Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bolivia: Coca Es Mostly Cocaina.....Cocaine Production Up In Bolivia & Peru Down in Colombia

According to Reuters

LIMA (Reuters) - Cocaine production is growing fastest in Bolivia while Peru is on its way to matching output from Colombia, the top global producer of the drug, U.N. officials said on Friday.

Coca plant cultivation in Bolivia, which expelled U.S. anti-drug agents last year after accusing them of meddling in domestic affairs, grew 6 percent in 2008, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime's annual study of Andean nations.

Estimated cocaine production rose 9 percent to 113 metric tons in the impoverished South American nation.

This is what happens when you leave the fox in charge of the henhouse. The reality that Evo-pologists avoid or ignore is that Morales's main base of support is composed of people who grow coca that is almost exclusively used to make cocaine. They want to be able to avoid annoyances like the DEA so they can grow coca freely so they can sell it or make their own coca paste. So now it is easier to do such things as bribe cops/military people without the "gringos" there, and there is less incentive to do anything about it.


Meanwhile, the UN also found that production also increased in Peru, part which can be attributed to neo-Sendero Luminoso types. Meanwhile growing of coca and production of cocaine actually fell in Colombia. Part of this might have to do with successes against the FARC, who both directly control some of the production and export as well as critical smuggling routes. And also moving against top Paramilitary leaders, who often acted with semi-sanction from officials because they fought the FARC. Critical in the Colombian conflict(s) and efforts against traffickers is territory. The more space in control or disputed by non-governmental armed bands, the more space that could be used to grow and produce cocaine. In a larger sense the conflicts with the guerillas also acted as a buffer against government actions against all parties dealing cocaine. Taking those players out of the equation allowed both direct erradication - as well as for traditional law enforcement to work against drug dealer.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Honduras Flies The Coup UPDATED

Poor Zelaya received an old-fashioned military coup d' etat, subject to wide condemnation. And the man is hardly a Chavez/Evo, at the very worst a very mild-wannabee. More to the point he is the Constitutional, freely-elected President of the Republic of Honduras, whose term has not ended. Military leaders arresting him and sending him to exile is just plain simply a coup d' etat. Too old-school and scary.

Funny that Cuba - a one-party totalitarian government for 50 yrs is protesting very loudly. As is Chavez who celebrates his own failed (and bloody)coup attempt in 1992 to this day. Ditto for Evo Morales who agitated and conspired actively to bring down two Constitutional Presidents in Bolivia, and who pretty much ignores parliamentary and legal niceties.
El mandatario venezolano, Hugo Chávez, quien al igual que Cuba venía advirtiendo sobre la posibilidad de un golpe de Estado en el país centroamericano desde hace días, fue uno de los primeros en salir en defensa de Zelaya. Chávez anunció una ´batalla continental´ a favor de la restitución de su homólogo.

En ese sentido, los medios de comunicación reportaron el desarrollo de una reunión extraordinaria de presidentes de la Alba en Managua, que empezó anoche con la presencia de Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua y Cuba, y a la que hoy se sumará Bolivia.


President Obama made the right moves and set a good tone:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Dealing with the first Latin American crisis of his presidency, Barack Obama sought a swift, clear response that would not be interpreted as U.S. interventionism in a region that loathes it.

So he condemned a coup in Honduras by turning to the most reliable of friends: democracy.

"We stand on the side of democracy, sovereignty and self-determination," Obama said when asked Monday about the forced exile of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, a takeover that has drawn international criticism and unnerved a part of the world that has worked to shed itself of strong-arm tactics.

The point could not be lost. Obama mentioned some version of the word democracy eight times. He even wound up referring to George Washington.

The response put Obama with much of the world as Honduras and its newly appointed leader, Roberto Micheletti, quickly found themselves isolated. Obama left sticky underlying issues in Honduras for its people to decide, but pledged that the U.S. would work with international bodies on a peaceful solution.

