Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Formula One -- Money Back From Michelin

After the fiasco at Indy two weeks ago, Michelin has finally agreed to do something about pissed off fans like your's truly. They will be refunding tickets, so they want you to hang on to your stub.

How about my travel expenses, Michelin Man? Or my friends from Mexico and Colombia who flew in?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Bolivia -Big Fallout & Chavez Betrayal???

The bad news continues from the Mercosur Conference, where Bolivia's neighbors and trading partners seem to be punishing Bolivia from the mess left from both 'gas wars'. Much to the Bolvian Foreign Ministries surprise, bigwigs from Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru met in Lima prior to the conference, to seriously work on a framework to what loosely translates as the "South American Energy Ring "anillo energético" with the ultimate goal of the Continent becoming self-sufficient in natural gas. As France Presse reports, the initial stage involves laying a 1200 km pipeline from Northern Chile to the Peruvian gas fields of Camisea, at a reported cost of 2.5 billion dollars, and which the Inter-American bank has decided to finance. The increased gas production and build up of the infraestructure, could could then allow it to be routed to Brazil and Argentina.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out this keeps Bolivia out in the cold, even with the second largest gas reserves in the Continent. The original project that started the first gas war, called for Bolvian gas to be exported through a pipeline to Chile, where it could be exported to Mexico and the U.S. as well as bought by Chile. Exports to Brazil and Argentina were to increase, and new pipelines were in the works to both countries. But now, Bolivia is considered so unstable that its neighbors are willing to cough up big money for further exploration in Peru, which has less reserves than Bolivia.

And for the clincher...

Chavez wants in to this deal, and said so publically at Mercosur. with its large gas reserves, Venezuela would be able to pipe gas to Brazil the biggest consumer in the continent, as well as to its other neighbors, in effect cutting Bolivia further out. Bolivia's ex-President Quiroga pointed out Chavez inconsistency in wanting a chunk of the business, after his backing of the protests that caused the mess.

El "anillo energético" implicará, en los hechos, el suministro de gas peruano a los países del Mercosur a través del gasoducto desde Pisco (Perú) hasta Tocopilla (norte de Chile), dejando a Bolivia, por su inestabilidad institucional, en un segundo plano.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Goni Interviewed

Interview with Goni. Interesting look at the gas export plan which caused his downfall. He explains that the gas was intended for export to the US, which would provide a price of reference to the countries other gas customers including Brazil, Argentina, and Chile.

For all the cheap rhetoric about Bolivia's current taxes on gas imports, Goni says that besides the 18% roytalites, there was also a general corporate tax, as well as a tax on financial transactions - for funds sent abroad, and lastly there was a special surtax on profits.

I have actually bothered to look at the laws, and it is all there.

Usted trató de resolver el desafío de los recursos naturales promoviendo la exportación a Estados Unidos a través de puertos chilenos, pero fue imposible. Su sucesor llevó a cabo un referéndum sobre los hidrocarburos y, a pesar de que su planteamiento mixto ganó, le fue imposible llevar a cabo el proyecto y hoy los grupos radicales piden la nacionalización. ¿Qué va a ocurrir?

A mí me acusaron de querer exportar el gas por Chile, pero el plan era mucho más complejo y tenía muchas cosas positivas. En primer lugar, se trataba de exportar a Estados Unidos para poder tener un precio de referencia y así poder negociar los precios de exportación a otros lugares, empezando por los países vecinos, como Brasil, Argentina y Chile, que necesitan nuestros hidrocarburos. En el caso de Brasil hay grandes necesidades de energía. En Argentina, con el control de precios han provocado un aumento del consumo y también necesitan abastecerse, y Chile, que también necesita abastecerse, obtiene sus recursos a través de Argentina, que depende de Bolivia. Por otro lado, mi plan para exportar gas natural líquido a California incluía no sólo regalías de 18%, sino también impuestos sobre las utilidades y remisión al exterior de utilidades, así como un sobreimpuesto (surtax) sobre utilidades extraordinarias. Habríamos incrementado los ingresos fiscales para cerrar el déficit fiscal y de balanza de pagos en pocos años, habríamos podido convertir cientos de miles de hogares y vehículos al gas natural, que abarata el costo de vida, y propuse invertir todo el dinero recaudado de regalías e impuestos de gas en infraestructura, educación y salud.

