Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Unasur Report Questioned

From La Razón comes word that Colombia, Peru, Uruguay, and Paraguay have registered objections to Unasur investigator Radolfo Matarollo's report on the Sept. 11 massacre in Pando, Bolivia, in which at least 16 people died, according to Brazilian newspaper O Estado de São Paulo:
The report "was considered hasty and partial by Peru, Colombia, Uruguay and Paraguay," the newspaper said, adding that sources in Brazil "admitted that there was an incident in which 16 people died, but described the action of the UNASUR commission as rubber-stamped and partial."
Besides these flaws, there are three omissions: "The first two victims of the 'slaughter' were opposition activists. The second was that the Minister of the Presidency ... was in Porvenir before the confrontation to mobilize pro-government demonstrators ... Another omission was that many rural supporters of Evo were armed at the time of shock."

I do not see how any of these three "omissions" (if they are in fact omitted from the final report--which we have not seen yet) change the fact that Morales' supporters were gunned down. There are people from the opposition that insist that Presidential Minister Juan Ramon Quintana had a hand in the attacks, claims which I find absurd. That opposition people were also killed--if true--is immaterial to the case (if they were, though, justice demands accountability from their assailants). Which leaves the claim that Morales' supporters were armed before the attack. I bet they were--with stones, clubs, and machetes, which any peasant in Bolivia usually carries when there might be a confrontation with the opposition, which is known for being extremely violent.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Vale un Potosí


Our European friends are kicking it with Bolivia coverage today. From Radio Netherlands comes a great audio report on the history and present conditions of Potosí--a mining city that enriched the Spanish empire and at one time was larger than Paris and London combined.

Grumblings From the Medialuna


The BBC has an article today about the run-up to the constitutional referendum in Bolivia next month. It's short but even-handed. In addition to interviewing Plan 3,000 community leader Portugal Quispe, reporter Daniel Schweimler quotes Jim Shultz of Democracy Center and Blog From Bolivia fame, Branko Marinkovic, and Victor Hugo Rojas:
I asked the UJC vice-president, Victor Hugo Rojas whether he thought more violence was inevitable in the run-up to the January vote on the constitution.

"Change," he said, "is painful. Whether the change will benefit them or us, we'll have to see, but there will be violence. It has to happen and may get worse."

Yikes. Anyhow, it's a recommended read.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Branko Runs


From El Deber, we learn that Branko Marinkovic, the leader of the Pro–Santa Cruz Committee who is being investigated by the Bolivian authorities for his role in the violent takeovers of government buildings in August and September of this year, is hiding out in Europe. Incredibly, he's looking to take his case to International Criminal Court in The Hague. (Marinkovic claims his civil rights were violated.) I can only guess that he's preparing an insanity defense, because nothing he says makes any sense.

Jose Sucuzhanay

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Another Immigrant Death in Brooklyn

Many people have cautioned me when traveling about foreigners--especially U.S. citizens--being targets of attacks, whether simple muggings or politically motivated assaults. But when I was on the road for eight months, the only hassle I had was a street brawl in Lima, Peru, that ended up in a stalemate. I have generally found Latin America to be as safe as New York City. (In fact, the only time I've had a knife pulled on me was on a public bus in Minneapolis.) There are risks to traveling, to be sure, but I've never found it to be prohibitively dangerous (there are certain exceptions, though).

The United States, though, is looking really scary now--if you're an immigrant, that is. I'm ashamed to see that an Ecuadorian immigrant, Jose Sucuzhanay, has died today, after being beaten this past Sunday by a group of men in Bushwick. Witnesses report that the men yelled racial and anti-gay epithets at him and his brother, who were walking arm in arm in the early morning.
Diego Sucuzhanay said that his brother, one of 12 siblings, came to New York 10 years ago “because there were job opportunities.” He said Jose worked as a restaurant waiter for seven years, and founded his real estate agency several years ago. “He helped this community,” he said. “He loved Bushwick.”

This comes on the heels of another Ecuadorian immigrant, Marcelo Lucero, being killed last month on Long Island. His alleged killers are in custody.

Let's hope that Mr. Sucuzhanay's killers are brought to justice.

R.I.P.

Bolivian Economic Forecast

The IHT lists a number a factors that Bolivia faces with the upcoming current worldwide economic sh*tstorm, among them:

  • Declining commodity prices, which affects exports (natural gas;

  • Declining remittances, from Spain, the U.S., and Argentina;

  • U.S. trade preferences withdrawal--thanks, Bush! (Will Obama reverse this?);

  • Suspension of investment, which has slowed to a "trickle" in recent years.


But, as bad as this looks, the IHT concludes that "The social effects of the downturn will accentuate problems affecting the Morales administration as--assuming a 'yes' vote in January's constitutional referendum--it seeks to campaign for re-election in December 2009. However, as the August recall referendum showed, Morales's personal popularity remains high. Opposition to his government is fragmented. It will be difficult for the opposition to unite around a single presidential candidate."

I'm no economist, so I can't make an informed comment. But I do know that data is frequently twisted to tell one side or the other. Anybody have any insight to this analysis?

(La Razón has a Spanish-language article that touches the same themes, with a more upbeat forecast.)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Paceño in Baghdad

The life of Victor Hugo Rodríguez Guarache is a story of hope. He was born 31 years ago in La Paz, and he fights in Iraq under a flag that is not yet his own, but it will be in February, when he returns home. He escaped poverty when he was 19 years old with only $20 en his pocket, he crossed 10 countries during a five-month voyage, in which he traversed the Darién Gap, the tropical zone infested with guns and narco-traffickers. He unloaded trucks in exchange for transportation, washed dishes for food, and walked into Texas without papers in October 1997. Now, he patrols the Adhamiya neighborhood in Baghdad every day. "A couple of boys from our base were killed two days ago. It gets you. You think that all the guns and protection that we carry are useless. Here, the danger is the snipers."

From La Razón (in Spanish).

Friday, December 5, 2008

Branko's Defense


Below is the letter from the Pro–Santa Cruz Committee in which a somewhat lackluster defense of PSCC leader Branko Marinkovic is offered. It states that Marinkovic cannot be guilty of sabotaging a Tarija department gas pipeline because it was damaged by a fire due to poor management (mal manipulación). But is the government getting ready to charge Marinkovic for that, or for the more readily achieved riots in his home city of Santa Cruz? From the IHT:
"We have enough evidence in this investigation to allow us to link Mr. Marinkovic with the acts of terrorism that occurred in several parts of the country in September," government minister Alfredo Rada told state radio.

Twenty people, including a governor and another civic leader, are already behind bars for the violence that erupted in four opposition-controlled regions when anti-Morales protesters stormed government buildings, sabotaged natural gas pipelines and battled with the president's supporters.

The missive seems to be a red herring, designed to throw the media off the trail of violence that can more easily be traced back to the PSCC and the Santa Cruz Youth Union, which is the enforcement branch of the Santa Cruz–based opposition. (And you want dynamite charges thrown in the mix too? OK.)

(Image: BBC)

Letter From the Pro–Santa Cruz Committee


Just in from Santa Cruz. Translation is pending. Take it with a pinch of salt. (Click document to enlarge.)

