear goals because the target always needs to know exactly what it is you desire. In this case, without some semblance of unity among the protesters—at best an agreed upon proposal of demands that includes formula for implementation and at worst a semantic alignment in what these mobilizations are aiming to achieve—they leave themselves open to self defeat.

But without agreement among groups on those what those demands are, the Gas War is in danger of being prolonged again or worse: those with the drive to change their nation’s course could end up feeling angry, disempowered and unwilling to wage this battle again.

The 'movement' is disjointed. They want Mesa out, and the gas nationalized, but beyond that there is no 'real' plan. They are bound to be discontent by whatever ends up happening.

Tuesday in Bolivia....


Bloomberg says Repsol investors want out of Argentina and Bolivia. Don't blame 'em at all. These guys threw a lot of money Bolivia's way, and all the sudden Bolivia changes the rules on them, and even threatens to nationalize.

This article in CNN.com is pretty good at describing the 'Native' roots of the conflict.

Some lefty feels 'disapointed' by the deflation of activity on Friday.

, I couldn't help but feel fraudulent. Aren't we in the middle of a "war?" In the past week I have witnessed the most beautiful of acts: whole communities rising up - in the face of difficulty and physical repression - for what they feel is just. And now, everyone is shopping. It is hard to get used to the wave-like feeling to the current crisis. In such an unfamiliar space, I don't know whether this ebb and flow is normal or a sign that the energy is waning. I am encouraged by the planning meetings of dirgentes (leaders) that are taking place, by the rumored preparations for massive blockades and by the new phase that will accompany the return of the politicians. But I can't help but feel slightly deflated by the exodus of the cocaleros and the miners, by the continued distance between the most powerful players, and by the dissolution of the paro civico (strike) in El Alto.

What 'beauty', if this lady had an Effin clue, she'd know that Pace~o mobs have been doing this for centuries, raising hell and then going back to work as if nothing happened.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Links @ Stuff on Bolivian Crisis

Quispe is quoted as saying that "we peasants think we should separate from Bolivia. We are an Aymara Nation, like the Quechua or Guarani, and this nation has to independitize...with its own president, army, police, its own laws, and its wiphala.

The hardliners step up.....Miners, Peasants, Labor and El Alto neighborhood councils are marching on Congress in La Paz today to demand nationalization. But as La Razon notes, the council of El Alto's Micro-enterprises and small businessmen, who employ around 17,000 people, petitioned the local councils to stop the roadblocks, stating that they are forcing small business closures and putting people out of work.
Meanwhile the police says it will use force if it has to. The government is calling for the arrest of two Colonels, the labor leader, and the assemblyman for incititing a military coup

Friday, May 27, 2005

Bolivia -- Momentary Calm - On Surface

But....all hell continues to break loose.

The so-called 'truce' is a product of Mother's Day and Corpus Christi. but its just momentary. Argentina is looking to evacuate its citizens, Koffee Annan has called for peace, some legislators are looking to impeach Mesa and Castro's Granma talks joyously about the 'nationalization' of hydrocarbons.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Aymara Hip Hop

This is pretty wild.

Whats next?

A Tribe Called Quechua....

Young Bolivians Adopt Urban U.S. Pose, Hip-Hop and All

Published: May 26, 2005

EL ALTO, Bolivia, May 24 - This sprawling city on Bolivia's windswept high plains, home to nearly 800,000 Indians, is a tradition-bound place where the language is Aymara, the women wear derby hats and layer-cake skirts and families relax to centuries-old Andean music, which is heavy on pipes but devoid of lyrics.

In other words, not exactly the place you would expect to find a thriving, politically charged rap culture.

But El Alto - a flash point for protest and the capital of indigenous Bolivia - is seething, and a growing number of young Aymara are expressing their anger in a hard-driving rap, complete with rapid-fire lyrics excoriating Bolivia's leaders and venting about the dire social conditions of the country's Indian majority.