As the NYT reports countries "ideologically" divided, as diverse as Bolivia and Colombia have condemned the coup. Specially worth noting is the reactions of
Argentina, Brazil and Chile, the 70's "gorilla" countries.
Boz has four posts and analysis here, 2, 3, 4.

Here is the OAS declaration which Boz cites:

1. To condemn vehemently the coup d’état staged this morning against the constitutionally-established Government of Honduras, and the arbitrary detention and expulsion from the country of the constitutional president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, which has produced an unconstitutional alteration of the democratic order.

2. To demand the immediate, safe and unconditional return of President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales to his constitutional functions.

3. To declare that no government arising from this unconstitutional interruption will be recognized.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bolivia Stalls On Negotiating With Obama Administration Over Trade Preferences

Latest news from Bolivia's Foreign Ministry is that it has "postponed" sending a delegation to Washington DC to negotiate the possibility of Bolivia renewing trade preferences under the Andean Trade Preferences act. Suspended by the Bush admninistration in part due to Morales expulsion of the US ambassador and the DEA, the door had opened under Obama.

The program started in 1992 and took off slowly before picking up after 2002. In 2006 and 2007 exports to the US were 172.1 million and 153.3 million. Textiles were a big part. It is a very large percentage of Bolivia's total manufacturing exports. One estimate is that it produces 26,132 jobs directly and 17,541 indirect jobs for a total of 43,670.

Why this isn't a priority for Morales' government? Could be ideological disdain both for the private sector actors and the US. More to the point, loudly trumpeting Chavez' ALBA..as well as punishing business owners opposed to his rule. Or also could be that there is one group of private sector exporters and producers that Morales is heeding. The ones who don't want the DEA poking in their business anymore.

Bolivia - No More High Court

Bolivia's Constitutional Court basically ceased to exist as the last Judge has resigned. The Court, which has jurisidiction to be the ultimate arbitrer regarding the Constitutionality of laws, has been esentially dead the last couple of years.

An undereported story internationally, is how Evo Morales' government has waged a war on the highest two Courts in the land, the Supreme Court and this Court. The executive, has brought the equivalent of sanction and/or impeachment proceedings in the legislature against individual Judge, who have resigned. For the past couple of years that has meant a failure to get a quorum of judges to hear issues that have come up over the changes occuring in society.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bolivia - Washington Consensus vs. Caracas Consensus -

Bolivia we are told was a battleground for the Washington Consensus, a poster-child for the "failure of neo-liberalism," of "popular resistance to the International Monetary Fund." This was illustrated by such episodes as the Water Wars in Cochabamba and the Gas War that brought down Sanchez De Lozada, and ultimately the surprise rise to power of Evo Morales. In this narrative it is mainly about resources, resistance to economic measures imposed from abroad that allowed multinationals to come in and extract natural resources to the detriment of Bolivia's poor.

Reality of course is much more complicated. The rise to Evo and the failure of the traditional political class, also owes a lot to the ethnic and regional cleavages in Bolivian society, and the long history of instability and self-destruction in Bolivian politics. Among other (numerous) factors you can also throw in the historical exclusion of a large part of the population, regional economic crisis, US drug policy,etc, etc.

But bring it back to economics, because that is what we were told this was about. If the evil IMF, the neo-liberals, and the multinationals were so bad, what was the alternative?
However many dumb things the IMF suggested (or forced) the country to do, the truth is the budget did become balanced, and the foreign debt was lowered. This was forecast by the Bolivian Government and the IMF when they reached a Stand-by deal in 2002. Privatizations of airlines, railroads, telcom companies wiped out hundreds of millions of dollars in obligations the Bolivian government carried. And due to the opening up of the oil and gas sector per the Washington Consensus/IMF/Neo-lib recommendations resulted in nearly 4 billion dollars in investment. Up to the 1990's Bolivia produced little natural gas, afterwards it held the 2nd gas reserves in the continent, filling 50 + percent of Sao Paulo's needs. Simply put, the gas industry exists because of foreign investment.