Translation (mine) follows. Please feel free to correct.

Autonomous Department of Santa Cruz. Dec. 4, 2008

Gentlemen:

The Pro–Santa Cruz Committee is an institution that for more than 50 years has fought for democracy and progress for the people of Bolivia and Santa Cruz. Thus, today it fights for autonomy, through a democratic media. For example, this past May we backed a popular referendum in which 85% of the citizens voted for the Santa Cruz autonomy statute. Similarly, citizens of Pando, Beni, and Tarija departments also backed their respective autonomy statutes. Autonomy is our proposal to change Bolivia and create a more democratic and prosperous society, with better opportunities for everybody equally.

Today in Bolivia we live with a constitutional referendum campaign backed by the [ruling party] MAS and the government of President Evo Morales. The Pro–Santa Cruz Committee has decided to participate in this campaign, asking the citizens to vote "No" to the proposed constitution. We do not think that this constitution grants liberty, democracy, and equal justice for all, nor does it contribute to the unity of Bolivia, and it especially does not recognize our autonomy. It requires that departmental resources be administered by the central powers in La Paz.
The government of President Morales has answered our peaceful and democratic campaign with political and judicial persecution against our autonomy leaders--the departmental prefects and the civic leaders. This persecution is based on false accusations. For example, the MAS government accuses the president of the Pro–Santa Cruz Committee, Brank Marinkovic, of having allegedly participated in a dynamite attack against a gas pipeline in Tarija department. But this grave attack never happened. This was confirmed by published technical reports from the company that runs the pipeline, Transierra, stated that the damage was from a fire due to poor operation.

The government persecutes; it hides military operatives; it prosecutes its opponents with its own judges and prosecutors, ruling through propaganda and paid television. This demonstrates that the MAS government does not want any contrary opinion in the campaign for its constitution.

The letter is to inform you of this crisis of liberty and democracy that Bolivia is suffering.

[Signed] Luís Núñez Ribera,
First Vice President

[Seal, Pro–Santa Cruz Committee]

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Let's Blame Chavez! Everybody Else Does . . .


Otto points out an article from the Economist that briefly explains the recent spate of protests that have affected life in Peru. The claim by the Peruvian government that perpetual bogeyman Hugo Chavez is funding various protest groups is fleetingly considered, then repudiated:
Certainly far-left activists can be found in the bigger disputes. But many of the conflicts are very local in nature, and it is hard to see them as forming part of a concerted attempt to undermine democracy or the market economy. They are getting more violent because people have seen that more can be squeezed from the government by throwing stones or setting fire to police stations than simply by marching through the streets, says Fernando Rospigliosi, a former interior minister.

All that with a 10% growth rate. What happens when the economy really starts to feel the effects of the worldwide economic sh*tstorm? (Not to mention a newly mobilized Shining Path.)

Longtime DS will remember my missives sent during a general strike and a roadblock earlier this year.

No, They Did Not Kill Themselves . . .

. . . No matter what the opposition thinks.

The Unasur commission released a report on the Sept. 11, 2008, massacre in Pando. (Interestingly enough, nothing's been mentioned in papers from the States. Only the Times of India, Reuters, and Prensa Latina have any English-language coverage.) From Reuters:
Unveiling his findings on behalf of the 12-member panel, commission head Rodolfo Mattarollo said some of the 20 mostly Morales supporters killed in Pando province were murdered.

Mattarollo, an Argentine lawyer and Human Rights expert, said that some of the killers worked for Pando's opposition-controlled provincial government.

Now, will the opposition lunatics quit insisting that Venezuelan commandos did it? Or that they killed themselves? Or that Morales did it with his bare hands?

No, I doubt it.

Urg. I'm going back to bed. (Cough, cough.)

Oh, yeah, Bina's got a video in Spanish.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bolivia Happenings This Week

I'm cribbing a bit from El Duderino today, as my return to the north has given me a case of the flu, it seems. I get a bad cough, and I can barely post. El Dude loses an arm and he's still hitting it in Bolivia.

  • Santa Cruz's favorite "civic committee" leader, Branko Marinkovic, might get arrested soon for his alleged role in riots and sheer stupidity that crippled his city earlier this year. I don't know why the cambas didn't do it themselves, as his "protests" closed down the city, crippled the infrastructure, and made him--and his fellow cambas--the laughingstocks of South America. (Where is he now anyway? Still moping around Brazil, complaining that rich landholders like himself are being subjected to human-rights violations? Or in Miami? Anyway, government minister Alfredo Rada had some advice for him: "What Mr. Marinkovic has to do is prepare his defence and not try to run.")

  • Now, if that doesn't piss Branko off, this will: The Bolivian government is starting to expropriate large landholdings and giving them to . . . indigenous Bolivians! Just so happens part of this land is in cambalandia, Santa Cruz state, and there's nothing that pisses a camba off more, in my opinion, than giving the darker-skinned ones a damn thing. Before you feel too bad for the landowners:
    According to figures compiled by the United Nations, Bolivia's richest 100 rural families hold five times as much acreage as 2 million peasant farmers, while a 2004 World Bank study found that the discrepancy in wealth between the richest and poorest fifths of Bolivia's rural population is 170:1.

Sometimes life is good.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Call to Action

Carlos in DC has been following the action in his town during the Morales visit, and he's not letting the racist behavior demonstrated by some of the anti-Evo crowd go by without comment. He's imploring people to contact the media--something we all should do. (I had a letter out to the WaPo regarding its incomplete coverage, but I think it got spiked when I disclosed that I have a blog.) Give his post a read (which delves into his activist history, too--interesting stuff!) and send off a letter to your local rag or congressperson.

An Excellent Write-Up

Newton Garver, in The Buffalo News, has a wonderful summary of recent Bolivian political events. Garver's unafraid to call a spade a spade; namely, U.S. ambassador Philip Goldberg's behind-the-scene machinations to weaken Evo Morales' government and strengthen the rebel medialuna. Also great is his analysis of the Bush administration's insistence on democracy--but only the corporatist/capitalist version. To wit:

From the perspective of the right-wing opposition in Bolivia, as for Bush and Rice, the principal threat to human rights and dignity is not poverty or conditions of slavery, but the “tyranny of centralism” and restrictions on business opportunity. In order to promote right-wing democracy in Bolivia, the Bush administration needed to support and strengthen forces in Bolivia opposed to Morales. This was readily feasible, because of a persistent and deepening struggle in Bolivia between two forces, both of which continue to grow stronger.

