Sunday, July 31, 2005

Bolivia: Quiroga Leads Poll of Urban Dweller

If the elections were held today, Jorge "Tuto" Quiroga would get 22 percent of the vote, while businessman, Samuel Doria Medina and Evo Morales would get second and third with 15 and 16% of the totals, according to this survey done by La Razon, in the four main Bolivian Cities: La Paz, El Alto, Cochabamba, and Santa Cruz.

El ex presidente Jorge Quiroga obtendría el 22% de los votos si las elecciones se desarrollaran hoy, mientras que Samuel Doria Medina (UN) y Evo Morales (MAS) se ubicarían en el segundo y tercer lugar con el 16 y 15% de apoyo, respectivamente.

Así lo revela una reciente encuesta elaborada por Apoyo, Opinión y Mercado para La Razón en julio, en las cuatro ciudades capitales del eje troncal. La pregunta planteada fue: “En caso de que se presenten a las próximas elecciones presidenciales los siguientes candidatos, ¿por cuál de ellos votaría usted?”.

Evo's popularity is way overstated outside of Bolivia, the bottom line is that a centrist or center-right allaince will probably win the next election.

Moderate Muslims Speak Up

I previously posted links to stories that argued the view that even so-called "Moderate" Muslim were using harsh rhetoric, and that this was prevalent in all strains of Islam. Now on Andrew Sullivan's page, Judith Klinghoffer PhD, subbing for Andrew, reports on the Fatwa issued against terror, whose main points she summarizes are:

1. All acts of terrorism targeting civilians are haram (forbidden) in Islam.

2. It is haram for a Muslim to cooperate with any individual or group that is involved in any act of terrorism or violence.

3. It is the civic and religious duty of Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement authorities to protect the lives

In another post, she highlights some extremely interesting op-eds from Middle Eastern media, including Al Jazeera, showing that some moderates are openly criticizing extremism, a necessary first-step to get a positive dialogue out. Change will only come from within in Middle Eastern Societies.

Tom Friedman On Middle Eastern Political Parties

In the New York Times, Tom Friedman talks about the spent political parties of the Middle East, struggling to go from parties of National Liberation to delivering the nuts and bolts of government.
All Fall Down

Published: July 29, 2005

In visiting Gaza and Israel a few weeks ago, I realized how much the huge drama in Iraq has obscured some of the slower, deeper but equally significant changes happening around the Middle East. To put it bluntly, the political parties in the Arab world and Israel that have shaped the politics of this region since 1967 have all either crumbled or been gutted of any of their original meaning. The only major parties with any internal energy and coherence left today are Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood, and they are scared out of their minds - scared that if all the secular parties collapse, they may have to rule, and they don't have the answers for jobs, sewers and electricity.

He puts Israel's Likud and Labor within this group, which might anger some, but which is spot-on. There is a perverse co-dependence between the likes of Likud and its mortal enemies in the PLO, Hizbollah, as well as Syrian Baath Party.

The big challenge for all these societies is obvious: Can they reconstitute these old parties or build new ones that can make the task and narrative of developing their own countries - making their people competitive in an age when China and India and Ireland are eating their lunch - as emotionally gripping as fighting Israel or the West or settling the West Bank?

The Rest Here

Samuel Huntington, before he went goofy over immigration, did write that strong political parties - broadly representative - were a necessary pre-condition to political stability. What happens when you are left with shells of parties or unstable coalitions, and there is a seismic shift in popular attitudes?

EDIT: Judith at Sullivan's blog has complained that Friedman HAS A MAJOR BLIND SPOT, when it comes to Israeli political parties.

: He fails to understand the differences between democracies and tyrannies and, therefore, between Israel and the PA. In democracies, at election time, it's always the economy, stupid. So, economic well being has always been important to Israeli governments, be they Labor or Likud. In fact, as Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters yesterday,

"We are in the midst of a big revolution, and Israel is becoming well-known in the international economy. We are growing faster than most developing economies in the world."
The countries to compare Israel with is not the PA but Ireland and India. Not only are the three former British colonies engaged in a lengthy territorial conflict but they are also in the midst of a politically controversial but economically successful transformation from socialist to liberal economic systems.

Innovation is also the product of liberal democracies. Israel is a leading innovator and so is India. Indeed, the Israeli-Indian rapprochement is based in a large part on technological cooperation. China has to steal technology.

Democracies are messy but they work. I know that when one watches "Jaywalking," one cannot but wonder. I believe the electorate is engaged in a mass exercise of Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

In other words, democracies are not only moral, they are practical.
posted by Judith

Israel is a democracy for mostly its Jewish citizens, and Israeli Arabs. The obvious issue here is the exclusion of Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories, who are in perpetual limbo. And that is a result of what Friedman himself has described as the 'de-personalization' of the Palestinians as a people, by both Labour and Likud, and fears of an Arabic majority. In that sense this is not Ireland, or India, it would be like if Pakistan and India had not been partitioned, and Pakistani's were under military occupation by India and Pakistani's were not allowed to vote.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Happy Birthday Alexis

I refer of course to Alexis de Tocqueville, as Publius Pundit reminded me it is his 200th birthday.

The Adam Smith Institute today had a piece about the great man:

By Dr Eamonn Butler
De Tocqueville (1805-1859), was born into an aristocratic family, but came to question the role of the aristocracy in the government of France. After the July Revolution of 1830, when power changed from the Bourbon to the Orleans family, de Tocqueville sensed the spirit of democracy that was rising in France, and set off to study how it worked in America.

In 1835 he published the first part of Democracy in America, a very positive account of American government. The second part, published in 1840, was much less positive, with strong warnings for France about the risks of centralized and despotic government.

What stands out about Alexis de Tocqueville is his keen insight into the small details of everyday American life in the 19th Century, from which he derived larger conclusions explaining why the United States was emerging as an industrial power, that he correctly foresaw as a force in international politics. But, he also pointed out fundamental weaknesses that persist to this day, including what many observers see as a persistent disinterest of many American's in the outside world. Democracy in America is more than a case history in democracy, it is a medidation on human freedom, coming from a natural skeptic. Americans should read this book, at least to get some insight into the things that made the country what it is. The great shame is that many Europeans and Latin Americans - even those who consider themselves 'cultured' - do not read De Toucqueville. They should.

On Moderate and Not So Moderate Islam in England

I found this article at Melanie Phillip's Diary. I don't anything about her, but she does link and comment on some thought-provoking stuff.

First, she quotes from the Bruce Thorton Article cited above.

'The jihadist enemy, on the other hand, is operating on principles and values squarely in the tradition of Islam, and thus unlike fascism and communism is expressing a spiritual need and an orthodox religious mandate: to fulfill by force the will of Allah that all the world be subject to Islam and an Islamic state, the caliphate, ruled by sharia, Islamic religious law.'

Ms. Phillips in reply, is thinking along the same lines as me, which sometimes veers between guarded optimism and wishful-thinking.

Well, yes, this is true as far as it goes. But the democracy argument is based on the belief that the desire for human freedom is universal, transcending all creeds. On this basis, the desire of the average Muslim for freedom is no less because their religion happens to preach submission. Clearly, the tension between the innate desire for freedom on the one hand and the powerful attachment to the religion of submission on the other sets up enormous conflicts, which we are beginning to see being played out within the Muslim world. And we don't know whether an accommodation can ever be reached. But we must surely give those struggling to reconcile these particular spiritual needs with the desire for freedom every encouragement and support, because it is upon such an accommodation that the fate of the world may depend.

This next post, links to another article in the Spectator, that has some scary conclusions.

So the mantra “Islam is peace” is almost 1,400 years out of date. It was only for about 13 years that Islam was peace and nothing but peace. From 622 onwards it became increasingly aggressive, albeit with periods of peaceful co-existence, particularly in the colonial period, when the theology of war was not dominant. For today’s radical Muslims — just as for the mediaeval jurists who developed classical Islam — it would be truer to say “Islam is war”...

Read the Whole Article here, registration required.

Take a look at the roots of Islam, the Prophet Mohammed was a tribal leader of a very traditional nomadic desert people. He fought rival tribes while trying to establish and spread his faith in the Arabian Peninsula. The Koran is a collection of Mohammed's oral teachings from throughout his life, and it invariably reflects his real-life experiences as a religious and secular leader. Islam provides more than a faith, it is also a code of conduct - much of it relevant to the 7th Century desert life - in the same way Judaism was a guide to Jews living in ancient Israel. And like Judaism and Christianity, Islam's main religion text is open to countless interpretations - like Christianity a lot of blood has been shed over these arguments. And Islam struggles with some of the more 'militant' language in its text.

Now Remember that one Brit 'intern', Dilpazier Aslam??
Well he got in trouble, because of his previous association with a fairly radical publication - which called for killing Jews, as The Daily Ablution points out.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Bolivia: B.B.C. on New President

A profile of Bolivia's interim President, reveals....not much.

Bolivia's peacemaker seeks brighter future

By Elliott Gotkine
BBC South America correspondent in La Paz

Few people would envy Eduardo Rodriguez. As the respected head of Bolivia's Supreme Court, this amiable 49-year-old lawyer was destined for a predictable and uneventful future.
But then on 9 June, he had the Bolivian presidency thrust upon him. In the face of growing violence on the streets Carlos Mesa had stepped down from high office. He had gone on to warn that the country was on the brink of civil war.

