Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bolivia: Founding Fatalism, MAS' Bloody Constitution

This article in El Deber is a first-hand, rather gripping, blow-by-blow account of how the the officialist group, in Constituent Assembly managed to steamroll through the initial text of the Constitution while opponents fought police. Evo's allies did this by convening in a military school custodied by the police, the army - and crucially - by pro-MAS mobs brought into the city. As I had posted earlier, these officialist groups explicitly threatened the opposition in the assembly, claimed they were going to block the entire city, and to hammer the points home home, allied groups killed two dogs symbolizing the "opposition".

What happened was effectively a lock-out of the opposition, those entering would have to face the angry mob, something that happened later in the Congress in La Paz.

But in Sucre, upon hearing the news of the convening of the "assembly" the students - rose up against the police and set off to confront the assembly. They were joined by a good number of Sucre's citizens in what in effect turned into a battle of two mobs. Even the hardened veterans of Bolivia's street violence - the MAS cocaleros and El Alto activists & the cops who used to beat them up - could not contain the students and residents.
And when the word came down that a protestor was killed, the MAS assembly leader - herself a veteran of many a disturbance, suddenly threw it into overdrive, calling for a quick vote to formalize approval of all the articles. On the outside, even local MAS supporters had joined in, and were close to breaching the gates of the military school. But, it was too late, the assembly had voted, and its members fled.

And that is just another tragic and bizarre chapter in Bolivia's crazed political life. A constitution, which in theory should be the starting point of the Nation's legitimacy, passed by an officialist convention, while opposing mobs and the cops fought it out just outside.

EDIT Here is a first hand account from a Bolivian blogger in Sucre. Here is a good compilation of videos from the events from another person. The writings of a Sucre Blogger.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Bolivia: What Up Willca? Siege In Sucre, Dog Days

By last Thursday (the 22nd) supporters of the government: ocaleros, rural unions, and members of El Alto's neighborhood federation were congregating around Sucre to "shut down" the City, and blockading routes into it. They demanded that the Senate be shut down and the Contitutional Assembly get to work, and forget about the Sucre demands for capital.

The claim against the Senate, is over Evo's cynical ploy re-naming the existing old-age pension, and funding it by cuts to the budgets of (opposition governed) departments. MAS for the record, was vehemently opposed to the original BONOSOL program. After coming to power Morales unilaterally stripping the pension of its most valuable assets: the stock in the oil companies. The government claimed it would have no problems funding it, despite not counting on the dividends. Now at the very end of the current year, Evo again by decree, orders a drastic reduction of the departmental governments share of a hydrocarbon tax to cover the reduction in the pension plan he himself was responsible for. So some people in places like Santa Cruz are understandably upset about this, which places large and well-populated departments in disadvantage to those with less population given the current formula.

The capital argument, or Sucre's pretensions, looks silly in many ways. But the governments arrogance was exposed when the officialist side blocked attempts to even discuss it within the constitutional assembly. It seemed to confirm this governments Chavista-like mania for centralizing power in the capital at the expense of the departments. And re-writing the constitution to institutionalize MAS positions, including Evo re-election, seems like a very bad idea to many of these people.

Dog Day Afternoon

In order to show their dissaproval with the positions of the opposition and Sucre, and doing their best Sendero Luminoso imitation, pro-MAS activists, killed 2 dogs and hung them up as a warning to Bolivia's " oligarchs." No threats to China's current leadership or Michael Vick haters went on the unfortunate canines, but the slit throats implied pretty much what they wanted to do to the opposition leaders.

Students Vs. Cocaleros

Many marchers stayed at the University, and students battled the pro-MAS crowd -
Might be a bit of historical memories, since the last time La Paz and Sucre got into a beef over the capital, the 19th century version of the "indigenous movements" ended up slaughtering many of Sucre's university students.

But even the students at the "Pedagogica" were not quite unified. A minority of the teaching students wanted to allow the strikers to stay at the school, but were voted down and accused of being "Troskyists". Anywhere else, that kind of accusation would draw blank stares. But in Bolivia, since from the 40's, there has been a continuing "Trosko" influence in the teachers and mining unions. Many of the cocaleros and El Alto residents are former miners and come out of that syndicalist tradition; the teachers union has a presence in the teaching university.

And that bit of trivia in many ways symbolizes the whole problem. MAS-istas are mobilizing, arguing, and threatening civil war to press for a new constitution drafted by fools whose point of reference is 60 year old Troskyist arguments. This document is not going to magically "empower" Bolivia's poor and indigenous peoples and make the misery of the past 500 years go away.