One is the indigenous people, dozens of distinct ethnic groups, of which the largest by far are the Quechua and the Aymara; together indigenous people comprise nearly two-thirds of the nation’s population. The revolution of 1952, under Victor Paz Estenssoro, enfranchised these Indians and provided them for the first time with opportunities for education as well as political expression. They think of democracy in Lincoln’s terms — as government of the people, by the people and for the people. The government of Morales is a direct beneficiary of this initiative

Kudos to you, Mr. Garver. I'll be nominating you for an end-of-year "Achiever" award!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving to All

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year (in the U.S., anyway). It's secular, so everyone can participate, and its theme is graciousness, the act of giving thanks. And although it's pretty much confined to the United States, its origin--that of New World explorers, in 1621, relying on the generosity of the indigenous American inhabitants--wasn't limited to Plymouth, Mass. Before brutally enslaving, raping, and slaughtering their indigenous hosts, Europeans relied on their largess to survive. Even today, throughout the world, we have a much richer culinary tradition due to the centuries of experimentation and cultivation by the first Americans--corn, potatoes, chocolate, etc., etc. (Mex Files has a Mexican Thanksgiving story that even delves into the origin of mestizos, the mixed-race descendants of Spaniards and Meso-Americans.)

Now, 400 years after the first Thanksgiving, even in these difficult times, there's much to be thankful for. As a U.S. citizen, I'm thankful for being lucky enough to come from a country that, even though I harbor a host of plaints against it, provided me with the circumstances (educational, societal, economic) that allow me to explore and learn about our neighbors to the south. (Check out a chart that Otto unearthed about U.S. poverty--there's nothing easy about being poor, no matter where you live. But being poor in the States is different than being poor most everywhere wlse.) I'm thankful to have a voice, as small and shrill as it is, to critique, condemn, and call out the powers-that-be, whether foreign or domestic. I'm thankful that the past eight years is nearly over, and I'm thankful that my next adversary in the Oval Office, Barack Obama, isn't as embarrassing as the last.

I'm also thankful for my family and friends. I give thanks to the lobsters and the cows that produced such a great meal in New Jersey yesterday. (And I'm thankful that more and more people are choosing to respect the animals they eat by thinking about the food industry and not shying away from its brutal realities. Check out the Brooklynite's turkey-day post, and be sure to click on the link to the turkey-slaughter slide show--it's a bit gruesome, but did you think that turkey meat's grown in the lab?)

And I am really thankful that for the past seven months I've enjoyed the present-day generosity of the people of Latin America, all of them--the Spanish, the mestizos, the indigenous, and the rest (even those jerks that jumped me in Lima weren't as scary as some of the folks I've run into in Brooklyn).

I'm also really thankful that I'll be heading back in a little over a month, to observe a political process that continues to unwind in that crazy landlocked Andean country, Bolivia. Thank you, people of Bolivia. I've supported some of you, I've scorned quite a few of you, too. I'm looking forward to continuing this conversation next year!

Lastly, thanks to all you that have read this blog. It's nice to have a voice. It's even nicer to be listened to.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Is Leo Sweating?

Rodolfo Mattarollo has sent his Unasur-commissioned report on the Sept. 11 massacre in Pando to Bachelet and Evo, according to La Razón. Evo in turn has invited South American heads of state to drop on by La Paz to discuss it. Leopoldo Fernandez is already there, waiting it out in the San Pedro prison (I hear there's quite a bit to do there, if he's so inclined (sniff, sniff)). But what does the report say? Well, we have to wait. But it doesn't look too good for Leo:
Questioned on the possible participation in the events of the then-prefect of Pando, Leopoldo Fernandez, Matarollo responded that it wasn't yet the time to comment on that, although last week he declared that he did not have the slightest doubt of the responsibility of local authorities.

"Local authorities" means "prefect" in my book.

Friday, November 21, 2008

S.O.S. SoS

Looks like the fix is in. I am bitterly disappointed.

Al Giordano spells out another reason why we don't want a Clinton in charge of foreign policy:
For more than a week prior to the massacre, non-governmental organizations in Chiapas, Mexico, had warned the US State Department of the impending atrocity. But the deal had already been struck with the Mexican regime that in exchange for its acquiescence to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the US would turn a blind eye to all matters of human rights in Mexican territory...

More From the Opposition

If they weren't already looking bad enough, here's some comments from the anti-Evo-protest invitation on Facebook. (H/T to Barrio Flores.)

Don't ever let the opposition tell you they aren't racists.

Pando Massacre Report


Lighting people on fire? Check. Beating infants and shooting them in the head? Check. That's the opposition. Just sick.

Otto's got the dirt on the preliminary Unasur presentation on the Sept. 11 Pando massacre investigation.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

This Is the Opposition

Here's video of Bolivian dancers in traditional garb being harassed in Washington, D.C., yesterday when Evo was in town. As disgusting as it is, I'm glad their racist, ugly behavior is caught on video. This is the opposition in Bolivia. This is the Pro–Santa Cruz Committee. I'm posting this video from Carlos in D.C.'s blog. He's got more reporting on it, including this translation of the voices on the video:
"Assassins, get out, fake Indigenous, sold outs, take that custom off, bastards, piece of shit, get out, Evo faggot son of a bitch, he is a faggot…"


I'm sickened, and I hope you are too.

H/T to El Duderino.

(Aside to Bina: Yes, I think a letter is in order.)

Multimedia Morales

Abiding in Bolivia has the audio feed from Evo's Democracy Now! appearance, along with some video from Evo's speech at the O.A.S. in Washington yesterday.

Evo Visits and the Nutters Come Out

The WaPo has a story today about Evo's visit to Washington (where, incidentally, there seems to be some acts of contrition by U.S. lawmakers for the Bush administration's past year of actively fomenting a coup d'état). Naturally, the paper found a nutcase quote, in this case one Elena Abolnik:
"We are here to denounce what Evo is doing to our democracy, to our freedom of the press, to our constitution, to our human rights," Elena Abolnik, a Bolivian immigrant and activist from Northern Virginia.

An activist? Really? Well, sure, just like the KKK was (still is?) an activist organization. Ms. Abolnik is vice president of the Virginia chapter of Pro–Santa Cruz Committee, the cryptofascist organization run by wealthy landowner and arch-enemy of Evo and Bolivian law and order Branko Marinkovic. The UJC--the brownshirts of the opposition--goes hand in fist with Ms. Abolnik's committee, a violent organization that is only happy to attack the majority indigenous population of Bolivia.

I think it is only right and proper for news media here and elsewhere to listen and report opposition viewpoints, but a simple Google search quickly turned up Ms. Abolnik's association with the Pro–Santa Cruz Committee. Responsible journalism would, at the very least, require that this relationship be disclosed.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Evo in N.Y.C., D.C.

Carlos in DC was at American University's Morales speech and Q&A. He's also got some pictures and promises some video later today. Evo was also in N.Y.C. yesterday, appearing on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! (Looks like he was at Columbia University, too.) Morales has been defending his decision to expel the D.E.A. from Bolivia, which in the DN! interview he accuses of operating not only in Bolivia's narco-trafficking sphere, but also its political sphere, through disinformation campaigns and even protecting some narco-traffickers. But he insists that Bolivia is not giving up the fight against cocaine trafficking:
Our proposal is very clear: There is not going to be zero coca leaves growing; therefore, we have to actually control the coca growing. We have a very small portion [of coca cultivation] per family--it's 40 meters by 40 meters. It's not very big per family, it's very small. This is like the back yard of someone's house. And we have self-control, social control. Even though we have problems, this is how we fight it. We will fight against drug trafficking with or without the help of the United States, because this is an obligation my government has to fight against the evil that it causes to human beings.