And Evo Morales' policies? Under the tutelage of loudmouth Hugo Chavez - who acts as a cheerleader and enabler of Morales worst instincts. Destroying transparency in government. The childish nationalizations, that resulted in massive mismanagement, corruption, and even over-payments to transnationals. Bolivia going from being the "gas hub" of South America, to the "black hole" of energy policy in the Continent as one analyst put it. So destructive and unreliable has Morales government become that Bolivia's gas clients like Argentina and Brazil have ponied up billions of dollars for re-gasification facilities, preffering to pay more to bring in gas from Trinidad and Tobago and eventually Africa. Cuba now has a more favorable environment for foreign oil and gas company than Bolivia, and Peru is drawing in billions in investments with much less gas.

While this has gone on, the same voices that constantly whined about the IMF, about the World Bank, about Goni, about Bechtel, are awfully silent. Nothing about Morales' amazingly inept and failed policies. The narrative shifts, it is now about the excluded indigenous majority trying to "change" the country under assault from the "light-skinned" elites in the east. Noting resistance to the "indigenous" Constitution - while failing to note how it crudely imposes a statist-centralized government-run economy, and pretty much bans foreign investment. Basic stupidity that goes far beyond, trying to force a bankrupt government to balance its budget. Whatever damage the "Washington Consensus" did, the Caracas Consensus is a real loser.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Classic Salsa - Hector Lavoe y Willie Colon - No Me Llores Mas

YouTube rocks!......Hector Lavoe and Willie Colon doing "No Me Llores Mas" for Panamanian TV. Classic tune sounds great.


its only starting with this Formula One stunner. It looks like the manufacturers are going thru with a breakaway series, and not cutting a deal with Max Mosely and tghe FIA.

Instant comparisons to US Open Wheel split in mid-90's can be misleading; Ferrari as one writer wrote is the Man-U of motorsports with a worldwide passionate fanbase. Penske not showing up at Indy in 96 is nowhere near the effect of the Scuderia not contesting the World Championship. But, what is relevant from that whole sordid story is the fact that splitting the sport dilutes the product in general. And the politics and nasty headlines take away from the racing and end up angering fans

Monday, June 08, 2009

Los Amigos Invisibles Commercial Gets Major US Media Love

Los Amigos Invisibles the wacky Venezuelans whose latin-house-funk-disco fusion is great on disc and absolutely rocking live, get shown major love from major US media. Critic James Reed at the Boston Globe gives a great review to their latest album "Commercial".

Eleven years since they appeared on the cover of their debut as poolside dudes gawking at a foxy lady in a bikini, the good-time guys in Los Amigos Invisibles are still insatiable party animals. The Venezuelan band has long been a favorite live act for people who normally don't even like Latin music; the songs are exuberant and vivacious enough to transcend language. But in the studio, Los Amigos Invisibles had been treading water since 2000's "Arepa 3000," turning out albums that locked into the same shopworn groove. It's a relief, then, to hear fresh ideas and rhythms on "Commercial," the band's newest cocktail of disco, funk, rock, and space-age lounge. While the album doesn't exactly break new ground, the songs at least amount to a summer soundtrack perfect for days at the beach, nights on the dance floor. Following a rave-up introduction that falsely suggests the album will rocket into orbit, "Mentiras" puts the band in funkafied party mode right away. "In Luv With U," sung in English, is cute if dispensable. "Viviré Para Ti," a love song, glides along to a breezy beat courtesy of featherweight vocals from Mexican singer-songwriter Natalia Lafourcade. Like the cream of Los Amigos Invisibles' music, it hits the sweet spot between the heart and the hips. (Out tomorrow)


Great stuff. Nice to see that Los Amigos are getting (belated and much deserved)recognition - much as another favorite Los Aterciopelados is. Hopefully this will also translate into airplay from US Spanish-language media. In part due to the Univision cartels' self-interest in promoting its own acts and the self-contented attitude of other media, they tend to be behind the curve on these things. Los Amigos latest tracks and the album has been a major download success on I-tunes, hopefully this will open them up to the air and videoplay they deserve here in the US.

New song Mentiras from the album