The Rest Here

Lula, Mesa, and a Lot of Gas

AccReuters says everything is out of control in La Paz, while the Lefties seem to suggest that things seem calmed down, amid coup rumors of course. But then again, that seems like old times in Bolivia, SNAFU.

Lula has sent a special 'envoy' Marco Aurelio Garcia to give him some sense of WTF is going on in Bolivia - and probably to cut some deals for Petrobas. Bolivia's Oil Minister sounds like he is trying to stall for time, as well as paying lip service to complying with the 'new' laws'.

This older article shows Mesa's earlier statements opposing the new law, but by not arguing forcefully against the project, Mesa let it pass by inertia, and probably saved himself some political grief. With his lack of institutional support he seems to not have many alternatives. His public statements indicating he will finish out his term, might be his way of setting the stage for a Yeltsin-like confrontation with just about everyone mobilized against him.

Some of those include the more extremist Aymara's seem to be on war footing, concentrating on La Paz arguing against the autonomy demands of Santa Cruz, which this Reuters, article says are heating things up further.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Bolivia Part ...........

Protests by miners and workers are paralyzing La Paz and blocking roads everywhere else, President Mesa publically calls for 'dialogue', and says he intends to finish out his term in 2007 in 2007, while a couple of colonels on TV warn ominously that "President Mesa should step down" and demand the nationalization of the natural gas industry.

Nasty rumors state that the Prez already has an exile set out for him in Spain, while coup rumours abound.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Bolivia and Brazil, Pipeline and Investment

This article Natural Gas Pipelines In The Southern Cone, By David Mares, from the Program on Energy and Sustainable Development at Stanford, shows what a pain in the neck it was for Bolivia's government to get Brazil and Petrobas onboard for the construction of the pipeline, and for the contracts to sell the gas. Also worth note it shows how Brazilian investment stimulated an increase in exploration and investment in Bolivia's Natural Gas resources:

Construction of the giant GASBOL pipeline began in 1997 and was completed in 1999. The Petrobrás-guaranteed market for Bolivian natural gas (along with the
privatization of the sector) encouraged massive investments in exploration and pipeline construction in Bolivia, which in turn produced certified (proven and probable) natural gas reserves that increased from a level around 170 bcm before 1997 to 1,481 bcm by January 2001 (IEA 2003). Since natural gas and petroleum are often found together, petroleum reserves also increased dramatically from 200 million barrels in 1997 to 892 million barrels by January 2001. During the construction of the GASBOL project, new reserves were discovered by a number of companies, such as Chaco, a subsidiary of BP Amoco (UK), Perez Companc (recently purchased by Petrobrás), Pluspetrol and Andina (both Argentina), Maxus, a subsidiary of YPF (now controlled by Repsol of Spain), Petrobrás, Total (France), Mobil Oil and Tesoro (both US). Bolivia now has the second gas largestreserves in Latin America after Venezuela and the most non-associated gas (ESMAP 2003;Andersen and Faris 2002; IEA 2003). Bolivia’s proven reserves now make it possible to exceed the volumes that can be shipped via the GASBOL pipeline.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Bolivia's Military and the New Gas Law

Looks like the New Oil and Gas Law will increase the tax burden on the multi-national gas producers by 240 million
One thing I am really curious about is the fact that two of the biggest companies involved in exploration, and production of natural gas in Bolivia are Petrobas and Repsol, as well as British Petroleum. Here is a 'scholarly' view of the development of this sector, this paper details the Brazilian/Petrobas side of things. So we have Spanish and Brazilian owned companies P.O.d at Bolivia. Will their governments bitch about this??? Are they already bitching. According to one estimate, foreign companies invested around 3.7 Billion dollars according to this CSM article

Nationalization is just crazy at this point. It means going back to the old days of State control, which wasn't that bad when there was talented people running it. But, corruption is inevitable no matter who runs it. Worse yet, you can end up with a situation like Venezuela's where the government has either over-estimated production, or hundreds of millions of dollars are disapearing like magic. Or you can end up like Mexico where the lack of new investment is keeping Pemex hopelessly antiquated.