Rodriguez steered the country away from civil strife
Mr Rodriguez became the country's third president in less than two years. Most Bolivians believed he was the only man who could save them.

But were things really that bad?

The rest here


Awesome, CAFTA passed.

This is in no way a cure-all for Central America's ills, including immigration. But on balance, it is a step forward in the creation of a bigger market block, incorporating all of North and Central America.

South America needs to get its act together too.

Here is Publius' links to other stuff.

Juan Guillermo at Hispanic Trending has this really interesting article from the Houston Chronicle, showing how Latino groups in the U.S. lobbied FOR the bill.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Bolivia Gas Reserves Decrease - Lower Investments Blamed

Petroleum World quotes,Luis Lema Molina, Tarija's superintendent for hyrdo-carbons, stating that Bolivia's proved natural gas reserves have gone from 27 trillion cubic feet (or 727 billion cubic meters)in 2002 to 22 trillion cubic feet (TCF) in 2005. The percentage he says is 'significant since it is all subject to (the lower) investments made in the sector'.

Proved Reserves???

This does not mean: 1. that there is less natural gas under Bolivia's ground, or 2. five trillion cubic feet were sold at huge profits by evil multinationals. The basic definition of proved reserves "are those quantities of natural gas, which, by analysis of geological and engineering data, can be estimated with a high degree of confidence to be commercially recoverable from a given date forward, from known reservoirs and under current economic conditions. There is no 100% reliable way of quantifying how much natural gas lies thousands of feet below the surface in a particular area. Once you drill and start producing, it becomes easier to estimate how much you have in a particular field or reservoir, and this leads normally to increases in proved reserves.

Bolivia's Natural Gas industry - defined as an active producer of significant amounts of natural gas - is in its relative infancy. The 2002 figures for proved reserves were based on information collected in the significant amount of exploration that took place in the 1990's. Lema Molina says the adjusted figures were calculated onceextraction started, which is normal in the industry. He cites the example of one exploratory well that hit water, 12,000 feet below the surface, making it tougher to work that particular well - and also taking whatever estimated deposits there out of the count.

It Takes Money To Make Money

This is a capital-intensive industry, which relies on technology, needing constant investment to even maintain production at current levels. U.S. industry is estimated, to need investments of around "$1.44 trillion in capital between 1999 and 2015 in order to keep pace with demand growth." Since 1997 in Bolivia, Petrobras, France's Total, and Spain's Repsol, have invested about $3.7 billion dollars, and the proved reserves also increased almost 10 fold at the time, from 170 bcm before 1997 to 1,481 bcm by January 2001 (IEA 2003 Cited Here).

As Lema himself says:

Reserves are intimately linked to investments. If there is more activity in exploration it will necessarily expand reserves in a region that has the fundamental elements to increase reserves, but it is not worth saying we have bigger volumes of gas and liquid if we do not prove it in reality"

Political Instability - Less Investment

It is undisputed that investments in the gas industry are going down, largely due to post-2002 political climate and resulting instability. Investment for 2004 is down to 235.9 million dollars from 2003, when it was 280/5 million dollars.

This is what happens when politicians arbitrarily vote to rescind long-standing contracts, raised taxes 100 percent on the product, and threaten to nationalize the entire industry. It puts companies with large investments on the edge. Repsol for one, has indicated that the new tax law throws a wrench into its plans, to increase production.

Remember the 'commercially viable' cost of extraction? When your costs associated with production go way up, pumping gas out of certain fields becomes less lucrative, and reserves go down. As Fundacion Millenio pointed out this would dropping production of smaller fields dispersed in several departments, and concentrating on key mega-fields in Tarija. Lema himself mentions other wells which have been abandoned for now, keeping them in reserve. And there is no guarantee that even in productive fields, additional drilling will be done, restricting production.

Long term there might be ruinous consequences for the industry as a whole, since basic infrastructure can be compromised. Lema claims thatthis lowered investment, has affected not only exploration and exploitation, but also (investment) in ducts and plants. ."

Opportunities Lost

Lema suggests that some of Tarija's business leaders might have been right in signaling (in 2002) "that there were big risks involved if new markets like the U.S. and Mexico were not opened." In other words, when certain multinationals wanted to buy Bolivian gas, send it through a pipeline to Chile, where it would be shipped to Mexico for ultimate transport to the U.S., it was an opportunity lost. Billions of dollars would have been spent on Bolivian soil for infrastructure and additional exploitation, which again would result in increased proved reserves.

This industry does not operate in a vacuum. Companies who have invested in Bolivia's gas fields, are now looking elsewhere. Repsol for one, has indicated that the new tax law throws a wrench into its plans, to increase production, and is looking to extricate itself.

And when one side loses an opportunity there are always others who seize on the chances created. This has reached such a point that Peru, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile have recently come up with a scheme - and found financing- that involves expanding production in Peru, and supplying the other countries through new pipelines.

Rhetoric vs. Reality

Lema diplomatically says that reduced reserves, should be cause for some needed 'reflection', since in "Bolivia it was too easy to take populist positions, versus certain realities of the (oil and gas) industry." That is a gentle way of saying that Evo and friends' outdated slogans and silly demands, have nothing to do with reality.

This is just another way in which the collective tantrum in the Altiplano, fueled by Evo Morales' and his cohorts' playing on old suspicions and hatred, has been extremely costly to the country. Chasing away the people who developed the industry, only hurts the industry as a whole, and loses money. The demagouges offer no solutions.

If, nationalization became a fact, the reality is that there is no money in the country of the type needed to fully exploit the gas under Bolivia's surface. The economy, is not doing so bad. 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 went 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. But the entire thing is stretched to the limit, and no way will they be able to raise the cash.
The only people capable of financing and maintaining the sector are multi-nationals.

Overall, the basic needs to feed and educate the poor, and to build up the infraestructure of the country. With the favorable economic conditions, coupled with a steady infusion of tax revenues coming from a productive oil and gas sector, these real issues could be dealt with. Ironically, in the name of the 'poor', the luddites of today are making what should be Bolivia's bounty, into a far-away dream.

Family of Salvadoran Soldier Killed in Iraq Gets Nothing

I found this on Tim's El Salvador Blog This is tragic, this article in the San Francisco Chronicle talks about how bad things are going for the family of Salvadoran soldier, Natividad "Tivito" de Jesús Méndez Ramos, who died in Najaf, Iraq.

Here lives Herminia Ramos, whose son Natividad bears the dubious distinction of being the poorest coalition soldier to die in the Iraq war. "Tivito" fell when the ammunition his superiors had supplied him proved tragically insufficient, forcing the soldiers to use knives to fight the enemy. Four brave soldiers fended off the Iraqi insurgents after Tivito was killed and 12 others were injured, prompting their Spanish-speaking counterparts in their brigade to dub them "Los Guacamayos," a takeoff on their hometown.

Tivito's monthly salary of $120 from the Salvadorian army was crucial for the family's survival. His father died when he was young, and the soldier inherited the role of "man of the house." But now that he is dead, those funds no longer arrive. Unlike the United States, this country does little to compensate the widows or mothers of its fallen soldiers.

This is outrageous!! El Salvador is a poor country, and can not afford to pay this kind of money. But the United States is another story. It is the U.S. government that encouraged the Central American governments to send troops, and we know too well that the justifications given were suspect. And the Salvadorans in particular have acquited themselves incredibly well, with decades of experience due to their recent civil war, they have made great bodyguards.

It is even more outrageous if you think about the money the government is spending (and losing) billions of dollars in questionable "reconstruction" efforts that involve contractors like Halliburton. This poor kid fought with the bravery, tenaciousness and fearlessness, that is the Latin American soldier at his best. His family deserves more from the U.S. government, than flying his body in.

Bolivia 'Gonismo' Defined

Barrio Flores, has this to say about 'Gonismo', a term of art in current Bolivian political spin:

Election Buzzword #1 - Gonismo
“Gonismo” – It’s hard to put your finger on what it actually means, but you better believe that many of the candidates, especially Mr. Evo Morales will be using the term liberally over the next four months.

Fair or not, former and exiled President, Gonzalo “Goni” Sanchez de Lozada is synonymous with the current crisis that Bolivia finds itself. Whether for the capitalization of several key industries or the yet-to-be investigated events in October 2003 where too many Bolivians were killed, Goni is public enemy number one to blame for Bolivia’s ills.

No one wants to be associated with him, even though almost every current politician has some links, i.e. Samuel Doria Medina (ex-MIR), whose party has been allied with both of Goni’s presidencies. Even some in his own party, MNR, want to distance themselves from their current/former party leader (depends on who you ask). If MNR wants to save some face in the December elections, it must show that it is Goni-free.

However, Evo will try his hardest to link the other candidates as collaborators of the former President, by perhaps suggesting that anyone who has ever worked with Goni, been in the same room as Goni, or even shaken hands with Goni, as guilty of having the mark of “Gonismo”.

Category: Bolivia

Now, Gonismo, falls within a time-honored Bolivian political campaign tradition of tarring entire government administrations - a practice that often is interrupted when opponents end up being coalition partners. However, if the target continues being an opponent, the other parties will continue to pound away at the theme, untill the next election cycle, since Bolivian political parties are always campaigning.

Gonismo takes it a bit further, since some in the MNR also partake in the sport, which shows how much of a pariah he has become to some in the country. But, he also retains power behind the scenes in the MNR, and given Bolivia's weird cyclical politics, you can never count him out.