Hell No, the D.E.A. Ain't Coming Back In!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's a Start

From the AP:
McALLEN, Texas — A South Texas grand jury has indicted Vice President Dick Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on state charges related to the alleged abuse of prisoners in Willacy County's federal detention centers.

I bet I know who's getting a pardon for Christmas . . .

Mr. Morales Goes to Washington

He's speaking at American University tonight at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6:15, but get there early. (Speech in Spanish with English translation available.) Oh, and he's taking questions afterward! If anyone is planning on attending, please leave a note here. I'd love to post a report on it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Secretary of State? No!

Obama's been busy disappointing everyone who has an eye on Bolivia with his appointment of Craig Greg as his White House counsel (Greg reps Goni, the ex-pres of Bolivia whom Evo is trying to extradite for his role in the government's killing of 60-plus Bolivians in 2003). (H/T to El Duderino.)

Scary stuff--it doesn't bode to0 well for the Obama administration's relationship with South America (the lefty countries, anyway, which is most of them). Also scary is the talk of Hillary Clinton getting the secretary of state position (which I blogged about last week). Ken Silverstein, over at Harper's, lists five reasons why she'd be a bad choice. Reason No. 2--that Obama would find it politically impossible to fire her--is something I didn't realize, and it should immediately disqualify her. (I'm betting it does.) But just take a look at reason No. 5!
  1. And the strongest strike of all against Hillary as secretary of state… look at who endorses her.


Click on the link, reel back in horror.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Obama's Cabinet

The Mex Files reports on Obama's possible cabinet choices, including the rumor of Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State:
The Huffington Post today reports that one of the most flaming neo-liberals is under consideration for Secretary of State … Hillary Clinton. During Ms. Clinton’s recent primary Presidential campaign, several Latin Americanists worried about her stance towards the region. Stephen Zunes, in Foreign Policy in Focus, dismissed her world-view as no different from her husbands, or either of his two predecessors.

But over at Narco News' The Field, Al Giordano shoots that down, saying that the rumors originated in the Clinton camp, mostly to interfere in potential SoS Kerry's and Richardson's selection processes (Mex Files endorses Richardson, BTW). Giordano's got a great point, too: Obama's recent demand for disclosure from any potential appointee would throw a cog in the Clintan machine's gears:
The conflicts of interest of former President Bill Clinton and his Clinton Global Initiative - a "charity" with a $208 million dollar surplus, undisclosed donors, many of them foreign - signify that before Senator Clinton could hold the post of Secretary of State, Bill Clinton and Terry McAuliffe would have to disband their own "shadow state department" that is the Clinton Global Initiative....

The real issue here is that the conflict of interest created by the Clinton Global Initiative rules out Senator Clinton for Secretary of State. The Obama job application form is very specific about unearthing potential conflicts by spouses and "family members."

Does anybody really believe that Obama will say to all his job applicants that there's a double standard, one set of requirements for them and another for the Clintons?


Let's pray that Giordano's correct.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

La Paz Film Festival

MetroBlog - La Paz has the program for the 2008 Festival of European Film this weekend in La Paz. If you are there this week, it looks like there are plenty of movies worth checking out.

Smart Socialism

Inca Kola News looks at Bolivia's 2009 budget. He notes that it's 33 37.5% larger than last year (thanks, Otto!), and full of infrastructure funds, which will help buoy the country's economy in this worldwide sh*tstorm we're all going through now. According to Otto's chart, it looks like a third of the budget will be going to roadwork. That's good, because it not only puts people to work, but infrastructure grows the economy significantly. And roadwork in a landlocked, über-mountainous country like Bolivia is doubly important for trade. (And those Venezuelan soldiers need some way to get into Santa Cruz--kidding!) Here's some Bolivian road building for your viewing pleasure, in which the road crew scraped the top off one mountain, slowly filled in a gorge, and then flattened the resulting surface into a road. Pretty simple! This was between the town of Samaipata and the city of Vallegrande, both in Santa Cruz department.


And now here's a video, from my hometown, Minneapolis, which demonstrates what happens when you don't invest in infrastructure. (And remember: Socialism does not work.) R.I.P. those unlucky 13 who died.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Obama's Ties to Goni

Last week, El Duderino noted that Greg Craig, Obama's Bolivia advisor, is also Bolivian ex-president Sanchez de Lozada's legal representative against genocide charges. Scanning the N.Y.T. today, I found the name of another lawyer representing Goni the Gringo: Howard Gutman. Is this the same Howard Gutman who was (and might still be) on Obama's national finance committee?

This doesn't bode to well for justice in Bolivia if Goni's lawyers are so chummy with the incoming U.S. president.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Go Home, Goni


Bolivian officials have requested the extradition of former president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, according to the AP. More than 60 people were killed during anti-government demonstrations in 2003.

Goni's always been in good with U.S. powerbrokers, as the 2005 film Our Brand Is Crisis shows. I would welcome, but do not expect, the incoming Obama administration to ship Goni off to Bolivia.

Peruvian Hairless Dog

After President-elect Barack Obama was asked about a "first dog" at his first presser after the election, he said that he needed a hypoallergenic mutt. Now Peruvians want to send him a Peruvian Hairless dog (which BoRev, expert as he is on Venezuela, calls "ugly").
I don't know, though. I thought this guy I met at the ruins of Huaca Pucllana in the Miraflores neighborhood of Lima last year was a pretty cool punk-rock-looking pooch. I think the Obama family should get one. Besides, it's just another thing that would piss off the right wing: a little immigrant dog.

Monday, November 10, 2008

We're Back (In the U.S.A.)


God help us, it's expensive here. But at least the Internet works!

OK, friends, I've been out of the loop for a while, so if any of this is old news please forgive me.

Civic-committee leader Branko Marinkovic, after whining that his human rights were being violated by big bad Evo, has apparently fled the country! The New Statesman has an interview with the president of the Bolivian constituent assembly, Silvia Lazarte. She also drops the bomb that Santa Cruz prefect Ruben Costas is pouting at home:
As a result, [Lazarte] says, several suspects appear to have fled: “Branco Marinkovic, who is a key figure in Santa Cruz politics, apparently is no longer in the country, according to the information we have. Ruben Costas, who is the prefecto [regional governor] of Santa Cruz, apparently left, went to his hacienda and is not at large.” Lazarte does admit though that there are “a few other groups around the place”, such as the Santa Cruz Youth Union, who have been implicated in violence, but as the investigation is ongoing, will not go into further detail.

It's tough being a fascist these days. Not to mention embarrassing.....

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thank God!

No big posts today, as the Obama victory celebration went on pretty late at the Down South Andean aerie. And you won't be getting any posts for the next couple of days, either, as I'm headed back to the U.S.A. (I don't have to feel so embarrassed about my country anymore!).

But I'll be back this weekend, blogging from Brooklyn!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Fingers Crossed


I found a weak Wi-Fi signal in the hills of Cuzco, so I'll be monitoring the election tomorrow all day. Yes, I have my problems with Obama (I would have been more excited with Edwards--until he got caught cheating, that is; what a moron!), but jeesh.... He's so much better than McCain and his idiot V.P. choice.