Foreign admirers of Morales can repeat his worn mantra of acting on behalf of an 'exploited majority' who voted 'for change', blocked by 'the oligarchs who lost power.' But in its most benevolent interpreation, this "change" is a backwards step to recreating the 1952 model, whose painful collapse led the country to hit rock-bottom 32 years later. To make it worse, they are mobilizing their most radical supporters to try to ram this agenda through by intimidation of the opposition. Playing to inter-ethnic resentment and class warfare is dangerous, and once that genie is out of the bottle it can really get ugly.

Tip Of The Hat to

Porque No Te Callas? Songs & Videos Around The Internet..

Inevitably (and immediately), the whole King of Spain smackdown on Chavez makes its way through the wonders of commonly available software to the web. Some videos, mainly taking the "original" words and remixing them.
LOL...The Song "Porque No Te Callas

REY-GETTON, sampling Don Omar



Here is the more appropriate "Spanish" song, which got play in Miami through Jaime Bayly's show. where the King himself "sings"...




Monday, November 19, 2007

Bolivia: MAS, Evo's Minions Feud, Attack NGO's, hilarity ensues

Watch Out For The Friendly Fire While Evo is aping (no pun intended) Chavez by firing up anti-US hysteria his underlings and associates are taking it a bit further, and even going after their own. The target Non Governmental Organizations (NGO's). While Evo has made threatening noises against NGO's funded by the US Agency For International Development and some Western governments, others in and around MAS are going after NGO's closely linked to the MAS government.

Bolivia's current Water Minister, Abel Mamami, in words of one leading academic a voice of "constant complaint..[but] irregular proposal", accused Bolivia's ambassador to Spain and 2 MAS senators of corruption and conflict of interest. This is based on their being on the board of a Spanish NGO, which has a consulting contract with the superintendency of water - a regulatory agency separate from the ministry. This sounds like a turf war, or even a sloppy attempt at finding Spanish misdeeds to follow up on King vs. Chavez. Or both.

El ministro de Aguas de Bolivia, Abel Mamani, denunció a la embajadora boliviana en España, María del Carmen Almendras, y a dos senadores del oficialista Movimiento Al Socialismo (MAS), en la firma irregular de un contrato entre el Estado y una organización no gubernamental.

Mamani denunció que el hecho, registrado en agosto de este año, tiene que ver en la prestación de servicios de consultoría de la organización no gubernamental "Agua Sustentable" a la estatal Superintendencia de Aguas, informaron este lunes medios locales.

El ministro explicó que la diplomática y los senadores del MAS, María Esther Udaeta y Omar Fernández, son miembros del directorio de la ONG Agua Sustentable.

Manami acotó que se cometieron los delitos de "uso indebido de influencias, negociaciones incompatibles con el ejercicio de las funciones públicas, contratos lesivos al Estado y conducta antieconómica".

"Yo soy ministro de Estado, soy funcionario público, y como dijo el presidente de la República (Evo Morales), tengo toda la obligación respecto a irregularidades, sin importar quién sea", dijo Mamani,

then there is this fun example:

Former energy minister Soliz Rada is the architect of Evo's "nationalization", so he does have some weight. in this interview he sounds more like a classics professor complaining about deconstructionists in the faculty, when discussing intramural conflicts in the ruling coalition over the new constitution. Soliz Rada claims that indigenista fundamentalist positions of some MAS allied social movements are pretty much an "invention" of US and European NGO's that work with them. Ultimately these NGO's are instruments of the "sources of world power" - meaning the US/Europe/Capitalists. Demands for tribal "autonomy" and for pressing separate identities, are nothing more than a foreign-directed conspiracy to "atomize" and split Bolivia, so foreign powers can seize these resources by dealing with "sub-groups" rather than with a state.

Previamente se necesita derrotar a las corrientes fundamentalistas del indigenismo, detrás de las cuales se encuentran ONG norteamericanas y europeas que simulan olvidar que el Viejo Continente no ha adoptado el camino del plurinacionalismo sino del supranacionalismo. Las ONG, con excepciones, forman parte de la estrategia de los centros de poder mundial por apropiarse de los recursos naturales de nuestros países, mediante la parcelación de nuestros estados nacionales.

The former minister says that in the constitutional assembly these demands create conflict and stall the process. They also carry a heavy political price since they alienate the nationalist Mestizo-indigenous middle class. While the international press talks about the "indigenous President", Soliz Rada pointedly describes Morales as an "Indo-Mestizo", culturally (and racially) pretty indistinguishable from many urban middle class voters that were crucial in his election.