Brazilians Get Testy

According to the folks at Petroleumworld Brazil's foreign ministry dressed-down Bolivia's new Foreign Minister, Armando Loaiza at the Mercosur conference in Paraguay. In a letter and in person, the Brazilians expressed their extrem concern with Bolivia's unstable oil and gas regulations. The Brazilian gov't is a large shareholder in Petrobas, which is the largest corporation in Bolivia, the Bolivia-Brazil gas deal is of vital importance to Brazilian energy needs, and there are more phases of the project needing completion. Brazil and Bolivian trade was over 1.2 billion dollars last year, with Bolivia actually having a favorable balance.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Coerced Strikers And Mesa Admissions

La Razon has an excellent series of articles looking back at the past crisis.


In this report they show how residents of certain communities in El Alto were pressured to join the mobilizations. Since neighborhood assemblies and committees control the allocation of basic services, their threats to cut-off water or electric services of recalcitrant residents were to be taken serious. Those with municipal jobs were told they would be fired.
De la conversación con varios vecinos se desprende que las amenazas estaban dirigidas a privarles del derecho que tienen a servicios básicos como agua potable, la energía eléctrica o el gas y, en otros, a bloquear la regularización del derecho propietario de las viviendas o quitar los puestos de trabajo a los gremiales, que en esa urbe sobrepasan las 50 mil personas.

Since many residents of different communities started out as squatters, they depend on neighborhood committeemen for their 'registration' documents, i.e. an application to 'formalize' the resident by granting title to the plot. Residents were told if they didn't march that they would have their applications pulled, which in essence would be an eviction.

"Si no salimos a marchar, los dirigentes que tramitan la regularización del derecho propietario de nuestra urbanización nos amenazan con sacarnos de los planos y lo pueden hacer", comenta Fernando, un joven de 21 años que tiene dos hijos, trabaja en La Paz, y que durante las tres semanas del conflicto llegó caminando desde Ventilla.


As, I suspected, Mesa was trying to keep power for himself, and his last resignation was not necesarilly final, as this piece says. He was ready to pull his resignation and govern till December elections, but once Hormando Vaca showed a willingness to actually become president, Mesa balked and instead called for Vaca to give up any pretensions of actually leading.

Another Killer Article on Bolivia

Now its The Nation's turn to come up with a very insightful article, from a left-liberal perspective.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Awesome Article on Bolivia, Smackdown on Granola

What a killer article from this guy on Bolivia, I am going to end up dedicating another post to it later. Seems to be from a guy on the thinking left, sort of like the "In These Times" crowd.

One example about the insight.

The backbone of the protest movement comes less from indigenism, than from syndicalism. It's not really about the sacred nature of natural resources, or harking back to a pre-Colombian patrimony. When such statements are made, it tends to be with an eye to international supporters. The main groups behind the uprising - such as neighbourhood committees in El Alto, the makeshift city on a plateau above La Paz; and the coca-growers of the Chapare region further south - draw on the country's trades union past.

And on the other hand you have that Jim Schultz character, a clever but really biased propagandist. Amazingly enough, this guy gets cited by legit newspapers like the Boston Globe and the NYT. I know some very educated and insightful Bolivians, who should be asked for soundbites, instead of some biased gringo agitator.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Sue Em!!! Evo And Company Could Be Facing Lawsuit,

The La Paz Federation of Private Enterprises ( Federación de Empresarios Privados de La Paz (FEPLP) and Bolivian singer Adrián Barrenechea will be starting legal proceedings against those responsible for the movilizations that paralized La Paz and El Alto for three weeks, and that caused, among other things, the closing of at least 80 businesses.