Now, go vote!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Facts? We Don't Need No Stinking Facts

Otto whips out his calculator. George Bush weeps. Thousands of runny-nosed gringos flock to Colombia. Hell, their tax money is going there anyway. (Just don't join a union!)

More U.S. Interventionist Skulduggery

From Green Left, an article by Federico Fuentes that details Bush's attempted fomentation of a coup d'état in Bolivia in September:
After Morales’s victory [in which he won a stunning 67% in the August referendum and the opposition lost two prefectures], “the only alternative left for Goldberg was to activate his ‘Plan B’”, aimed at plunging the country into violence, the document claims.

The aim was to either force a reaction from the military that would end with Morales’s resignation, or to justify a potential UN military intervention.

The document stated: “Following the strategy proposed by Goldberg, the prefects implemented a medium term plan to destabilise the government via destruction of public institutions, takeovers, and persistent provocations (including beatings) of the Police and the Army …”

Branco Marinkovic, a large landholder and head of the right-wing Santa Cruz Civic Committee traveled to the US on September 1, where he was convinced “that the [destabilisation] plan is in its final stages and that all stops must be pulled out”.

On his return eight days later, “a wave of violence was unleashed, with the burning of institutions and new acts of aggression against the Army and Police”.

It's important to remember that Evo was getting a lot of guff even from his own side for not acting forcefully enough against the medialuna. Crowds at the referendum victory party in Plaza Murillo, in central La Paz, were urging him to use a "strong hand" in dealing with rebel prefects and departments. Commerce was paralyzed for weeks due to road blocks, and it did look like Evo was twiddling his thumbs while Rome burned. But masterful tactician that he is, he let things play out while the opposition overextended itself--well, they actually slaughtered people in Pando. That, the international outcry over it, and Unasur's ascendancy and support of Evo then destroyed any credibility the oppos once had. Although the events were tragic, kudos to Morales for his patience and cunning in turning the tide of a U.S.-sponsored intervention. Pretty smart for a "dumb Indian," as my friends in Santa Cruz put it so succinctly.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Walking to Guantanamo


My friend and fellow Red Hooker (Hookian?) Richard Fleming was featured on PRI's The World, in which he talks about his new book Walking to Guantánamo. Give it a listen. I found it interesting when he addressed Cubans' attitudes toward people from the U.S. as separate from their attitude toward U.S. policy. Something that I found to be true in Bolivia, another country demonized by official U.S. policy.

After you listen, buy the book here or here. (Christmas is coming soon!)

And visit the official website here.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Oldie But Goodie

“Why has there never been a coup in the United States?” [Chilean president Michele Bachelet] asked a group of investors.
“Because there is no U.S. embassy in the United States.”

But don't forget Bush's gramp's attempted fascist coup in the 1930s:
For the first time publicly, Wolf traced the origins of contemporary developments back to President Bush's Nazi grandfather, Prescott Bush, and his plan to launch a fascist coup in the 1930's.

Voice of Stupidity


The Voice of America has a critique of Bolivian drug-war policy, saying that the country hasn't done enough to combat cocaine production. Well, as the graphic here (from the VoA's website) says, it's an editorial representing the "views of the U.S. government," which should set off anyone's B.S. meter. Now, according to the United Nation's Office on Drugs and Crime, Bolivian coca cultivation was up 5% in 2007. Peru's was up 4% and Colombia's was up 27%!!!!!! So what gives? Is it that Bolivia does not murder trade unionists? What the hell is wrong with mmy country? (Oh yeah, that would be George Bush. Dear God, only a few more months of this lunacy.... I hope.)

Oh yeah, canceling trade deals is not a good way to reduce coca cultivation:
The UNODC survey shows that in Bolivia, coca cultivation has mainly increased in regions such as La Asunta and the Yungas de La Paz, where, to date, investment in development has been scarce. Conversely, regions that have benefited from support for licit livelihood schemes, like Alto Beni, have been able to limit coca cultivation.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ukhampacha Bolivia

Jean Friedman-Rudovsky, an all-too-rare example of a good reporter, has a website I've just discovered, Ukhampacha Bolivia. In it comes a criticism of the proposed new Bolivian constitution, by Pablo Mamani. It's worth reading the whole thing, but this bit caught my eye, and I agree that the oppos are getting their "autonomy" too easily, at the expense of Bolivia as a whole:
.... The autonomous separatist statutes of Santa Cruz and the other eastern departments will take immediate effect after the constitution is approved, but the other autonomies—indigenous, regional—must undergo a long constituitive process before coming into effect.

Cowboy Diplomacy

Jim Shultz at the excellent Blog From Bolivia takes President Bush to task for his blundering diplomacy these past few months in Bolivia. I and others have questioned Bush's motives during the Bolivian crisis, and Shultz succinctly sums up the administration's goals: isolate Chavez from Morales and the Bolivian government; decrease coca production; and improve U.S. popularity. Bush has failed miserably in discouraging relations between Chavez and Morales, as a recent trade agreement between the two countries is the most recent consequence of Bush's isolation of Bolivia. Coca cultivation is down, although with the rhetoric out of Washington you wouldn't know that. As far as U.S. popularity in the region--don't even ask. (Even Peace Corps volunteers in Bolivia are wary of their own government.)

So the Bush administration fails in execution, but what's even more emblematic of this waning administration is how its actions work exactly to the opposite of its goals. As Shultz writes:

On coca, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you put 20,000 people out of work in a nation where honest economic opportunity is scarce, some of those people are going to drift in other directions. In Bolivia those 'other directions' often include migrating to the Chapare to grow coca that isn't destined for chewing or tea, but the illegal drug market. It was the destruction of much of Bolivia's mining industry in the 1980s that sent so many ex-miners into the coca-for-cocaine business two decades ago. So while the Bush administration claims that its goal here is to battle increased coca growing for drugs, its actual policies seemed aimed at sending former textile workers right in that direction. Truly intelligent.

Finally, if the Bush administration thinks that its retaliatory moves aimed at Morales have made the U.S. more popular in the region, it might want to take another look there as well. The real mark of declining U.S. influence in the region can be measured by the Chilean summit held by the South American presidents last montn, in response to the Bolivia crisis. The messages from the Presidents was clear – U.S., we do not want you in the room.

That last graf is telling, and makes me hopeful, even if I haven't much faith in Obama and future U.S. involvement in South America. Hopefully, South America will be strong enough to tell the U.S. to butt out, that they are on track to solving their own problems, as they showed so recently in Bolivia.

Cambas Embrace Poor Neighbors in Unprecedented Solidarity After Evo Win

Well.... no.
Bina translates an article about high-level skulduggery in Santa Cruz, in which the municipal government conspired with a real-estate developer to bulldoze low-income homes in an effort to protect the property value of a planned luxury development.
At 10 a.m on Tuesday, heavy machinery belonging to the Municipality of Santa Cruz arrived at the location to begin the demolition of the homes, which were in the last phase of construction in the community of La Comarca, Warnes, 9 kilometres inside the city limits of Santa Cruz. Mayor Percy Fernández was forced to fire six high-level functionaries, including María Costas, the sister of prefect Rubén Costas.