The MAS and the Aymara nationalists seem split over what they want, Evo and MAS seem to be asking for 50 percent of the take, Quispe and the miners 'nationalization'. For even more fun, looks like the military wants in!!! Coup time in La Paz???
Santa Cruz and Tarija want 'autonomy', which means "screw La Paz" & "Screw the Indians" (Aymaras) who live in La Paz. The military ominously warns about threats to the nation's 'unity'. The military, - with its sizeable Aymara contingent-, has these quasi-Prussian views of itself as the guardian of the country's territorial 'integrity'. The question is where and against whom would they act? Against Santa Cruz??? Or against the mainly Indian and Mestizo folks in El Alto? Either way they would have to kick out the president first, and suspend the Congress/Senate.


The New Irish, is how this Newsweek writer describes the role of Mexican-Americans. I would venture to say he is right, but I would also include the Puerto Rican-Mexican alliance in Chicago, who have done a masterful job of influencing City Hall. Congressman Louie's district is mostly Mexican at this point, but his machine is so well run that he beat back the well-financed challenge from Marty Castro, a very savvy Mexican-American lawyer.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Bolivia's Continuing Saga

Juan Forrero at the New York Times takes a look at the current crisis in this article. On the other hand, talking about lost opportunities Trinidad & Tobaggo is looking to capitalize on Bush's recent push to switch to natural gas.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Bolivia's Economy and Current Mess.

A little background on the present crisis. For Spanish speaking wonks, here you can find 'Instituto Milenio's report on Bolivia's Economic performance in 2004, the Institute is tied in to the MNR party. Basically, the report lays out the fact that Bolivia's economy has been growing - albeit at a slower rate than the rest of South America, and the fact that the trade balance is favorable and the government's deficit is down. That is partially explained by increases in gas prices and increased gas exports.
But, the new oil and gas law, which on its face sets an additional 32 per cent tax on gas revenues, has already had a negative effect. Foreign investment has nearly halved, and will continue to drop as companies will refuse to invest the kind of money needed for expanded production and additional exploration. Further consequences can include an emphasis on the biggest gas fields, to the detriment of the smaller ones dispersed in different areas, as well as lost market opportunities.
So in other words all the work done over the past 19 years or so, to first of all discipline Bolivia's battered economy in the 1980's, and to set the stage for the efficient use of her natural gas resources, has gone to naught. Goni's failed legislation to export gas via Chile to the U.S. was the culmination of a lot of work that different people of other parties, and the Gas and Oil Sector in Bolivia had done for decades. The people who ran YPFB might have been political appointees but they usually were drawn from the private sector, and truly were among the 'best and the brightest' in Bolivia. They had drawn up the plans to attract more foreign companies in joint ventures to explore for oil and gas, and to build a framework for these conditions to be met. Inefficient parts of the company were sold off, and foreign investment increased. All this investment paid off in more exploration, which found more natural gas.
A Bolivian financial expert, I talked to a couple of weeks ago, was despondent at how 'suicidal' the whole thing was. Talked about 'just giving up' on the country he loves so much.

Thats F'd up.

On Bolivia and L.A.

Folks are basking about Villairaigosa in L.A. Its a good step forward; a national platform showing Latino political muscle, as well as the ability to cross between racial lines.

On the other side of the Latino-Latin American political reality, Bolivia, is clearly in a mess. Yesterdays Congressional session got out of hand. One congressman made remarks that offended some of the 'native' contingent", and he was assaulted by a female colleaugue in full native regalia, bowler hat and all. El Deber on the other hand takes a look at the challenges facing Mesa, who has his back against the wall. But by letting the new gas law pass Congress, through inaction, the burden also falls on everyone else who supported all variations of the project from higher taxes to all-out nationalization. Maybe Andres Oppenheimer is right, maybe a Parlamentarian system is better.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

La Eleccion En Los Angeles

So we've got a new Latino mayor in L.A. I am more than a little interested. My parents met in L.A., where my Dad was going to school, I was born in Ventura, my first sports game was watching Wooden's Bruins beat the snot out of someone in Pauley Pavillion. I spent one to two months each year at grandma's crib in Hollywood, a welcome respite from Central America, I could indulge my passion for American TV and boast of watching "Empire" at Grumman's Chinese Theater to my little buddies. Those trips, simply reinforced my attachment to L.A., in the middle of crazy moves, I still am a Lakers and Dodgers fan, and I'm still P.O.d' about the Rams. Oh well. After college I spent some time mucking around Westwood - had a blast too.