Trashing Goni, a favorite sport in leftist NGO circles as well, of course ignores several facts. The first being that the protests against him, were orchestrated by Evo and other hard-leftists to paralyze the country and to undercut the authority of the presidency. He responded forcefully, and people were killed, but the oppositions role in the crisis is always ignored. Lastly, many of the reforms carried out by Goni, have left positive results for the country. He killed inflation and reduced a large redundant bureaucracy. His creation of hundreds of local municipal bodies, elected directly and funded by monies originally handled by the central administration, did a lot to promote de-centralization, efficiency, local democracy and self-government. But then again, this is Bolivian politics, these things don't matter during this cycle.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Chavez-TV Goes On Line -

Can petro-dollars and lunacy make for good TV?

Venezuelan Supremo, Hugo Chavez, and Hollywood useful idiot, Danny Glover seem to think so.

AP and the B.B.C. both have stories.

The Colonel has come up with yet another grandiose scheme to project his visions of the Bolivarian Revolution to the rest of Latin America, this time by starting a brand new Television Station, Telesur. Flush with oil money, he no doubt sees the expense as a gift for the education of the whole Continent, as he himself modestly describes as '"part of an awakening of our peoples."

In his bold attempt" to counter cultural imperialism" as he put, he also enlisted the governments of Cuba, Uruguay, and Argentina, - who don't appear to be in a position to pick up the hefty tab of a brand new international T.V. network. No doubt, the Argentinians and Uruguayans are happy about reducing unemployment among their Broadcast sector, and Fidel - well - how can he be unhappy with a (free) new outlet for his marathonic rants?

And Fidel will not only be getting major primetime exposure for his rants all over Latin America, but his own people will also get an addition to Cuba's meager TV offerings, and one whose content he will not have to worry about. As the stations first president - who also happens to be the Venezuelan Information Minister, Andres Izarra - said "[i]ts an initiative against imperialism" - which pretty much means the 'giant to the north', in the words of actor, station board member, and just plain idiot, Danny Glover.

Meanwhile, as the B.B.C. points out, the first broadcast had controversy extending beyond Gringo-landia.
The channel's first news programme began with a critical report on the
failures of the mission in Haiti led by Brazil, followed by another on the
plight of refugees in Colombia - a sign that it is not only in Washington that
Telesur may be ready to ruffle feathers.

This should be interesting.

Meanwhile, the domain name is actually for sale by its previous owners who are looking at minimum offers $100,000.00. It would be great fun to track and see if Chavez' flunkies try to buy it.

CAFTA Arguments

Bloggings by Boz is compiling a list of Op-Eds for and against ratification of CAFTA (so email him any stuff you find). His current list includes a piece by Andres Oppenheimer.

Mas Contra Cafe

Well, the Contra Cafe story, has sparked some more commentary, Instapundit has a story out.

Austin Paul seems to know a thing or two about gourmet coffee's and fairtrade, and puts Contra Cafe in perpsective:

Contra coffee is actually cheaper (maybe this shouldn't be a surprise, considering Starbucks' penalties prices). Contra charges $10/lb for a mix of organic/non-organic high-altitude, shade-grown coffee. For a similar product, Starbucks charges $12.99/lb.

So, if you're a non-Starbucks-stock-holding-right-winger, Contra coffee just might be for you.

I go back to Miami Herald Article, that I originally saw on Boz's page.

As for that article, I have a real issue with this paragraph:

While the contras were a cause célbre for many during the Reagan era, their legacy is tainted by the Iran-contra scandal and accusations of human rights abuses.


The spin here is all about the 'tainted' contras, involved in Iran-Contra, and human rights abuses. This is a legacy of the pro-Sandinista smear campaign against the Nicaraguan Resistance ran by -depending on your view- progressive/hard left types. This went beyond fringe groups, many of these individuals, NGO's, and random 'Solidarity' groups coalesced around Jesse Jackson's campaigns for Presidency in the Democratic Party. Their spin on Central America, was used by even mainstream Democrats to score political points against Reagan, as well as being repeated senselessly in some media outlets, ironically in much the same way that accusations about Whitewater and Madison spread on the other side of the political spectrum. Ultimately this was the kind of nonsense in the Democratic Party and in the media, that chased away traditional Cold-War Democrats and gave Republicans ammo to tar the Democratic Party as being Anti-American, arrogant, foreign policy weaklings, and out of touch with the mainstream. The fact that some established media outlets, sometimes repeated this spin, also helped fuel the whole 'liberal media bias' view that still persists to this day - even in the day of Fox News. The fact that a business reporter for the Washington Post would repeat this in 2005, makes you wonder if loudmouths like Coulter and Limbaugh don't have a point.

Mixing coffee and causes isn't new, but in Nicaragua the cause has usually been on the other side of the political spectrum. During the height of the Sandinista-contra civil war -- which eventually killed between 30,000 and 50,000 people -- American and European volunteers formed coffee-picking brigades to help the Sandinista government bring in its harvest.

So the contra's are human rights abusers, while the noble Sandinista government attracts European idealist to come help with its coffee crop.

No mention of the Sandinista's pro-Brezhnev, pro-Castro leanings, their single-party control over the Country, betrayal of moderates, arrests of opponents, war against the Church, their Stasi intelligence advisors, support for Salvadoran Marxist guerrillas, training of terrorists, Cuban, North Korean, and East-German military advisors, militarization, HIND-24 Gunships, drafting of 16 year olds, persecution of Miskito Indians.

How about the fact that pressure from the Contras, kept them from completely imposing Marxist-Leninist rule, and forced them to hold popular elections that they lost. To anyone with half a brain in the 80's it was clear that the Sandinistas were not going to give up power. Heck, I talked to several top Sandinista militants, before Reagan even got into office, who pretty much admitted as much. They wanted what they viewed as "true Revolutionary Change" - and that involved getting rid of 'bourgeois' dissent, and bringing in MIG's so be it. These guys, however sincere they were (and many were), only understood power, and there was no way they were going to give any of it up, unless they were forced to.

Friday, July 22, 2005


This comes via the Miami Herald

Posted on Fri, Jul. 22, 2005

Contra Café stirs critics on the left

A New Hampshire company selling coffee grown by Nicaragua's former contra fighters has found that the political terrain is rattling its marketing efforts.


Tom Kilroy knew breaking into the U.S. market with organic Nicaraguan coffee would be a struggle. But ever since the 27-year-old Dartmouth graduate launched Contra Café -- Wake up with Freedom Fighters!, he's been taking his coffee with flack.

The beans are grown in the highlands of Nicaragua by former contra guerrillas -- the U.S.-backed fighters who tried to topple the country's Marxist Sandinista government in the 1980s.

While the contras were a cause célbre for many during the Reagan era, their legacy is tainted by the Iran-contra scandal and accusations of human rights abuses.

''When we first launched [in April], word spread more on liberal blogs,'' Kilroy said. ``I've gotten a fair amount of unhappy e-mail . . . to the effect that this is a really bad idea.''

So far, Kilroy's Hanover, N.H., company is struggling, averaging sales of just 15 pounds a week.


Retailing for $10 a pound on its website, the company pays the farmers $1.50 a pound -- more than market rates and more than what's known as fair-trade, or socially responsible, prices.

In addition, Contra Café gives 50 percent of its profits back to the farmers.

Mixing coffee and causes isn't new, but in Nicaragua the cause has usually been on the other side of the political spectrum. During the height of the Sandinista-contra civil war -- which eventually killed between 30,000 and 50,000 people -- American and European volunteers formed coffee-picking brigades to help the Sandinista government bring in its harvest.

Even today, some of the country's best-known coffee cooperatives are run by former Sandinistas.

''Fair-trade coffee [in Nicaragua] has always been in the hands of the left,'' said José Adán López, the president of the farming cooperative that supplies Contra Café. ``We decided why not try to sell to those on the right? In Miami, there are a lot of former contra [supporters] that can help us by buying this coffee.''

I am sick of the propaganda hangover from the 80's - which even mainstream media perpetrates to this day about the anti-Sandinista rebels. Yes, they were supported by Reagan, but the bottom line is that more than 15,000 Nicaraguans were so enraged as Sandinista stupidity that they took up arms against them. Nicaragua had tens of thousands of small holdings, due to the relatively large amount of land available relative to the population. And it was mostly these small farmers and peasants in the North of the country, who could not stand the Sandinista government.

Do any of the Benjamin Linder wannabees, really know, the kind of crap that many of these small farmers went through at Sandinista hands? The government killed the small coffee owners cooperatives leader Jorge Salazar early on. They ruined the areas economy breaking the long-standing distribution networks of rural areas beholding small farmers to the central government, at the insistence of their Cuban economic advisors. Eventually they confiscated small holdings To make matters worse they also tried spreading their ideological stupidity, which was anathema to many highly devout Catholic and Protestant farmers. All this interference with their livelihoods and private life sparked massive resistance in the highly independent inhabitants of the North.

So just who are these coffee farmers?

For Kilroy, Contra Café is more about the people than the politics. After visiting Nicaragua in 2003 as a volunteer with TechnoServe, a U.S. nonprofit group, he was moved by the economic plight of the coffee farmers in the northern province of Jinotega and decided to help.

The farmers hope to use the profits from Contra Café to build houses and provide healthcare for some of their 250 members.