Bernd Abendroth, quoted in La Razon, named as defendants in this soon to be filed action, Roberto de La Cruz, the El Alto assemblyman, the FEJUVE president Abel Mamani, labor leader, Edgar Patana, and Evo Morales.

The civil charges cited, translate roughly as: unlawful interference with free transit, and commerce, unlawful interference against public transportation, as well as penal code violations such as public instigation to commit crimes and failure to help.

The singer seems pretty peeved because he had an accident while travelling from the airport, and was not allowed by the crowds to continue on to La Paz. He says that he is filing his suit, 'in the name of the children at the Childrens hospital, in the name of the sick at the General Hospital who did not receive oxygen, gas to prepare their food. In the name of pedestrians who were attacked solely for wearing a tie...." and so on and so forth.

All the 'defendants' denied committing any crimes.

This should be interesting. If Goni can be on trial for his alleged actions against the 03 demonstrators, why not Evo and Company for the mess they caused just recently???

Formula Uno............................ Carajo!!!!!

I am so pissed off!!!

This was frickin farce, and I go all the way to Indianapolis for this!!!! Friends of mine flew in from Colombia and Mexico, another buddy had friends fly in from Germany, not to mention some of the people I hung out with who had come from every corner of the U.S. and Canada. And like that, there was a ton of Latin Americans, European, Asians and Africans, who had spent thousands of dollars to watch a round of the World Chammionship.

Most of my group of friends was well plugged in, getting text messages and cell phone calls, so we knew this was possible. The vast majority of fans though, seemed caught cold when the cars pulled in.

Truly a dark day.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Bolivian Economy

Just thought I'd republish a bit of a previous post on this subject.
If you speak Spanish, there is interesting reading on Bolivia's economy here It is Instituto Milenio's report on Bolivia's Economic performance in 2004.
Key indicators of economic performance, show that Bolivia's economy was in fairly decent shape. First it grew last year - albeit at a slower rate than the rest of South America. In addition, the national deficit was reduced, and the external debt has gone down. Government revenues have increased, mainly due to the gas exports. That has also created a favorable trade balance Increased gas exports coupled to the higher prices of gas, have contributed much to this, as has tighter discipline of government spending.

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, was paying dividends.

Realistically, in the short run, this probably did not mean much to the countries poor. But a trimmed down Bolivian government, with increased gas revenue would be in a much better position to actually invest in basics like infrastructure, nutrition, healthcare, and education for the poorest citizens of the country.

All this could have conceivably happened had the proposed plan to export of gas to the US via Chile gone through. At the very least, the multinationals would have spent well over a billion dollars in Bolivian soil, for the part of the pipeline that went through the national territory. Not only that, increased demand in Argentina, Brasil, and Chile would certainly have meant increased exports and more investment.
After the collective tantrums in the Altiplano - starting in 2002, through last month's, the country has not only suffered immediate monetary losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars, it has also lost an incredible opportunity to generate much needed money, potentially losing out on millions of dollars daily. How the hell can anyone claim this is a good thing??? 20% of a billion is better than 100% of nothing.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Is La Paz Undergoing a "Detroitization"?, The City Suffers, No Juan Gabriel in La Paz

La Razon says that after the disturbances of the past weeks many Businessmen are looking to leave La Paz and El Alto for other regions of the country and abroad. I have heard that there is widespread unease among La Paz' wealthy and middle classes, and that many of them are looking to leave the city as well.

The net effect could be the equivalent of the 'white flight' seen in several US cities in the 60's. In Detroit for example, businesses and city residents fled to the suburbs after rioting by African-Americans in the City. As in Bolivia, a lot of the rage against the white establishment was justified by the overt racism of authorities and the local elites. But, whatever the motives, in the end the result was a disaster for the City and all of its residents. A reduced tax base and a loss of business can only serve to further impoverish the area.

Turning to the topic of more immediate damages, the Chamber of Commerce has estimated that losses due to the recent disturbances at 100 million dollars, losses in the trucking sector alone are reputed to be about $10 million U.S. The paper also says that around 80 businesses ini La Paz/El Alto closed shop leaving 2,400 people unemployed.