Since this is Bolivia, there is of course a very real political argument going on here. Some of the social movements claim they were shut out of the Constituent Assembly by MAS. Soliz Rada, on the other hand, uses the term of art "Stalinist" to describe these "sectors" , recalling the bickering between Troskos and Pro-Moscow Communists.

This reveals a cultural cleavage between the Bolivian hard-left which is at the core of the MAS coalition. On the one hand, the old-school Bolivian left-nationalist in the tradition of Marcelo Quiroga Santa Cruz, claiming the mantle of the 1952 revolution. On the other are some social and indigenous movements, which are identified with indigenous and community groups of more recent movilization and who Soliz Rada says tend to be more "single issue" oriented.

Typical of Bolivia's mess nothing fits neatly in one category, there are similarities, grey areas and contradictions. Both "sides" back nationalization and Evo's position against regional claims. Morales' core support is the cocaleros, strongly influenced by mining nationalist traditions, but who also adopted indigenist talk, and who have been supported by some NGO's. Radical middle class elements are present in the social movements and arguably guide their "discourse." Mamami himself is all over the place, coming from the capitals version of the "water wars", having a native surname, and denouncing his erstwhile allies in traditional language straight out of "Bolivian Political Bickering 101".

Foreign-funded NGO's in Bolivia, cross the spectrum in terms of patrons, mission and methods. Some assist in very narrow technical areas, while others are more like think tanks. Then you have some who seem to be nothing more than anti-globalization platforms for Western activists. It is these groups that work with indigenous and social movements, who speak in terms of post-modern, post-colonial, identity politics and link them to a larger anti-capitalist struggle. For that matter, so do many of leftist Bolivians like Vice-President Garcia Linera who are in power.

That kind of stuff makes for some real intense sectarian fun, specially when combined with traditional Bolivian paranoia, suspicion of outsiders, and plain nasty politics and bickering. Once the nationalist genie gets uncorked it can get out of control.

Bolivia: Evo Claims US & Aznar Out To Get Him P.28888

Who Really Hangs Out With Criminals?

Even before his mentor Chavez made a fool of himself, Evo in Chile for the same conference, was working pretty hard at it too. In comments made during the Ibero-American Summit he claimed that the US was conspiring against him. Evidence? Nuttier than usual - even for his government. US Ambassador Goldberg attends a big Trade Show, apparently poses for a picture with some random Colombian guy and a Santa Cruz leader. Turns out the Colombian guy is a crook. So in the current Bolivian leaderships mind it is all part of a massive plot. Evo brings up "past evidence" - the 500 rounds of .45 caliber ammo found on the girlfriend of a US embassy employees son entering the country. Turns out the staffer is an avid target shooter who owns a .45 pistol, and stupidly requested that the girl buy the ammo in Miami and bring it down with her. Given how easy it is to ship stuff to Bolivia and the availability of diplomatic pouches, the embassy would be really stupid to arm any "plotters" this way, specially with this caliber weapons, retired from military use and found mainly among civilians - in the US. And the ambassador would be pretty dumb in posing with his "fellow conspirators" at a very public export fair.

But Evo, and government spokesmen, continue to vehemently support the "threat" to Bolivia, and the actions of the ambassador.

And they also take a separate approach against the US. A top government spokesman announced that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) was going to be expelled because of its support for the opposition. Then Evo back in Bolivia, tries a different tack, saying that USAID "has a wide open door" to leave, if it doesn't provide "transparency" in the way its disburses funds - including its purchasing policies. That "mystery" policy simply means you buy US-made stuff for a US funded project. Hmmmm. Evo might want to ask the many MAS members who have received training in things like budgeting from US-AID grants.

One thing Evo might consider doing is hiring a Foreign Minister who actually read a book or two in the past 15 years, instead of the current ignoramus to avoid diplomatic gaffes.

Maybe its all irrelevant--Could it be that Evo needs fresh excuses so he can keep up with Chavez demands? Bolivia - according to Venezuela's foreign ministry -is now part of the ALBA "axis" with Venezuela and Cuba, its mission is to fight the "empire." Picking fights with Goldberg, and threatening to kick USAID out seems to be consistent with that.

Reign In Spain, No sooner was Evo back in Bolivia than accusations flew out against former Spanish leader Jose Maria Aznar for allegedly supporting Bolivia's opposition. The timing hardly seems a coincidence fresh after Chavez got smacked down by King Juan Carlos. The Amen chorus of Evo, Daniel Ortega, and Fidel piped up as on cue, bringing out whatever alleged Spanish misdeeds they had lying around in their fertile imaginations.