Bottom line, the folks fighting against the Sandinistas were poor rural people - the type the left claims to fight for. These coffee growers did what they thought was right. When the small stakeholders in El Chapare in Bolivia do it, it is right, when the enemy is Marxist Leninist it is wrong. Now these poor folks in Nicaragua want a fair wage so they can build houses and get health care.
Those 1980s' era Sandalistas in the U.S. should be FORCED to buy this coffee, since they were intellectual collaborators and enablers of Sandinista STUPIDITY!! Supporting Marxist-Leninists in the Cold War was STUPID AND CRIMINAL! Stupid because even then it was obvious that the nonesense didn't work, criminal because supporting evil Marxist-Leninists during the Cold War was plain wrong. How anyone could wish this upon the Nicaraguan peasantry was inexcusable. How can these people even try to perpetuate these lies???

My advice to the Contra Cafe people: Get rid of the Ollie North crap - he is a liar, but keep on selling it. Oh, by the way, all those Republicans who ever made noise about supporting the Contras - the types who forgot what Nicaragua even was for the past 15 years. -You know who you are- You better buckle up and buy this coffee NOW!!! If you can pay for guns, you can pay for poor folks coffee.

Evo's Election Chances - MABB vs. COHA

I was alerted to this article by Boz and Barrioflores . It comes from left-leaning Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA), which in the 80's were the usual Sandinista and FMLN apologists.

This is clearly the type of laudatory view of "Evo the Indigenous Hero” view that drives even Jim Schultz to qualify it as 'lazy analysis'.

Morales has gained considerable renown from his daily exposure in the local and international press. The former coca union icon and legislative leader now occupies a particularly strategic position and is poised to benefit from the early presidential elections.

Wrong, Evo has a constituency, but is nowhere near a majority as an individual candidate, nor is MAS in any way a 'majority' party, something that Jim Schultz essentially admits in this fairly objective read - b/t/w I do get my rear handed to me (justifiably) in the comments section through a dumb basic error.
What I do recommend, is MABB's excellent breakdown, using his own graphs of Evo Morales' support, as viewed through the past elections.

Take a look at MAS representation in the legislature after the elections.

The MAS, has been, ever since 2002, the main opposition force in Congress. However, as we can see, it has not been able to make much of a mark. MAS has controlled 27 of the 130 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 8 of the 27 seats in the Senate. These numbers are not enough to exert any significant influence in Congress. MAS has therefore been largely marginalized because its political line has not coincided with that of the other players. The only alternative left to it, at least based on its actions, has been to incite protest on the streets.

Evo, has less than a third the seats in Congress, and almost a third in the Senate. This is the result of fair elections, and meanwhile, the usual suspects on the left somehow think he is entitled to bring down two presidents???

MABB then shows the geographical distributions of deputies elected directly in another graph.

We can clearly discover some geographic political preferences. For example we can see that Santa Cruz is MNR country. Personally, I was under the impression that the MIR had much support in this region. Moreover, it is also clear that the MNR has wide support in the other two eastern departamentos, Pando and Beni. We can also see the remnants of ADN in Pando. Another interesting thing to observe is what happens in La Paz. In this departamento we can find a diversity of political currents, with two parties capturing the most support. MIR has the upper hand, and here I speculate that this support is in the city of La Paz where most of the middle class lives. By contrast the MIP (Felipe Quispe) has a firm grip on the Altiplano Aymaras. What is also interesting is to see the size of that electorate. Of course we also see that Tarija, not surprisingly, is MIR country. This is due to the fact that its leader, Jaime Paz Zamora is a Tarijeno.

As for the issue at hand, from the graphic we can see that MAS has support in the departamentos of Cochabamba, Potosi, Oruro, La Paz and Sucre (in descending order). Support for MAS is stronger in Cochabamba, where it emerged as a political force and Potosi. Surprisingly, support for MAS in La Paz is only marginal. People wrongly tend to automatically attribute all the activity in the city of El Alto to Evo Morales. Now we can clearly see that while there is some common ground between the activists in El Alto and Evo, that doesn't mean that Evo enjoys wide support by Altenos. It is also worth highlighting the lack of support for MAS in the Eastern regions, Santa Cruz, Beni and Pando plus Tarija. This is the so called Media Luna (for its resemblance to a half moon) region, which is currently pushing the autonomic movement.

This geographic distribution of support for parties and personalities is well known by Bolivians but seldom gets objectively stated in foreign media, and in the propaganda put out by the neo-luddite NGO crowd.

What should be eye-opening to people, is how MABB shows Evo's surpringly low standing in La Paz - and even in El Alto his supposed core of support. The answer is partially that many poor Bolivians are 'informal' and formal entrepeneurs, who make their money through trade. Blockages of roads, can tick them off, and mess with their livelihood. Others depend on construction work, which also disapears when roads are closed and supplies are not available. People forget that many of these small empresarios voted for Goni.

While some may sympathize with 'nationalization' cries, they want open roads, and to be able to buy and sell freely.

Tuto Quiroga who is strong in his native Cochabamba, also benefits in other areas - as recent polls show he is even close to Evo in El Alto. As Banzer's VP and then successor, he clearly represents a Law and Order platform that carries some weight.

The MNR's standing in the highland departments of La Paz, Sucre, and Oruru, shows the name still carries some weight, with urban and rural dwellers, owing partially to the fact it was the party of the National Revolution of 1952. Many people outside of Bolivia, forget this was the party that enacted agrarian reform and nationalized the mining industry.
The MIR is also popular in some of those same areas. People on the left are quick to label this party negatively, but many Bolivians also remember the MIR as the party that really stood up to the last military dictatorship, paying a cost in blood, and whose leader barely survived the sabotage of his airplane by thugs.

All in all, the bottom line is that these traditional parties, and even new parties emerging from old established roots, still have significant pull in all of Bolivia. Since their ideology is not that far apart, as a block they are a significant counter-weight to MAS-Evo, and they will cut deals to cut Evo out.

MABB's conclusion on Evo and MABB is spot on:

The Movement Towards Socialism has therefore shown itself as one of the major political forces in Bolivian politics. What it hasn't shown is either its ability to make that leap from a strong alternative party to a strong leading party and its ability to form alliances with other forces. This last characteristic is indispensable if MAS is to get to the presidency.

Shake it Shakira!!! Double-Crossover

Hispanic Trending, the invaluable Hispanic marketing site, reprints this Economist article about the Colombian singer-songrwiter-majorbabe.

Despite what Colombians, my little sister and cousins say, Shakira was initially sold to the larger Latin American public as "Jagged Little Pill" in Spanish, Alanis Morrisette screeches and all.

Luckily she broke out of that, did not date anyone from Full House, and showed she is an original artist in her own right. Her new song with Alejandro Sanz, La Tortura, has a pretty steamy video. I am curious to hear the rest of it, there is a collaboration with Gustavo Cerati, the former frontman for legendary Soda Stereo (In Spanish here)

What has been astounding has been how well her new album in Spanish has done. Her English debut did pretty well, but coming out with a Spanish album, Fijacion Oral, gearing it towards the mainstream market is a gutsy and shrewd move that is paying off. IIRC it debuted #4 on the Billboard album charts, which puts it as the highest chart debut for a Spanish language album.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Mind of Mencia

I have liked Carlos' comedy from way back, he was hilarious when he did Loco Slam. At his best, he is a shrewd observer able to puncture through the complex fabric of American urban life. His everyman-multi-cultural-persona is able to riff equally on Latino's, Anglos, African-Americans among others. As a Central American - who grew up in East L.A., he brings a different take on Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. But, sometimes he does rely too much on scatological jokes.

His new show, The Mind of Mencia, at first seemed to reflect that split-personality, the first two episodes were kind of uneven - particularly his monologues. But he does seem to be hitting his stride now, the third episode was hilarious - particularly the skits which have always been funny. This looks promising for the future.

Lets just say that his show is funnier and better written than anything on Univision, which only shows those recycled Televisa, shows with old men dressed as gradeschoolers cliches. La Parodia has talented performers but no writers.

London Again

Damn, talk brazen!!! They did it again!

Thankfully, not many people seem to be hurt.

Setting off even small explosions, in the aftermath of the biggest attack on London in years - with all its heightened security, is a clear message saying: "no matter how safe you think you are, We can do what we want to do,we can do it again."

Obviously trying to strike a psychological blow.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Civilian Deaths In Iraq

It takes a foreign newspaper La Razon - FROM BOLIVIA OF ALL PLACES - to get information that should be front-page news in the U.S. This study, done by two orgs called "Irak Body County" and ''Oxford Research Group' says that there have been 24,865 civilian deaths, from the 20th of March of 03 to March of 05. It bases the count on 10,000 press summaries published during that time-period. It also attributes 37 percent of the deaths to American or Coalition forces. So much for "collateral damage"! It does say the insurgents are responsible for 9.5, with another 36 percent attributed to 'criminal acts' subsequent to the invasion.

Hey, there are obvious holes to punch in this kind of 'study', including some apparent bias, and a whole category of 'criminal action' that seems kind of vague. But then again, the American media does not routinely give accounts of all the Iraqi civilians who routinely get killed at checkpoints by nervous G.I.'s, or who die when their houses get flattened by artillery fire or bombs. Until the government steps up and shows this side of the conflict and the U.S. media reports it like it should, I have no reason to dispute figures given out by groups like this. Its only when the likes of Al Jazeera, make all sorts of claims about 100,000 killed, that I might cite this study to disprove that.