Brasil, Argentina, Chile y Perú, meanwhile have decided to negotiate alternatives to Bolivian gas, with Peru acting as the supplier. What the article doesn't say is that speculation is that Peru might end up selling its own smaller production and buying cheaper Bolivian gas for its internal consumption and for resale.

In the City itself, City Hall is stuck with a big tab for all the windows and parks trashed by the crowds, including windows at the Palace of Culture. La Paz was also stripped of the venue for the 2006 South American games, which would have brought some welcome revenue to the City and the local merchants.

And, Juan Gabriel, the Mexican singer-songwriter, known as "El Divo de Juarez", has just cancelled his upcoming appearance in La Paz, to the sorrow of middle aged hausfraus from La Paz' wealthier neighborhoods.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Found On An Arrested Miner In La Paz.

I got done talking to a very good source in Bolivia. In the middle of protest/rioting, some miner was arrested and the cops found $5,000.00 U.S. dollars on him. He might have been one of the 'movements' paymasters, keeping the 'troops' paid. That is a hell of a lot of cash in such a poor country. Looks like someone is spreading lots of money around these so-called spontaneous protests.

Memo to Miner: Next time you use some of that 5K to bribe the cops so YOU DON'T END UP IN JAIL, YOU DUMBASS!!!!!!

Bolivia: Sendero Luminoso Groupies In El Alto, and Quispe Admits 'Guerrillas'?

Bolivia has a long history of militant college students. The Universidad Publica De El Alto (UPEA), has become the focus of current militance, its student groups have become some of the most radical and unyielding supporters of the current revolt. Student groups, ogether with the neighborhood councils and local labor were the instigators behind the current "Popular Assembly" that has declared itself an independent body.

Well, these kids have been keeping up with their Marxist-Leninism, and there is a very active Maoist group with pro-Sendero Luminoso leanings, as this piece in La Prensa shows.

Its called FRP-MLM (Frente Revolucionario del Pueblo Marxista Leninista Maoísta), and it has adopted Sendero's own motto as its own: "Die Standing, Never on Your Knees" o “morir de pie, nunca de rodillas”, You can buy Senderista literature on campus, including CD-ROM's. I remember Maoists -all four of them - infiltrating all sorts of student groups in college, where they often provided comic relief, lambasting garden variety campus radicals. The Bolivian version isn't quite as funny, especially with a message already tailored to an Andean public, and a rudderless populist movement.

QUISPE ADMITS ....In the same article he criticizes some of the campus activists for being all revolutionary first and then 'selling out' when they graduate.....

No sigo a los estudiantes de la UPEA sino que preparo mi ejército guerrillero en el campo. Los universitarios son súper revolucionarios e indigenistas en un comienzo, pero al egresar y al usar corbatas se olvidan de la guerra. Eso pasó con el Partido Obrero Revolucionario de Guillermo Lora, donde los trotskistas ahora son de derecha. Por eso trabajo en los institutos normales superiores y en los ayllus”, aclara el “Mallku”.

He says
"I don't follow the students of UPEA, instead I prepare my guerilla army in the country."

Hmmmmm. That is interesting...

Monday, June 13, 2005

Bolivia......Where We At???

Interesting articles about the University militants in El Alto/La Paz as well as their counterparts in Santa Cruz and Tarija. They are both among the most uncompromising and militant advocates of each sides position: nationalization and autonomy. Of course, they are on different sides, but the proto-fascist behavior is the same. Big surprise that we end up with mobs of Marxists and Fascists; Bolivian Universities are stuck in 19th Century Positivism and early Marxism.

Is This The Hugo Chavez to Evo Money Connection??

On 6/2 I had posted gossip about Evo getting lots of money from suddenly cash-rich Bolivian Produce Wholesalers in Argentina. My speculation on the origin of the money, was definitively off, as Venezuela-insider points out, in his response which is a really, really, interesting read.

How about the press picking up on this one??? Or the left, which is bitching about the US's 'role'.

What happens in Buenos Aires is this: Hugo Chavez is financing Evo Morales through Argentina.