Reconciliation? Hrmph.

Also: The White House can't access Google News. And, you know, read news about Bolivia.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Poor Branko Can't Win

Bina's got some news that, depending on the results of exploration, might make the distribution of hydrocarbon revenues a bit more fair in Bolivia. It seems that there might be black gold in them thar hills--in La Paz department, that is. So the oppo's insistence on an inequitable share of hydrocarbon revenues is (ouch!) looking like it might bite them on the ass.
The president said that "today is a historic day for Bolivia and the Department of La Paz", which will bring to life the dreams of the people by exploring their hydrocarbon riches.

(Remember: Presently, the medialuna (the departments in rebellion) garner a huge share of natural-gas resources, all out of proportion to the percentage of indigenous Bolivians.)

Also, I don't want to spill the beans, but I hear that a major U.S. television story is coming down the pike that will investigate the U.S. government's alleged (editor's note: make that certain) meddling in Bolivian affairs. I'll keep yelling about it here. Seems to work a bit!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Road Block Explained

Otto found this article on what went down in Sicauni, the town between Puno and Cuzco where there were roadblocks earlier this week (which was why I was stuck in Puno). It seems that there's a new hydroelectric dam planned, and the campesinos are against it. Interestingly, 40 police were injured in a recent confrontation, yet only 10 campesinos were admitted to the hospital.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Obama and Latin America

As I've been traveling through Latin America, people frequently ask me about the upcoming U.S. presidential election, and whom I am voting for. Since I'm not a mad revanchist/imperialist/know-nothing, I of course respond that I'm supporting Obama. Yet I always qualify my support of Obama with a line or two about how U.S. foreign policy is only slightly influenced by our president, and how the two-party system has effectively limited government philosophy (i.e., we are and will be ruled by the corporations, not by people). I do sincerely believe that Obama is a far better choice than McCain, but I do not have much hope for an enlightened rule by the next president.


Today, VenCentral.com has a post that squares with my belief. Obama will be at the helm of a ship that can't too easily change course. In direct opposition to that ship will be the iceberg South America, with a new power dynamic led by none other than Hugo Chavez, whom Obama has in the past demonstrated his opposition to.

Obama at the head of a sinking empire will not call off the millions of U.S. tax dollars that find their way into anti-Chavez organisations annually. Nor will Chavez budge on his grand ambition to inspire regional –and eventually world– socialism. What could a meeting between the two ultimately produce? It seems that the only beneficiary would be Chavez as the rising star, playing Obama in a showcase of how the Empire’s spots cannot change. Cooperation, even on a simple economic and mutually-beneficial level, cannot occur between nation-states with distinctly opposing and overriding ideological goals.


For all the Republican label throwing of "socialist," "terrorist," and even "crypto-Muslim"--although the right wing hasn't demonstrated that it even understands these terms--onto the Democratic candidate, Obama is a traditional politician in a very conservative and capitalist country. I don't see relationships between the States and Latin America getting any worse under his presidency, but I do not see a sea change of any sort. I do, however, hope I am wrong.

Oh, I guess I am wrong!

WaPo Profiles the Corps

The Washington Post runs a story today on the Peace Corps volunteers who, instead of being used as pawns in the U.S. government's continuing war of diplomatic aggression against Evo "67%" Morales, decided to hang on in Bolivia. Sarah and Co., you do our country proud! It's true that Bolivians do view the U.S. with suspicion--rightfully, if you ask me. But actions like these Peace Corps volunteers take demonstrate that not all U.S. citizens approve of devious U.S. foreign policy. And that's part of why, contrary to U.S. claims, Bolivia isn't the dangerous hell-hole our government says it is: Bolivians know that U.S. citizens aren't all to blame for stupid U.S. policy. Thank you, Peace Corps people.

H/T Otto.

El Duderino Parties With Evo and Co.

I left Bolivia, but El Duderino is picking up the slack. He partied down with the "dynamite-wielding," "club-carrying" thugs who forced congress to ratify the new constitution. (Just kidding, idiot opposition! As been proved time and time again, Evo's people are largely peaceful and dedicated to the democratic process. El Dude, like me, doesn't listen to U.S. propaganda and actually talks to the people himself. OMG! He even hangs out with P3K campesinos--whom, I might add, never bothered me when I visited their barrio.) Check out his description of this week's slap in the face and repudiation of fascism and thuggery in our favorite DEMOCRATIC and forward-moving Andean country. History will remember this triumphant moment in time--that is, if the U.S. just stays the hell out. (Well, if we want to influence Bolivia, might I suggest renewing our trade agreements?)

And as always, Blog From Bolivia has the nitty-gritty on what when down, who gave in on what, in the negotiations.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

One Sentence Makes You Think

From BoRev:
Then of course Bolivia banished the US ambassador and the violence miraculously stopped.


Correlation is not causation, I have to state. But doesn't it make you think?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

2014?



May I present the next Bolivian president, circa 2014?
(Keep it up with the gay jokes, cambas, just makes you look dumb.)

Evo Limits Himself to Two

To get the new constitution ratified, Evo pledged to limit his presidency to two
terms, according to the AP:
Morales did not appear to dampen his supporters' enthusiasm with his re-election concession, and he grinned widely as a small sea of hard-hatted miners, packed in too tight to dance, bobbed in place to the music of a traditional Andean folk group.

Somehow, I bet the cambas are still shouting "dictator," even though with each passing day they look stupider and stupider.


Closer to the home front, though, Blog from Bolivia looks at the evilness oozing out of the States, and has some suggestions for all goodhearted U.S. citizens to take in response to the Bush administrations recent actions aimed at weakening our man Morales. Please read it, and take action! Support democracy, and stop these foreign interventions that only spread misery and make us U.S. citizens look like fools. (Urgh, Jim's letting people comment again, and it's back to the same old crapfest.)
Here's one of my favorite comments, coming of course from someone who'e afraid to identify him- or herself:
Santaoct, you got it right! Now let me throw one more thing into this. Don't you all find it a little coincidental that Evo's doctors (witch doctor) has prescribed several days of rest at the same time thousands of poor, neglected,innocent, unarmed (except for their guns and dynamite) indians are about to reach La Paz to put non- violent pressure on congress to pass a laww allowing a vote on a illegal constitution? The V.P. Linera has been put in charge, so now when the bullets and dynamite start flying, Evo had nothing to do with it. Just a thought.

Victory for Evo

Damn, I missed a hell of a party last night! Otto's got the story about Morales' triumphant party in Plaza Murillo in La Paz--with 300,000 of his supporters!!! Sometimes timing is everything, and I seem to have totally missed it. Damn, damn, damn.

Anyway, congratulations, Evo.

(It does look like I could be back for the next stage of the Bolivian political drama, in January, and maybe even next December, when Evo might be re-elected.)

I'm just going to past in the whole AP article that gives a little background to what just happened in La Paz. This is a pretty significant development. I'm happy and proud to have witnessed the run-up to this triumphant moment in Bolivian and indigenous-American history. Too bad I missed the climax, but, hey, that's life.
Bolivia's Congress ratifies draft constitution
By DAN KEANE – 1 hour ago

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Bolivia's Congress ratified President Evo Morales' draft constitution on Tuesday and sent it to a nationwide vote on Jan. 25, granting the leftist leader a hard-fought victory in his push to remake South America's poorest country.