Evo talking about foreign plots, sovereignity and dignity is laughable while he bends over backwards for Chavez. Evidence is plentiful: Chavez lands AGAIN in Trinidad even after Senate complaints. Venezuelan troops wandering around airports at odd hours of the night. Not to mention Evo cavorting with Cuban survivors of the only real "foreign-directed" military invasion of Bolivia the past 50 years..

No "controls" or transparency over foreign aid? Evo gets checks from Chavez to buy support in the military and municipalities, that are off the books.

Evo would be better served by not listening to "advice and consent" from motormouth in Caracas.

Evo and Chavez' relationship is like a 2 year old holding the leash to a 100 lb over-friendly hyper labrador. Guess who is leading that walk through the neighborhood? It usually also ends really ugly.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Chavez, in an international conference, seated on the same stage as the King of Spain and Prime Minister Zapatero tears into Zapatero's predecessor, Aznar, calling him a fascist. After his turn was up, he kept on blabbing, and King Juan Carlos tells him: "Why don't you shut up" - "porque no te callas" The King, many people agree was indispensable in helping his people transition from Franco to Democracy, and begin to recover from the dark legacy of the Civil War, Fascism and the Franco era. Throwing around the term "fascist" loose and easy, like Chavez does must have really annoyed the King.
In Latin America, the King is well respected, has a high profile, and has cultivated his image carefully the past decades. Some people seem to think he is sincere in caring the area and its peoples - who after all are the ones guaranteeing the future existence and vitality of the Spanish language. King Juan Carlos by Spanish law has to avoid politics, left to elected officials. This can be difficult, but in the Americas he meets and has met with leaders across the spectrum like Fidel Castro, Uribe, Fox, Evo, and makes standard royal pronouncements.

In Europe, Chavez vulgar display might turn off some people, who otherwise enjoyed his anti-US tirades.

In Latin America however, one problem is that Chavez is a media creature. He is like an American radio shock jock or TV commentator, who plays the common-sensical, irreverent, common man, dealing with the high-thinking, corrupt elites. Chavez "makes his bones" going after regional and international players to get coverage on TV, inspire reactions mentioning him, and ultimately winning votes. Not much different from a Stern or Oreilly feuding with celebrities and politicians to pump up ratings and get tabloid coverage. It makes it harder to figure out the backlash. Some people in Venezuela -and other Latin American countries, might think it hilarious he exasperated the King to such a level he broke protocol. Or see it as pure bravado. "Keeping it Real." One persons vulgarity is another persons irreverence. But, even some ideologues might be put off by Chavez latest display. It reveals an impulsiveness, mixed with a dangerous mix of demagogic certainty, intolerance, and agression. A bully, a loud-mouth, and only 3 weeks from becoming the King of Venezuela.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

CUBA: New Evidence on East German Stasi - Cuba Links

Como Stasi?

Castro's Cuba was an eager adopter of anything Communist Block. Under Soviet "nation building", where everyone has the same system, and speaks the same version of Marxist-Leninist jargon, all sorts of practices transfered over quite easily. The Miami Herald finds, there is new evidence of how the most sinister aspects of Eastern Block rule made their way to Cuba.

Recently found East German documents show the tight relationship between Castro's Ministry of the Interior and the Stasi East German Secret police. Honnecker and Castro had a natural affinity, a relationship that lasted right up to the day the Wall fell. East Germany was a repressive bastion of orthodoxy till the bitter end, the dreaded Stasi with German efficiency kept the population in line. It is hardly surprising that Castro wanted his Interior Ministry patterned on the Eastern Blocks most dreaded secret police.

''East Germany had a major role in building up Cuban counterintelligence as well as its foreign intelligence services, providing training for decades . . . right up to the final days of East Germany,'' said Chris Simmon, a career U.S. counterintelligence officer and expert on Cuban intelligence.

Basically, Cuba's system of State Security was patterned closely on that of a system, who employed hundreds of thousands of informants to keep track on dissidents and everyday citizens.

''The repressive system that existed in East Germany . . . is the same one that exists today in Cuba,'' he says. ``What MININT learned from the Stasi has not been forgotten. On the contrary, [the strategies and techniques] are alive today despite the fall of the Berlin Wall.''

Amazing, Cuba is still a one party dictatorship ruled by the Communist Parts, and committed to Marxist-Leninist orthodoxy by its own admission. With a Stasi-trained secret police repressing its people, its hard to not call the place a totalitarian police state.