Under the guiding hand of Freddy Balzán, for a while Venezuela's
ambassador to Argentina, a group
of Bolivian Evo Morales supporters were instructed to set up wholesale produce coops. These are all-cash businesses. The proceeds from these businesses, millions of dollars, are mingled with the Freddy Balzán supplied funds (Chavez's money), and sent to Evo Morales to fuel the takeover in Bolivia.

Summing it up, it is basically the Chavez regime's way of laundering money through an all cash business. And make it appear as though Evo Morales gets his support from Bolivians in Argentina rather than directly from the Venezuelan strongman.

This makes complete sense, what better way to launder Chavez crooked money??? In Bolivia even modest sums can go a long way.

Chavez IS dangerous. My greatest fear would be him funneling guns to Evo's cohorts, for what could be a civil war.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Habemus Presidente

Well, Eduardo Rodriguez Veltze is the new president of Bolivia. He is the head of the Supreme Court, and was also Chief Counsel to the Foreign Relations Ministry. He apparently has an MPA from the Kennedy School at Harvard.

So, Hormando V. has decided not to take power, as has Cossio. They were both in line for succession after Mesa.

Self Help, El Alto style.
Well, talks of Autonomy in Santa Cruz, have been trumped by El Alto, or could it be the first Bolivian "Soviet".
El Alto radicals have decided to convene a 'popular assembly' and will have their own government, that will seek to 'nationalize' the gas. La Razon says that Abel Mamani a well-known Alto activist, and Jaime Solares from the COB labor Union, are the ones doing this whole thing. Solares was the one calling for a Chavez style military leader early on.

Whats Really Up!!

Finally, someone calls it as it is. Clinton Taylor at The American Spectator calls out Evo:
"rubber-faced Marxist thug named Evo Morales, who got his start rabble-rousing among Bolivia' coca-growers. Coca-growing is legal in one part of Bolivia; but Evo represented the Chapare, the part where it's not. Since then he's become a lightning rod for the politics of grievance; anyone with an anti-U.S., pro-(illegal)-coca, statist, socialist, anti-liberal, nationalist, isolationist, or racialist axe to grind joined Evo to swing it at the fragile roots of Bolivian democracy. The last time he brought down a president, 56 people died in the riots.

Dang!! Harsh but true. I am so Effin sick of Evo-mania among the Granola leftie crowd.

He calls out their hypocrisy, and is right on point.

It's ironic, though, when you consider he has just led a putsch designed to (a): nationalize Bolivia's considerable natural gas reserves, and (b): put himself in charge of the country. Here we have a losing politician deposing a democratic government and angling to usurp a nation's petroleum reserves -- but a genuine oil-for-blood coup is fine by the lefties if the instigator's ideology checks out.

The articles conclusion is sadly right: "This is mob rule, fueled by resentment and ideology. This is anarchy."

Mind you, I am not crazy about the Spectator, specially after their B.S. articles against President Bill. But someone needed to step up and call out the lunacy going on in Bolivia.

And for something completely different

For comic relief, Norwegians protesting Rumsfeld's visit had a peace goat, notice the hot chick with said goat. I am no fan of Rumsfeld, and I dig both hot Norwegian chicks and goats (not in that way you sick fucks) so this is very appropo.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

MABB has a pretty good summary of whats going on today. BBC has an item, where Mesa says that the country might be heading towards civil war.

Other news with links, include La Razon's report that leftists do not want Vaca to take the reins

Barrioflores, talks about the US reaction, which puts part of the blame on Mr. Chavez. Personally, I think Chavez' rhetoric and money, adds a lot of fuel to the fire, but Bolivians hardly need encouragement. Evo, has his own 'special' buddies with hard cash.
The granola leftie crowd, do have their grubby little paws all over this mess. They have been indoctrinating the locals, with their globaloney talk for a while.

Miners and Cops clash, as La Razon reports, five hours of tear gas on one side, and dinamite on the other. Some miner blew his hand off, Oops!