Morales wiped away tears as he waded into a crowd of tens of thousands of supporters packed into the narrow streets of the capital to celebrate passage of the proposal that is designed to empower Bolivia's long-oppressed indigenous majority.

The popular Morales agreed on Monday to seek only one more five-year term in exchange for opposition lawmakers' support of the framework, expected to easily pass a referendum.

The proposed constitution has been embraced by the president's poorer, largely Indian supporters but has met fierce resistance from the middle and upper classes in the lowland east who say it expands Morales' powers and ignored their demands for greater provincial autonomy.

However, last-minute negotiations brought a compromise on the issue of provincial autonomy.

"This baby isn't perfect, as many have said," said Alejandro Colanzi, congressman from the centrist opposition party National Unity. "But it's our baby, and we can't deny it. Maybe life, as it unfolds, will perfect it."

The proposed constitution would let Morales serve two consecutive five-year terms, while the current charter says terms cannot be consecutive.

Morales had alarmed critics with initial plans to start counting the terms only after a victory in general elections, which would be held on Dec. 6, 2009, if voters approve the constitution.

But Morales' concession meets conservative opposition demands that his current term, begun in 2006, should count against the total, limiting his possible rule to 2014 instead of 2019.

The new constitution's lengthy bill of rights includes a long section dedicated to indigenous groups, and would grant them autonomy over their traditional lands and a "priority" share of the country's natural resources wealth.

Update

Hey all. Sorry for the lack of posts. I'm stranded in Puno, Peru, due to a strike somewhere up the road on the way to Cuzco. I've been spending my time walking back and forth between the city center and the bus station, begging passing buses and colectivos for a ride. And it hasn't worked so far. I can't say I'm a huge fan of this town, but I've got a cheap room in the bus station and I've got a Graham Green book to reread, so it could be worse. Hopefully I'll be back on track by tomorrow, so look for new posts by then.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Keep an Eye Out Tomorrow

I've finally left La Paz, in what can only be called a comedy of errors. In the past 24 hours I falsely accused a paceño of stealing my wallet. (He didn't; he was a very understanding guy and the doorman of the colectivo in which I left it actually ran two blocks down the Prado and returned it to me.) And then karma reared her head and--after my last night in the city, with plenty of drinking and dancing--I actually did lose my wallet. And my ATM card. And my money. But with a little help from my friend (and Western Union), I did make to to Peru, only to find out that there's a transportation strike in Cuzco, where a certain little lady is plotting to kill me after all these delays. So I'm in Puno--not a bad little town--but not where I am supposed to be!

Anyhow, keep an eye on the news tomorrow. There's supposed to be a huge turnout for the pro-Morales/constitutional-change march that arrives in La Paz tomorrow. Should be exciting. I wish I could be there. (And I'll be on the bus all day tomorrow, and I'll be begging for forgiveness all tomorrow night, so there won't be much info here.)

Friday, October 17, 2008

More Time-Wasting

I should be packing for my trip to Peru, but instead I'm floating around the Web wasting time. A while back, I was in Guatemala, and I read a couple books that shock my lefty soul: Bitter Fruit and Silence on the Mountain. I also travel with The New Yorker's complete DVD collection, from which I found Francisco Goldman's account of the murder of Bishop Juan Gerardi. Now, Two Weeks Notice has a post of Goldman's book, The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop? If it's as good as his article, it'll be great reading. I just ordered a copy from the Brooklyn library to read when I get back.

Also, if you want to read about my time in Guatemala, click here.

Mex Files


I'm really enjoying the Mex Files lately, a great blog about a great country (my first foreign love, as a matter of fact). Mexico's a behemoth that bridges two worlds, with a history that's sad, proud, and powerful. Not to mention the present day. If you have any interest in it (and if you are from the States, you really should), please check out this great website.

¡Viva Presidente AMLO!

More on HRW

I linked to a NYRB article the other day, authored by the Human Rights Watch staffers that were kicked out of Venezuela after they published a report critical of the Chavez administration. There's been some demonization of the HRW after its report was released--and that's all right. But Inca Kola News points out, correctly, that HRW isn't a right-wing hack organization (like Human Rights Foundation). They stick it everyone, and next on the list is Colombia's Uribe administration--a target, I think, we can all happily agree on.

I'd suggest reading what Otto wrote when HRW was kicked out of Venezuela. Along with Jim Shultz at Blog from Bolivia, I think they nailed it pretty good.

More on Tatiana Marinkovic

Here's a graphic from El Deber, which I usually scrutinize a bit due to its role as the opposition's mouthpiece. So take it skeptically. I'll just be relaying info today, what little I can, as it's my last day in Bolivia for a while (sob!) and I've got tons of stuff to do.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Marinkovic's Sister in Trouble?

Tatiana Marinkovic is apparently in trouble for falsifying tax documents, according to El Deber. The opposition will undoubtably claim that the Morales administration is on a vendetta against the the Marinkovic family (Tatiana's brother, Branko, is the wealthy landowner who heads the Pro-Santa Cruz Committee, which is adamently opposed to Morales and his reforms). Should be an interesting drama to follow.

Marinkovic sostuvo que con la orden de detención hacia su hermana y la citación hacia su persona el Gobierno busca que interrumpa su gira internacional en la que denuncia a distintos organismos los atropellos realizados por el Evo Morales.

[Quick and sloppy translation: Marinkovic sustained that the detention order against his sister and the citation were because the government is searching for ways to interrupt his international tour denouncing certain organizations of abuses by Evo Morales. (Ed. note: Which, as I've said before, is a load of crap.)]

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

From the NYRB

An article authored by the Human Rights Watch (not the Human Rights Foundation) workers who were expelled from Venezuela after publishing a report that was critical of Chavez.

I've got no dog in this game, but others have noticed inconsistencies in HRW's methods. So in the interest of fairness, give them a read, too.

H/T to the BoRev: HRW used Alek Boyd as a source. That doesn't bode too well.

Update: Blog From Bolivia had a thoughtful post on this situation when it occurred. Read it here.

More on Alek Boyd

Ever since I read the "report" from the Human Rights Foundation that was critical of Morales for the recent violence in Bolivia, I've been looking at the bizarre relationships of the foundation's board and employees. I'm new to this game, though, so it's taking me a while to get up to speed on this organization. Luckily, though, the blogosphere is full of good folks who want the information out as much as I do. In the mailbox today comes a press release from the Greater London Authority. It seems the Alek Boyd (who does "research" for the HRF) tried to sue the ex-mayor of London, Red Ken Livingstone, when Red Ken called him a supporter of terrorism.

All well and good. I wouldn't want to be called that either!

But then I also wouldn't:

  • say "violence is the only recourse left";
  • call writer Tariq Ali (and my good friend's former boss) a "Paki journalist";
  • say of President Chavez and his supporters: "only barbaric practices will neutralise them, much the same way as Khan did. I wish I was him.";
  • say "I wish I was Khan and order my hordes to capture [supporters of Chavez] and pour melted silver into their eyes."