Oh well, thats me. But what does this election mean for LA.? Latinalista seems pretty geeked about it, particularly since it was not a straight 'ethnic' vote that won it. I do agree, particularly since Villaraigosa had to get African-American votes, and even siphon off some of the Anglo vote from his opponent. I would not be surprised to see some of the young Mexican-American and Latino activists I met years ago in LA, around the mayor's campaign. Mostly native Angelinos, educated and poised, they were well hooked up with the Latino Dem organization. At this point, they are probably doing what earnest young people everywhere have done upon gaining power - hooking their buddies up with gigs.
Tell you what, I still think the Latinos in Chicago's Democratic party are still more influential and organized. It probably has a lot to do with Chicago's compact nature versus L.A.'s sprawl as well as the very set Latino politician's in Chicago have to be extremely adaptive, and have learned how to deal with just about everyone. It might have been Ray Frias who I saw on TV being greeted warmly with an hola amigo" by an elderly Polish couple.

Allende, Nazi's and Chile's Military

Well, seems like this whole "Allende" myth is going the tubes, with these news stories about Allende's 'past', also in this article.

Allende's early flirtation with Nazi ideology during the 30's and 40's, was not uncommon for intellectuals in that time in Latin America. What really makes it stand out is how as a Cabinet minister he tried to pass legislation that was full of Nazi nonsense, at a time when people everywhere had no illusions about Nazism. Not surprisingly the regime he served had fascist backing

But then again, Allende's pro-Nazi attitudes were also widely shared in the military that ended up overthrowing him. Victor Frias' prior work showed how pervasive Nazi influence was in Chile, a country with a large German community. Military links between both countries, went back to the 1880's. ) Several German officers, had experience in Chile before WWI, and returned after the war.

Well before 1933, some of these officers in Chile had become ardent Nazi's. So strong was their influence on the Chilean military, that a Chilean General founded a "Nacional Socialist Party" - recognized by the Nazi party - in 1932. The German 'ex-pats' had there own party as well, and Chilean officers routinely wrote articles - in German- for it.

The Nazi propaganda machine, published Spanish-language military and medical (Doktor Allende) magazines, which were widely distributed in Latin America. Some of the editors of the military magazine were German officers who had served in Chile, and Chilean officers and diplomats in Germany often pitched in to correct grammar and spelling before publication.

With the depression affecting the US and France, and Spain in turmoil, these were about the only foreign publications available, besides the translation of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" that Henry Ford spread around the Continent.

Ten years of direct Nazi presence and propaganda, superimposed over long-held Prussian military influence, led to a 'Nazified' military. This pattern also repeated itself in countries like Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia. When your officer corps read Wehrmacht magazines religiously, its no surprise the 1980 Constitution the Armed Forces reads that the Armed Forces "exist for the defense of the fatherland, are essential for national security, and guarantee the institutional order of the Republic" (Article 90).

Little wonder that the Pinochet regime was really, really, creepy. These guys were monsters, the stuff they did took military brutality in Latin America to new levels. It shocked the hell out of many Latin Americans, especially given Chile's reputation as a democratic country.

The U.S. looked really bad after the coup. Allende's messy and chaotic government, was 'Constitutionally Elected' after all. The US looked dumb supporting the overthrow of the 'legal' government, and replacing it with Pinochet's brutal gorillas. The State Department should have known better about what Pinochet and Co. were capable of, and at least tried to rein him in.