War is ugly and brutal, but if you are sending kids to fight a war, the public deserves to see everything, including the humanitarian cost. The U.S.'s enemies will show the world anyway, at least the citizens of this country should be equally informed.

El estudio, basado en 10.000 informaciones de prensa publicadas desde esa fecha, cifra en 24.865 los civiles muertos, casi todos a consecuencia directa de la violencia, entre el 20 de marzo del 2003 y el 20 de marzo del 2005.

Sus autores son académicos y pacifistas agrupados en el “Irak Body Count” y el “Oxford Research Group” y señalan que en el segundo año de la guerra murieron casi el doble de civiles.

Algo más de un 37 por ciento de las muertes de civiles las atribuye el informe a la coalición dirigida por EEUU, mientras que las que califica de “fuerzas anti-ocupación” son responsables de un 9,5 por ciento. Un 36 por ciento del total es atribuido a delitos de tipo criminal cometidos tras la invasión. La responsabilidad de los ejércitos de la coalición en las muertes de civiles es, sin embargo, muy desigual, y así el estudio atribuye a las fuerzas estadounidenses un 98,5 por ciento del total de muertes.

"Que Pasa Doc - Digo Chico?" Cubano Docs in Venezuela.

Gustavo Coronel has this fascinating tale about the large number of Cuban Doctors sent to Venezuela. As he reports a good number of other Cuban apparat-eros are also running around in the epicenter of Colonel Chavez' Bolivarian Revolution. For the Venezuelan's sake, I hope Fidel didn't export some of the same morons, the self-described 'planning experts', who ran around Sandinista-era Nicaragua, ordering around Nicaraguans - many of whom knew a thing or two about running actual business. One of the the funniest moments of my earlier existence - was hearing a high Sandinista official, in some trade/finance-related ministry, go on a drunken rant about Fidel's minions calling them Cubanos De Mierda.

But, I digress, I am talking about Cuban Doctors in Venezuela.

If there are all these thousands of Cuban Doctors out there, why doesn't Fidel rent their services out to places that lack Doctors?? These guys appear miserable enough to not take the Fidelista nonesense seriously. Bolivia and Nicaragua, among others, could benefit from getting medical care to places needing it. I hear the Cubans are pretty good at dealing with malnourishment. Seriously, double their salary, which is $186 a month now, and throw Fidel a hundred bucks fee, kind of like Temp agencies do. Have suckers like the Spanish or even that nasty Chavez himself pay for it from his oil money. Come to think of it, that is probably what Fidel is doing, pimping his Doctors to get some oil from Nephew Hugo.

Problem with having all those Cubans around is you end up with the obligatory, Seguridad/Department of the America's agents, but then again, you could also 'turn' them and pay them for security 'advice'.
Actually that brings up another point, I wonder what is going on with Castro's whole espionage rings in South America. Has Chavez also 'out-sourced' his espionage to hungry Cuban agents and sources?? Bet you he has, it wouldn't surprise me if he is able to keed the likes of Evo Morales well informed of what his rivals in the Bolivian Army, Government,and polity are doing.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Guns, Germs & Steel - And Bolivia

This excellent PBS documentary, based on the book (b/t/w - which I have not read), is really thought provoking. Episode 2, which I caught last night specifically deals with Pizarro's conquest of the Inca Empire. Due to the inter-woven roots of the Pre-Columbian peoples of Bolivia and Peru, this is extremely relevant to the history and subsequent development of the peoples of Bolivia.

The territory of what is now Bolivia, was then known as Collasuyu, which was one of the four kingdoms (or 'suyus') that formed the Tahuantisuyu, ruled from Cuzco by the Inca. The Collasuyu culture originated on the shores of Lake Titicaca. The average Colla survived in the harsh Andean highlands, by growing potatoes and other crops in terraces cut out of mountains at very high altitutdes. This labor-intensive work, required discipline, attention to detail, and order, and produced a cohesive family-tribe unit known as the ayllu that is at the core of Andean life. These self-contained units owned and work the land cooperatively under the direction of an elder, whom demanded unquestioned obedience. Over the individual ayllu was a regional figure, mallku, who collected a . Ayllu members were expected to serve in different capacities for the overlords, anything from farming his plots of land, to serving in an Army. In addition, This Aymara-speaking self-ordering society, based around the Ayllu. Extended all over what is now the Bolivian Andes. As the ruins of Tiahuanaco show, it also evolved into a thriving culture, with its own City-States around the time of Christ, preceding the Inca, by some 13 or 14 centuries. Its influence extended into today's Peru, and what became known as the Tahuantisuyu Empire adopted much of the Colla culture, including the ayllu. But, at some point after the first millennia A.D. the Colla Civilization went into a period of decline, feuds broke out among ayllus, Tiahuanaco was abandoned, and one of the most powerful factions moved the capital.

Their Inca neighbors by the 14th Century, were organizing a formidable empire, and had their eyes set on Collasuyu. Needless to say the 'incorporation' of the Aymara-speaking Tiahuanaco kingdom was the result of a quick, but vicious campaign by the Quechua-speaking Inca's armies over one faction of the divided Collas. The defeated Colla ruler and his Court were marched to Cuzco at the head of the Inca victory parade, which culminated in most of them being beheaded or fed to wild beasts. And as soon as the Colla army was defeated, the entire ayllu based system in Bolivia simply switched allegiances to the new ruler of Cuzco.

At the beginning of the take-over, for most Collas living in Ayllus, life did not change a lot. It was pay tribute to ruler x, instead of ruler y, and forced work for a different overlord. But the Inca gradually increased taxation, adding extra contributions to the already harried ayllus. The Collas, pressed into service of the Incas army, also rebelled against Cuzco, and at one point the Inca had to raise an army of over 100,000 men to fight the Colla insurrection. The last one was put down right before the Spanish conquest, might have also contributed to finishing off what was left of the Colla aristocracy and warrior class. The Incas also engaged in an early form of ethnic cleansing, moving entire Colla populations to the periphery of the kingdom, and installing Quechua-speaking families as colonists throughout the kingdom. Inca rule also became harsher to the average Colla. Their most effective resistance was to keep their language.

So enter the Spanish, the drama that occurred in Cajamarca was going to play an enormous role in the future of the Collasuyu, which the Spanish would conquer almost by default. As the program brilliantly shows, Pizarro and a few hundred Spaniards, were able to defeat Atahualpa's enormous army in one stroke; taking advantage of the leaders confusion about the divinity of the Spaniards they were able to suddenly pounce on the Emperor's numerous guard, brutally killing hundreds of warriors and seizing the emperor, in full view of the rest of the army which folded almost immediately. The Spaniards were then able to impose their rule over the Incas existing control structure. But the underlying defeat of the Tahunatisuyu also implied in the greater scheme of things, a defeat of the Andean culture.

How Did They Do It

Jared Diamond is a professor at UCLA in Los Angeles. But most of his fieldwork has been done in Papua New Guinea. His time there inspired him to explore the roots of inequality in the modern world. To understand why some people have been able to dominate and conquer others

So he looks at why the Incas were so soundly defeated by the Spaniards.


Europe is fairly flat, with access to the vast steppes of Central Asia, (as well as quick communication with Africa and Asia via the Mediterranean and Atlantic). The America's broken up by mountain ranges, jungles, nasty deserts, North to South different weather and time-zones. Bolivian area - screwed even worse by Andes and cut-off from sea by desert.

Here were Europe and Asia forming the continent of Eurasia, a giant continent but it’s stretched out from east to west, and narrows from north to south. The American continent is long from north to south, narrow from east to west – very narrow at Panama where it narrows down to less than 100 miles. The two continents are of the same lengths, about 8,000 miles in maximum dimensions, but Eurasia is 8,000 miles from east to west, and the Americas are 8,000 miles from north to south, it’s as if these continents were rotated 90 degrees of each other.

These distinctions are crucial as Eurasia's geography allowed for constant contact and interactions (some pretty bloody)between different cultures.

Geography helps Europe domesticate livestock and agriculture

Agriculture first developed in a part of the Middle East known as the Fertile Crescent. Over time, crops and animals from the Fertile Crescent spread into North Africa and Europe, where they triggered an explosion of civilization. By the 16th Century, European farms were dominated by livestock animals that had come from the Fertile Crescent. None were native to Europe. They provided more than just meat. They were a source of milk and wool, leather and manure. And crucially, they provided muscle power.

South America - loses out, Llamas were sole native animal, geography made it hard for other species to migrate - or to be brought in. These gentle beasts have limited cargo capacities, unlike horses.

The critter factor, enabled Europeans to not only develop plowing techniques, which led to increased harvests, the horses muscle increased mobility - and changed warfared.

Guns and Steel

Some very cool shots of ancient guns, but the Professor thinks the strength of Spanish arms lay elsewhere.

The real power of the conquistadors lay elsewhere, with the production of steel. Toledo had some of the best sword smiths in the world. But why were people here able to craft deadly steel weapons, while the Incas were still making simple bronze tools?

Jared Diamond: There was nothing innately brilliant about Europeans themselves that allowed them to be the ones to make high quality swords. Just as with guns, swords were the result of a long process of trial and error that began outside Europe. People started working with metal in the Fertile Crescent 7,000 years ago, and because Europe is geographically close to the fertile crescent, Europeans inherited this metal technology.
But they took this technology on to a new level. European soldiers demanded stronger, longer, sharper swords.