Now here is another ugly side to this whole protest 'movement' that the third world groupies don't mention. La Razon reports that there is little food in La Paz and whatever is there is high priced.

Meanwhile in the East, La Razon reports that MAS affiliated peasants took over 7 gas and oil wells in Santa Cruz

La Razon says that Cruce~o 'militants' or 'para-militaries' depending on your point of view, had a smackdown with MAS-affiliated peasants/native people's, blocking Santa Cruz routes. First of all, there are many 'colonists' in the area, namely highland residents whom previous governments encouraged to move to the region decades ago, there are also native Guarani Indians. Evo and MAS have a following there, and these are mainly the folks blocking roads out there.

But it looks like that hasn't worked out too well, since only one road remains blocked. I wonder Sta. Cruz' idea of 'self help' will escalate to full-blown paramilitaries.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Oh Crap!!! Its On!

Well Mesa has finally given it up. As Burgoa from AFP says the president has officially resigned. Evo, greedily staring the prize right in the eye, sounded kinda skeptical.

Socialist opposition leader Evo Morales, who heads the country's coca growers' union and was behind the current anti-government protests, said Mesa's resignation was "only half believable since at no time did he mention it was irrevocable."

So, it might be another gambit from Prez Mesa?? Take it to the brink.

Evo of course, dared everyone else to quit so he could be elected.

"To make us believe," Morales added, the presidents of both houses of Congress, Vaca Diaz and Cossio, should also resign "and the Supreme Court president should assume the presidency and call for presidential elections before the end of the year".

The lefties are going nuts, can't wait to get their man into office. So much for 'popular power'!!!

Underlying this whole mess is the feeling of the Aymara nationalists. Will they be happy enough with keeping control of El Alto and La Paz?? The protests and hell-raising are supposedly about the gas, but that is physically (and realistically) pretty far away. They will get denied by the autonomists, who don't want to be run by Evo and Quispe. But is that really the point???

However 'significant' this movement is, I can't avoid feeling that part of it is a 'get whitey' feeling by this marginalized population. They have reportedly been beating up workers who have the misfortune of wearing ties that day. That reeks of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge picking up people wearing glasses as 'intellectuals.' The Aymaras have endured exploitation and a caste/race marginalization by Bolivia's 'mestizo' population. That difference is more based on dress than anything, because La Paz' purported 'white elite' is largely indistinguishable from its Aymara cousins, the only difference seems to be dress.

It takes a Venezuelan to figure out the mess Bolivians are in.

Discussing Bolivia is extremely complex. Suffice to say for now that the Bolivian "altiplano" long suffering and long exploited natives want now to benefit from the oil and gas of the Santa Cruz province, the newcomer and the booming area of Bolivia. There was a time where Bolivia fought for the Chaco in a bloody XX war. Paraguay won but no oil was found in the Chaco. Had Bolivia been more patient it would have realized that the oil was already at home. Meanwhile Santa Cruz grew in the recent decades to become the granary of Bolivia and the pole of industrial pole.

The locals do not want to have orders come from La Paz for which there is not even a real good road to connect with. Santa Cruz looks to Brazil and Mercosur. La Paz looks at its navel. Santa Cruz thinks local initiative (even if only for the local oligarchy), decentralization. La Paz is afraid to fall into the hands of radical leaders that exploit the justified resentment of their followers. Whoever wins in La Paz will only try to control Santa Cruz and get as much money as possible from there to buy off peace from El Alto.

Monday, June 06, 2005

PT Holds Off Dinger

Screw this Political BS for now.

I was in Milwaukee for the Champ Car race and we had a blast!!!! Best race I've seen at the mile in a couple of years. PT's outside pass of Jimmy V. rocked, and Dinger almost got PT at the end. Oriol ran a hell of a race, I hope Paul Newman and Carl keep him in that seat.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Tasty Rumor -- Where Evo Gets His $$$

Dudes at Petroleumworld have a really biting section, En Voz Baja, where they post rumors and cocktail party gossip. Since they are gas and oil insiders they do have fairly good sources.