This development, put the Spaniards at the cutting edge of sword-making - as well as in using them in battle. Besides steel, the Spaniards carried centuries of lessons acquired from Spartans, Greeks, Carthaginians, Israelites, Persians, Egyptians, Moors, North Africans, Romans, Mongols, Huns, Goths, Franks, and everyone else who had brandished a sword in anger from Europe, Africa, and Asia. In particular, the Spaniards, the docuemntary points out, were coming from a 7 century history of battling the Moors for control over Spain. And those lessons extended beyond the particular tactics or skills of warfare. The Reconquista was not a straighforward 'us vs. them' fight, instead it was a complex history of constantly shiftialliancesces that often crossed across religious lines. A flair for conspiracy, automatic mis-trust, constant vigilance, and ruthlessness were lessons the Spanish brought with them as well.

Books -- Writing.

Here the professor goes into the advantages posed by the spread of the written word, and the printing press. As always this is something that is the result of centuriemillenniania of development across several cultures. The Incas are shown as not possessing this development. Advantage- Pizarro, he could rely on the printed record of Cortes' conquest of Mexico in making his strategy. Hmmmm.kindnda disagree. To begin with many of his men were illiterate. Pizarro also facing a different situation than Cortes, who had accumulated a fairly large native army when he approached Tenochticlan.

Plus, tIncasa's had a form of writing, which enabled them to keep fairly good records.

Another- and perhaps most deadly advantage- the spread of smallpox that decimated the native peoples of the America's

The first smallpox epidemic of the New World swept through Central America and reached the Inca Empire. Wherever it went, the virus decimated native populations, making them easier prey for Spanish conquest. But why were the germs so one-sided? Why did the Spaniards pass their diseases onto the Incas, and not the other way around?

The prof's answer, again due to geography. it was the Europeans continuous exposure to livestock that was an initial carrier of diseases, that eventually made them immune to these diseases. Living with pigs for centuries. and having ancestors who escaped the bubonic plague, made you less likely to be susceptible to smallpox.

But again lets restate the original theses about geography, both from the author and the narrator of the program.

Voiceover: Diamond has already shown that crops and animals could spread easily east and west across Eurasia. Because places the same latitude automatically share the same day length and a similar climate and vegetation. But the American continents were the opposite of Eurasia. A journey from one end of the Americas to the other is a journey from north to south, a journey through different day lengths, different climate zones, and dramatically different vegetation. These basic differences hindered the spread of crops and animals as well as people, ideas and technologies. The people of the Andes were chronically isolated, without access to writing or almost any other innovation from elsewhere in the Americas. By contrast, Pizarro and his men were geographically blessed. As Spaniards, they enjoyed the benefit of technologies and ideas that had spread easily across Eurasia.

Bolivia, in particular has suffered doubly, first because the isolation that initially allowed the great civilization at Tiahuanaco to grow and flourish, also led to its stagnation, since there was little opportunity to share knowledge and advances. When the neighbors did come through it was the Inca, who had learned the lessons of the Collas, and had figured out ways to conquering them. That was, strike two. The resulting Empire, though, was weak at its core, compared to what the Spaniards introduced in a swift brutal blow.

One last thing, I sort of agree with the authors conclusion, and it does make a lot of sense.

Jared Diamond:: I came to Spain to answer a question – why did Pizarro and his men conquer the Incas instead of the other way around? There’s a whole mythology that that conquest and the European expansion in general resulted from Europeans themselves being especially brave or bold or inventive or smart, but the answers turn out to have nothing to do with any personal qualities of Europeans. Yeah, Pizarro and his men were brave, but there were plenty of brave Incas. Instead, Europeans were accidental conquerors. By virtue of their geographic location and history, they were the first people to acquire guns, germs and steel.

I agree with accidents of geography and luck. But there was something else at work in the Conquest. Mario Vargas Llosa pointed this out in an essay a while ago. The Spaniards also had the individual initiative, the ability to improvise, and think outside the box, fruit of the tortuously slow process taking place in Europe at the time - the increase of personal autonomy and thought. The Inca's on the other hand, were in a top down hierarchical structure, where blind obedience to the Inca was the norm. The Spaniards used that little advantage - which again is a result of favorable geography - to conquer the Inca at his palace.

But, despite that issue, this program really puts things into perspective when talking about the reality of Bolivia today, geography and luck matter. It also does away with arguments that blame Andean misery on the "West"; or on the other side, those who claim that it is the Indians own fault. Bolivia's fortunes, have a lot to do with unfavorable geography and isolation, its peoples have done as best as they could under those conditions. The Spaniards themselves, were as much a product of their circumstances, learning lessons from the Moors that they applied to the peoples of the Andes, in the same way the Incas had done it to the Collas. But, neither side was really prepared to deal with the other one. The ultimate challenge is changing attitudes of centuries, in order to really change conditions of the people for good.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Barcepundit has this interesting post about what was behind the terror bombings in Madrid. As the Spanish press has reported, the bombings were clearly meant to influence the Spanish elections that brought Zapatero into office.

The document was recently found by police, according to the Cope radio network who has seen it. It says: "those who were suprised for our quick claim of responsibility in the battle of Madrid, let them know that there were other circumstances. In the case of Madrid, the time factor was very important in order to put an end to the government of Aznar the ignoble.

Barcepundit translates the entire text of the letter, as published in Spanish in ABC and further finds this confirmation.
"Let all know that we're a part of the so-called world order. We change states, we destroy others with Allah's help and even decide the future of the world's economy. We won't accept being mere passive agents in this world"

So these guys first of all took quick credit for the bombing - so as to make it clear it was the work of Islamist extremist, which might go against their modus operandi of most Al Qaeda operations. They influence the election. Then they are brazen enough to boast to the Spanish people and the World that their actions changed the election. They not only do that, but they further insult the Spanish by throwing in that the bombing was also payback for 1492.

Bolivia - Good Signs? Did Santa Cruz Back Off?

This France Press article says that Santa Cruz' referendum on autonomy, originally set for August 12th, has been kicked back to July 2, 2006.

That comes as a great relief for the interim Bolivian government, German Antelo, the Civic Committees president said it was done as a "contribution to the political solution that Congress and the Bolivian people agreed to." Far from the fiery rhetoric of recent months, this actually seems to be a sensible concession by the autonomy-minded Civic leadership of Santa Cruz. Now its time for the Altiplano's Social Movements to actually get reasonable, and act in the interest of the country.

Bolivia retornaba a la normalidad política luego que el pujante departamento de Santa Cruz aceptara este sábado la postergación de un referendo autonómico hasta el 2 de julio de 2006, de acuerdo a lo aprobado por el Congreso y el presidente provisorio Eduardo Rodríguez.

"Es un buen mensaje para Bolivia", afirmó el delegado presidencial para Asuntos Políticos, Jorge Lazarte, minutos después de conocerse en La Paz la decisión del Comité Cívico de Santa Cruz que hasta el viernes mantenía una posición radical.
La dirigencia cívica del departamento más pujante de Bolivia manifestó que la postergación del referendo para establecer un régimen autónomo, inicialmente previsto a través de una convocatoria ciudadana para el 12 de agosto, no representaba un retroceso.

"Esta es una contribución a la salida política que el Congreso y el pueblo boliviano acordaron impulsar", aseveró el presidente del Comité Cívico, Germán Antelo, lo que fue interpretado por el gobierno como "un retorno a la normalidad política y normativa".

Friday, July 15, 2005

Brit Muslim Talks

The Guardian has this piece written by what appears to be one of its interns.

First the inevitable comparisons. Falluja as a stand-in for 9/11. Of course the fact that in Falluja the US fought against terrorists who kill mainly their own countrymen - fellow Muslims has no validity.

Shocked would be to suggest we didn't appreciate that when Falluja was flattened, the people under it were dead but not forgotten - long after we had moved on to reading more interesting headlines about the Olympics. It is not the done thing to make such comparisons, but Muslims on the street do. Some 2,749 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks. To discover the cost of "liberating" Iraqis you need to multiply that figure by eight, and still you will fall short of the estimated minimum of 22,787 civilian Iraqi casualties to date. But it's not cool to say this, now that London's skyline has also has plumed grey.

Shocked would also be to suggest that the bombings happened through no responsibility of our own. OK, the streets of London were filled with anti-war marchers, so why punish the average Londoner? But the argument that this was an essentially US-led war does not pass muster. In the Muslim world, the pond that divides Britain and America is a shallow one. And the same cry - why punish us? - is often heard from Iraqi mothers as the "collateral damage" increases daily.

In Latin America that attitude is called "Tercermundismo", its having an inferiority complex towards the first world, and adopting a blame the US/Modern World for all your ills.

If this guy is for real (which he is), is he really saying that his way of thinking is the rule more than the exception??

The Muslim community is no monolithic whole. Yet there are some common features. Second- and third-generation Muslims are without the don't-rock-the-boat attitude that restricted our forefathers. We're much sassier with our opinions, not caring if the boat rocks or not.

So there is a heavy undercurrent of rage towards the U.S. and Britain, for its wars among the Muslim population of the U.K.

Perhaps now is the time to be honest with each other and to stop labelling the enemy with simplistic terms such as "young", "underprivileged", "undereducated" and perhaps even "fringe". The don't-rock-the-boat attitude of elders doesn't mean the agitation wanes; it means it builds till it can be contained no more.

So does he mean that the rage and hatred that leads to the events like the bombing, is widespread among his, purportedly more educated peer group???

Either he is being excagerated on purpose, or he is on to something real and scary.

Turns out the guy can actually be objective and self-critical in other areas, his criticisms of the 'backward traditions' that are perpetuated by certain Islamic leaders and institutions in England would be seen as 'modern'. They also do reveal some truly disturbing facts about what goes inside some Mosques in particular, as his other article shows. .

‘Beats’ at the Mosque

A common reality that many face whilst growing up is going to the ‘Madrassah’ routinely every day for two hours in the evening. Often instead of being a productive two hours where minds are filled with clear understanding and powerful culture of Islam, for many it is something that they dread – two hours of memorization and being beaten for a variety of reasons, ranging from making a mistake to talking to friends.

In later years friends often even laugh about their painful days at the ‘Madrassah’ and compare the various methods of punishment the ‘Maulana’ would inflict, the most famous being the ‘Murgee’ or ‘chicken’ position.

It’s common practice for the people who teach children in the Madrassah’s not to be acquainted with the reality of children growing up in the West and the issues they face and not to be fluent in the English language. Many are employed merely as a convenience rather than due to their ability to build Islamic personalities.

The Guardian elsewhere has this article, by David Goodhart that cites a survey of Muslim attitudes:

According to an ICM poll in the Guardian last year, 13% of British Muslims thought the 9/11 attacks were justified, and according to other polls as many as 25% do not identify with Britain in any way.

This is despite advances made by British Muslims in recent years:

Under Labour the first Muslims were elected to the House of Commons and appointed to the Lords. Muslim organisations lobbied for and won state funds for Muslim schools, a question in the census on religious faith, and criminalisation of religious hate crimes. The huge rise in public spending and focus on improving delivery in the poorest areas will have particularly benefited Muslims alongside other disadvantaged groups. And since 9/11 the government has sought out bright young Muslims for senior civil-service jobs and introduced innovations such as the hajj information unit for those making the pilgrimage to Mecca.

But despite these advances, according to Goodhart, even moderate Muslim organizations in Britain, continue to repeat the 'crude "war against Islam" rhetoric, that does little to moderate any extremist impulses within the community, and create genuine dialogue.
An undifferentiated rhetoric of grievance contributes to alienation, lack of integration and even indirectly to extremism. If you are constantly being told by even moderate Muslim leaders that Britain is a cesspit of Islamophobia and is running a colonial anti-Muslim foreign policy, you might well conclude, like one young Muslim quoted after the bombs: "I would like to give blood but they probably won't want mine."

So combine this with the victimization worldview of Mr.'Sassy', as cited above. Reality is often not recognized:

How often do Muslim leaders point out that Tony Blair favoured ground-troop intervention on behalf of European Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo? And as the Muslim peer Kishwer Falkner points out: "When Muslims are pressed to say what should have been done with a Taliban-run, al-Qaida-embracing Afghanistan, one is met with silence." Finally, how often is it pointed out that many of Britain's Shia Muslims welcomed the overthrow of Saddam, which has replaced secular dictatorship with Islamic democracy.

They say the Spanish Punto De Honor - that mythic code among Spaniards and (Latin Americans) to punish any offense to an individuals honor - has its origins from the Islamic occupiers of Spain. If victimization produces a sense of aggrievement, and if a part of that honor code impulse survives in current Islam - as it undoubtedly does in Latin America - then we can truly see why things have happened. What we need to do, in the U.K. and everywhere else, is to create conditions that favor internal dialogue and deflate potential hot spots.

Multi-Nationals Vs. Bolivia Part 20

Petroleum World has this AFP note writes that the interim Bolivian Government has been asked to enter negotiations to in a 'friendly manner' 'resolve' the present 'difficulties' the country has with the three European oil companies, after the ratification of the new Hydro-Carbons Law, that increases taxation on royalties, and invalidates existing assumed-risk contracts.

The Companies (Repsol, Total, and BP) reject the new law, saying they are bound to the 1996 law, whose contractual protections they relied on when investing the 3.5 to 5.0 Billion dollars they claim to have invested in the country the last 8 years. As I stated a couple of days ago, they are relying on reciprocal treaties protecting investments signed by the Bolivian Government with Great Britain, Spain and France.

These negotiations are more or less a six-month wait-and-see before the three companies start legal proceedings. Bolivia's claims of unconstitutionality of the contracts will probably fall short, since in contract terms the contracts were signed with the apparent authority of the Bolivian Government, and in reasonable reliance on that authority, the other side was induced to sign the agreements, and in reliance on the guarantees offered by these terms the multi-nationals spent billions of dollars to invest in production.

In the real world, this would be a welcome chance to re-negotiate the terms of the deals, and maybe get a higher chunk of royalties. I don't usually feel sorry for big corporations, these guys re-negotiate deals all the time. Asking for a deal, say an extra 10 percent in royalties might not be totally unreasonable. But, the problem is the interim government, and whatever government follows, comes in with little credibility. It is clear the governments can fall in a heartbeat. Not even Evo can not control the mobs in La Paz, and calming them dow. To effectively negotitate, you need to be in control of what is your 'threat' - namely an angry population that is capable of bringing the whole thing to the ground and going for nationalization. But there is no strong leader with enough charisma (as well as the statesmanship) to rein in the masses, and sell a compromise plan to them. The radicals' NGO-learned rhetoric has the masses chanting for 'all of the pie" i.e. nationalization. How to curb this lunacy???

In addition, Brazil is conspicuously absent, but they might be playing out a strategy to influence Bolivia's government behind the scenes, not ruffle feathers due to an uncertain future. They will make out good if the Brits/French/Spanish do happen to win, since Petrobras is in bed with all three of them in Bolivia, if the other three lose big, Petrobras from a neighboring country might suddenly find lucrative opporunities.

"Nos piden que se inicie una serie de negociaciones con el fin de encontrar soluciones amigables a los problemas originados" por la ley de hidrocarburos promulgada en mayo último por el Congreso y reglamentada hace dos semanas por la administración Rodríguez, dijo Dunn.

Las compañías rechazan la legislación, que reemplazó otra que rigió entre 1996 y el mes de mayo pasado y bajo cuyos alcances se instalaron en Bolivia, donde dicen haber invertido en los últimos ocho años entre 3.500 y 5.000 millones de dólares.

Se calcula, a precios de mercado, que la riqueza gasífera boliviana en el subsuelo tiene un valor de unos 70.000 millones de dólares.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Good Article On Iraq

Andrew Sullivan has a good piece, laying out the poisonous effects of Bush's conduct of the war on U.S. political discourse, as well as the ambiguities and contradictions that come to play when looking at the possible outcomes. Bush lied about WMD's to the World, and got the U.S. in a conflict it shouldn't have been in, but in the end it is a war the country can not afford to lose.

It's not that Bush administration policy is likely to change any time soon. It's that the American polity has reached a point of no return with the president and his constant and thoroughly unpersuasive assertions that everything is just peachy in Mesopotamia. The poll that showed sixty percent of Americans now want to start removing troops from Iraq merely confirmed what was obvious: Bush's war-policy can no longer be sustained by the kind of "trust-us" condescension that he has previously employed. And so the debate has polarized yet again - and the poles are now further apart than ever. On the one extreme are those in the Bush camp who are actually arguing that the war is all but over and that we have already won. On the other are those who opposed the war in the first place and seem to take a perverse pleasure in every discouraging news report. In between are various shades of hope and disappointment, despair and grim resolution. And in all of these positions, there is also a new intensity - rhetorical as well as real. That intensity suggests that the long period of acquiescence in a policy barely explained and riddled with inconsistency is coming to a close. Some kind of tipping point is approaching - either for or against the entire venture.

The Rest Here

Mas Sobre Londres

I thought this Wade character's post was pretty funny:

burning in fear??!!? Ha!! Not this Brit. With my upper lip fixed stiff, i hoot and mock these jihadis. Wankers one and all. I’d like to see ‘em on Celebrity Terrorist Island, the IRA’d make mincemeat of them…

Posted by wade · July 7th, 2005 at 10:15 am

This one manages to be rude, funny, serious, and responsible all in a couple of paragraphs.
An open letter

to the terrorist cunts who tried to kill me today:

Fuck you. You missed me. Better luck next time.

Update: I am coping with the shock as only a Brit (and maybe an Irishman...) knows how - I'm getting well and truly pissed.

Update 2: Thanks for all your thoughts and words, everyone. Going to get a shower, get dressed and then get the tube into work. Life goes on.

Update 3: Back home, safe and sound. Can't thank everyone enough for visiting and leaving their thoughts. One last word: Please - no politically charged comments at least until they've dug out the bodies of those Londoners still buried 100ft underneath King's Cross in a tube carriage. Time to grieve, not score points.

Again I go back to the Jon Stewart piece the other day, commenting on the lack of 'country songs' after the attack. More than likely, there will be none of the vulgar 'remembrance' T-shirts either!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

London Calling

Jon Stewart made me LMAO the other night. A couple of posts ago, I had bitched about how the news channels had spun the London bombing into a "how-does-it-affect-us" piece. The Daily Show masterfully lampooned this by showing each ridiculous piece, one after another.