This gem, has people in Argentina abuzz about some of Evo's allies. Seems like associations linked to him money-wise- have been very active in Buenos Aires' wholesale produce market recently. At a recent cocktail party for the out-going Venezuelan ambassador, some invitees expressed their astonishment at the sums of money these guys are flashing around quite openly. Bolivian wholesalers dominate the produce markets in BA, but Evo's buddies have recently began forming cooperatives south of Buenos Aires, in ever increasing numbers.

The produce market is known for being a cash and carry market. Seems like they can
clean up
, more than the market, if you know what I mean. Then Evo with a straight face can say his support comes from Bolivian businessmen abroad. yeah right......

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Brinkmanship In Bolivia

The game is on!!

President Mesa with little institutional support seems to be trying to ride out the storm.

To some extent the opposition is helping him. The 'popular' movement is split. Evo Morales and the MAS leadership are in a strange position. He had no hand in the new gas and oil law, which was drafted by the 'traditional' opposition to Mesa (i.e. the vaguely leftish and center right parties). MAS' own proposal, called for an increase in royalties from 18 to 50 percent, and was not really discussed by the legislature, possibly by Evo's being out of the country. It seemed to be Evo's own form of 'compromise legislation', vis a vis the Aymara nationalists and labor unions who want nationalization.

My personal opinion is that he was trying to adopt a more 'conciliatory' line, in order to sell himself both as a traditional Bolivian power broker to the old school 'politicos' and as a statesman in eyes of foreign investors and governments. That puts him squarely in the traditional Bolivian 'caudillo' mold; guys with the street smarts and gut instinct of Chicago alderman, and who can turn on a dime. Paz Estensorro, Juan Lechin, and Jaime Paz Zamora, were all considered very radical at some point or another, but ended up going quite mainstream in the end.

But Evo may have overplayed his hand. His clout in large part comes from being able to mobilize the Altiplano peasantry, the miners, unions, (in other words a good chunk of what passes for the Aymara nationalists) as well as assorted Pace~os. These are the guys out in the street right now. And they are ticked off at Evo, because he hasn't come out 100 percent for nationalization. How does Evo get control of the movement again? At this point his feeble attempts at getting the legislature in session to grab some headlines is being undercut by the president.

Paradoxically, this disconnect between Evo from the protesters, can also kill the popular sectors momentum. They have no realistic objectives to attain, and no real agenda, they are turning into a general 'screw all politicians' movement. Mesa knows Bolivian history and he may be counting on that happening. Aymara nationalism in the past has involved big blowups which dissipate soon after - as the revolts at the end of the 19th century show. But still the president is playing it right to the limit, the Santa Cruz autonomy movement, is another factor to consider, which threatens to cut off the country.

The plot thickens -- La Paz

All hell is breaking loose, as Jean Fridsky in her story shows

It was the longest day yet. For almost twelve hours--from 9:30 am until almost 9:30pm--the Plaza San Francisco and the area surrounding it were filled with people. A reported 100,000 protesters occupied the streets and squares of La Paz today, paralyzing the city.

The protests have morphed, and there has been clashes with the police.

Partly as a reaction to this protest, is congress trying to get some discussion going on a couple of bills, one to discuss Sta. Cruz' call for a referendum, and the other one from the Andes provinces, calling to what amounts to a constitutional convention. The lefties around Evo are desperate to get anything done, so the protesters get off their case. But, the president, the speaker of the house, among others were not there, so they failed to get a quorom.

And partially in response to this, Campesinos announced further blocked roads. Transport Unions have declared a two day strike The Chamber of Commerce has called for Mesa's Head.

Evo, meanwhile is all heated up, because its his base that is running around raising hell in La Paz, and there is already a rift. The firsthand account from Narconews is pretty interesting.
to the worried expression on the face of the MAS congressman with whom Luis and I had coffee; watching Evo and other Parliamentarians chat on the floor of Congress waiting for the session to be convened while their constituencies were being repelled by rubber bullets blocks away;

The president is counting on these to blow over, and split the left.