So, ok., lets muck up the real issue, and really underplay an important story for the public. Lets completely miss an opportunity to educate the public about what happens in England, and in Europe in general, and the complex reality of these multi-cultural societies in the post-9/11 World.

Then, you pretty much drop the story a couple of days later. So a scant couple of days after the attack we are again seeing all the news hounds covering the Aruba Alabama girl story. At least Hurricane Dennis seems to have scared the sharks away from the coast of Florida.

By the way, I am sick and tired of seeing American trial lawyers trying to interpret what goes on in Aruba's legal system. Get real, it has a Civil Code legal system. Lawyers in the U.S. are limited to practice in jurisdictions they have been admitted to practice in, due to each State having its own case-law, Civil Procedure, and Federal Procedure Rules. But that doesn't stop some talking head to not only comment on, but also criticize a Civil Code Jurisdiction, which has not only an entirely different set of laws, but whose entire underlying system is foreign to a Common-Law trained lawyer. I say this having some familiarity with the Civil Code System, taking classes in comparative law, and later working with Latin American colleagues on behalf of clients who defended or prosecuted suits in several countries. Just the different interpretations on what is considered Criminal and what is considered Civil, as well as the fact-finding role of Judges is enough to drive a Common Law Lawyer nuts. In no way do I consider myself competent in giving an accurate description of the system, I suggest the talking heads on Fox/MSNBC/CNN give it a break.

I must admit watching both the vacuous anchors and some of the 'legal beagles' stumble on such basic concepts was hilarious.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Bolivia: Gas Companies Want Guarantees

Now this should be interesting to see.

European Gas Companies doing business in Bolivia, including Repsol, British Petroleum and Total are requesting arbitration under the terms of the Reciprocal Treaties on Protection of Investments signed by the countries of origin, Spain, England and France, signed with Bolivia.

Remember, that Bolivia's prior government, through YPFB had signed contracts with several companies, guaranteeing the conditions for investment, setting the rate for gas and oil royalties (18%)as well as guaranteeing international mediation for any disputes between governement and company. The nation-wide referendum and the new oil and gas law, setting higher taxes, was justified by a finding that the previous contracts were invalid on their face, because they were not ratified by Congress.
But this treaty was signed by Bolivia's government, and was ratified by the Congress.

The corporations will no doubt argue , that they signed binding contracts based on Bolivia's guarantees of protecting their investment, and relying on that they invested the 3 or more billion dollars they put in the country during the past decade. Bolivia by changing the rules on them, as well as threatening to nationalize these holdings, is in breach, particularly since it received the benefits of the oil companies performance.

Friday, July 08, 2005


A couple of things i am glad about.

First, Tony Blair's measured response, urging Britons not to scapegoat London's large Muslim population, the vast majority whom are loyal subjects of her majesty the Queen, who share the World's outrage, and several who also spilled their blood in this atrocity.

Second, Londoners amazing resillience and fortitude in facing the tragedy. Emergency services were superb, and many in the affected population went about that most difficult day in an orderly and disciplined fashion, without panicking.

I think that the country as a whole, will avoid the collective meltdown that afflicted many (but by no means all) Spaniards in the wake of 3/11. Spains' voters, we may remember, essentially ended up appeasing the terrorists by voting out Aznar's party in an astounding display of auto-flagellation.

Speak of self-abuse, I am also astounded by how the American Media, particularly the usual suspects in Fox, have managed to spin this into a "Can This Happen In The U.S.?" type of story. People it is about London, England right now, educate people about how the Brits have policed their public transportation system for the past 30 years. Don't get me wrong at all - New York, L.A., Chicago, and Copenhagen could be facing real threats right now. I am just annoyed at how quickly major U.S. media, particularly 24 hour outlets, will hijack international stories, taking time away from the actual coverage and analysis of what happens in-country.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London Tragedy

Just saw the horrible news, God bless the people of London in this time.

This is brazen, right in the middle of already heightened security, in very terrorism-conscious London.

My gut impression is that this was a 'local' job, done with heavy involvement of some fairly sophisticated folks who probably speak English with a London accent, wear chic clothing, have good jobs, and who blend in perfectly in Cosmopolitan London. The amount of planning required, shows that there was some very heavy recon work done, something only very discrete locals could get away with.

However bold this was, it only shows how low the West-hating Islamist radicals will go.

They are picking on the wrong people, though. The Brits in general, and Londoners in particular, are an amazingly resillient people and they will surmount this. And, it goes without saying, they will hit back real hard too.

Some excellent links here including some London bloggers with on-the-scene coverage.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

"Nacion Camba" Interesting Web-Site

The Santa Cruz web-site, Nacion Camba, proponent of autonomy, has links to some pretty interesting articles.

Some of their original articles are also worth a glance, they are generally well-written justifications for autonomy and outright independence - which I happen to disagree with.

NGO Shenanigans - Whats Behind "Bolivia Blog" and Jim Schultz, Part II

I wanted to take a closer look at what the Center For Democracy a/k/a Jim Schultz is supposed to stand for, and what is has done in Bolivia.

Since its founding in 1992 The Democracy Center has trained and counseled thousands of citizen advocates on five continents. We have worked justice advocates in Bolivia

Sounds fair enough, but look closer and you see its key tenets are not promoting democracy per se, but taking an anti free-market and anti-capitalist (and implicitly an anti-US) position:

A special emphasis of our work is economic globalization and the movement for global democracy and justice.

This 'work' including training local activists, is described this way.

The Center's training programs include a broad mix of topics, from developing advocacy strategy to media advocacy, to coalition building and lobbying.

All this proselitizing is now based out of Bolivia:

And since 1998 "The Democracy Center shifted its base to Cochabamba, Bolivia, from which it carries out a set of worldwide activities to educate and empower citizens to take an active role in public issues"

They admit to training activists in Bolivia, so what kind of education have they provided????
In addition, a small group of activists has worked diligently for more than a year to educate community leaders, journalists and the public at large about the perils Bolivia faces under the FTAA, and to organize that opposition into a real campaign. The first national organizing workshop, last April, drew more than 200 people – students, campesino farmers, labour leaders, environmentalists, women’s leaders and others. Those people fanned out across the country to spread the word and mobilize support.

Results from these campaigns:
This is nothing more than spreading anti-trade and anti-market rhetoric to political groups.

Campaigners have already accomplished a good deal more than they expected. The first step, public education, has stained the FTAA with deep public scepticism that is expressed regularly here – in public forums, radio talk shows, private conversations. The second step, to force the Government into formal discussions, is now under way. Their objective is to make participation in the FTAA subject to a referendum.

Look how he put the campaign against FTAA itself. "Stained the FTAA with deep public scepticism." A non-economist propagandizing actively against free trade iniatives in a foreign country.

But, the agenda goes deeper than merely fighting against free trade treaties. Its ultimate expression was found in the revolts that toppled the elected government of Gonzalo Sanchez De Lozada. These revolts started as protests against the proposal to pipe natural gas through Chile, for eventual sale to the U.S., something that Schultz hated as much as FTAA - and for which he provided his 'assistance' to the Bolivian left.
During the last couple of days of Goni's rule, Schultz actually becomes part of the story as he joins the tail end of a hunger strike, as he describes in this article. In that article and in this this interview Shultz gave he can barely restrain his glee when Goni leaves:
COCHABAMBA, BOLIVIA — This morning, Bolivia is in the news all over the world. The people have booted out their President and a new one has come to power. Events like this do not happen very often in the world, and this is the first time I have witnessed a head of state being fired since the U.S. did it to Richard Nixon. I was a high school student in Nixon's California hometown and it made me very happy

Jim Schultz: I think the repercussions will be huge. A president of a country was kicked out as a result of a political fight over globalization. People are just beginning to tune into something that's been going on for awhile, which is, this pocket of South America is communicating a very powerful message to the world, not just about it wants, but about what it's willing to go through to get it, and its ability to win it.


While Schultz has contributed cheap slogans and outdated ideology to poor Bolivians, he has also managed to sell himself as an 'expert' on Bolivia, to some surprisingly respectable news outlets. He moderates the language and goes on full spin attack.

Start with the Newspaper of Record for example. In a New York Times Article titled Latin America Fails to Deliver On Basic Needs by Juan Forero, the author describes Schultz as the director of a "policy group in Cochabamba, Bolivia's third-largest city, that studies the effects of free market reforms." Schultz informs us in his blog that he had"several conversations with the author of the article as he prepared it and am quoted near the end." He gets more print in the following June 8, 2005 edition of the NYT, right when Mesa was about to quit at the height of the last crisis:

The bottom line is that Latin America is in open rebellion of the economic policies of the Washington Consensus," said Jim Shultz, director of the Democracy Center, a group in the Bolivian city of Cochabamba that is critical of free market reforms in the country. "Sometimes it happens in the ballot box. Sometimes it happens on the street, like in Bolivia. It is in essence the same rebellion."

The spin he puts on this is amazing. It is the U.S.' fault that Bolivians are up in arms against a consortium of Spanish, French, British and Brazilian companies, drilling for gas thousands of miles away. Many people reading this would believe that this guy is some sort of even-handed and non-biased expert on Bolivia, when in fact he is actively proselytyzing among Bolivia's left, pushing an outdated anti-market agenda. He is intellectualy dishonest by selling himself this way, Forero and the Times are also being lax in not exposing him for what he really is.