Needless to say, after these quotes came to light, Boyd realized the futility of trying to sue Livingstone--even in the U.K., where the standard for libel is much easier to prove than in the U.S.--because these quotes clearly demonstrate that Boyd's ideology is violent and terroristic.

So when you see anything come from Human Rights Foundation, please consider the above.

Working Hard to Save the World From the Peace Corps


Yesterday, Otto noticed that the C.I.A. had been snooping around his blog, through a referral from the blog of our favorite Peace Corps volunteer, Sarah Nourse, who had the temerity to exercise her First Amendment privilege in an open letter in the Andean Information Network and an interview in an AP article. Well, it seems the C.I.A. has also been snooping in this direction, too. See graphic at right; click on it to make it larger. (Doesn't the C.I.A. have the necessary technology to spoof a fake network location, or is this its way of intimidating people who speak out?)

I don't mind the agency checking out this site; after all, I suppose it is its job to monitor malcontents such as myself who criticize U.S. policy. But why is agency investigating a Peace Corps volunteer? Doesn't Sarah get to speak her mind?

But thank you, C.I.A. agent man or woman. This is just the thing that makes me feel vindicated in deciding to blog. Next time, though, take more than 50 seconds to read it! There's all sorts of good stuff in the archives....

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Legalization Is the Only Answer

The other Mexican president (not AMLO) is proposing the decriminalization of most street drugs. In the past, I've been torn on this strategy. Marijuana, sure, but there's no denying the destructive effects of meth, heroin, and cocaine. But after this past year of decapitations, torture, and violence in Mexico, it's obvious that there will be no victory in the war on drugs. And now, with the Bush administration's cynical decision to blacklist Bolivia because of some purported increase in cocaine production (coming suspiciously shortly after the U.S. ambassodor's expulsion from the country for being a coup-plotting anti-democratic opposition supporter), it's clear that the war on drugs is--intentionally or not--a war on the poor, whether African-Americans back home or cocaleros in the Andes, or, now, the working poor who depend on exports to the U.S. to make a living.

(While seraching for links for the above, I just stumbled upon an excerpt of the book Belching Out The Devil: Global Adventures With Coca-Cola, by Mark Thomas. It's frustrating that Colombia is a favored partner of the U.S., with its terrible history and current climate of rights abuses, while Bolivia is demonized only because it has a "socialist" leader. Hrmph.)

Frontline: Good; PBS: Ehh.

From Harper's website:
On Thursday evening WNET in New York will air an important new documentary by Emmy and Dupont Award winning producer Sherry Jones entitled “Torturing Democracy.” It appears on WNET and several other affiliates independently because PBS would not run the show—at least not until President Bush has left office.

Branko Translated

Here you are. If I've messed it up (my Spanish isn't too good), please feel free to correct in the comments.

Branko Marinkovic Starts International Tour to Denounce Human Rights in Bolivia

In order to make known the true political situation in the country and the scope of the rebellion and treason of the Pando, Beni, Tarija and Santa Cruz departments, the führer of the Pro-Santa Cruz Committee, Branko Marinkovic, launched an international tour by giving a press conference in the city of Sao Paolo on Monday morning.

Marinkovic told the Brazilian press that his presence is due to a mission entrusted by his fellow rebel civic leaders. "Last week I met with my fellow brownshirts, who asked me to inform the world that the autonomy cause is a cause to weaken the country's unity, to discard democracy, and to provide better opportunities for certain rich Bolivians. "

The Bolivian civic leader noted that the oligarchy of Bolivia, long used to slave labor and one of the most inequitable distributions of land and resources, is now threatened and persecuted politically--or is at least being asked to consider helping the poor in the poorest country in South America--by the Movement Toward Socialism. "My fellow oligarchs asked me to show to the international community the continuing violations of human rights by the Santa Cruz Youth Union, deaths caused by my friend the disgraced ex-prefect of Pando department Leopoldo Fernandez, the confinements and the suspension of liberties of the indigenous Bolivians, and the constant threats, blackmail, and violence that the rebel prefect governments use with impunity."

Marinkovic said that as leader of the Pro-Santa Cruz Committee, he has a duty to leave his country--because he is hated in the capital, La Paz, and would likely be lynched there--and make these truths known in defense of all those civic leaders who today threaten the democracy of Evo Morales, who with 67% of the popular vote in the last election is an extraordinarily popular leader. "We will put all our effort to defend the civic leaders of Beni, Pando, and Tarija, who today will prosecute the legitimate government of Bolivia and the dirty Indians who make a majority of this country and must be subjugated so that we can maintain our standard of living."

The autonomist leader said that after visiting Brazil, he will relocate to the headquarters of human rights in Costa Rica and the UN headquarters in the United States, and will meet with fascists and false human rights organizations in Latin America (such as the HRF). "I will not rest until the international community understands that Bolivian democracy must be destroyed and that there is great concern for us coddled rich people, and we will escalate violence to destroy the supporters of of the legitimate leader of Bolivia, Evo Morales, whom, I might add, is a dirty Indian," Marinkovic added.

"In Bolivia, we are violating human rights, we are violating the law, and it is inconceivable that the president initiate an march in the town of Caracollo to the seat of government in La Paz, which aims reinforce democracy. Instead of supporting democracy, the Bolivian President Evo Morales should think about our white skins and the tens of families who need S.U.V.s, slave labor, and legal impunity to support our opulent lifestyles."

Monday, October 13, 2008

From the CPSC

I received this in my email today. Branko Marinkovic, the leader of the Pro-Santa Cruz Committee, went to Brazil and gave a press conference about human-rights violations in the medialuna: Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni and Pando states. No one disputes human-rights violations in those states, but Marinkovic is trying to cast his side in a favorable light, by blaming Minister Juan Ramón Quintana of Morales administration for inciting the recent violence in Pando. (The same old charge of Morales conspiring to murder his own supporters. Perhaps the opposition is feeling the heat from the pending Unasur investigation?)

Can't figure out why he went to Brazil to hold the press conference. Why doesn't he come to La Paz? After all, la causa autonómica es una causa para la unidad del país, para fortalecer la democracia y para brindar mejores oportunidades para los bolivianos. (The autonomomist movement is for the unity of the country, to fortify democracy and for greater opportunities for all Bolivians.)

Translation pending.

Branko Marinkovic inició una gira internacional para denunciar violaciones a los Derechos Humanos en Bolivia

Con el fin de dar a conocer la verdadera situación política del país y los alcances de la propuesta autonómica de los departamentos de Pando, Beni, Tarija y Santa Cruz, el presidente del Comité pro Santa Cruz, Branko Marinkovic, inició una gira internacional dando una conferencia de prensa en la ciudad de San Pablo este lunes en horas de la mañana.

Marinkovic indicó a la prensa brasileña que su presencia se debe a una misión encomendada por sus pares cívicos de las regiones autónomas, "la semana pasada estuve reunido con mis colegas cívicos, quienes me pidieron dar a conocer al mundo que la causa autonómica es una causa para la unidad del país, para fortalecer la democracia y para brindar mejores oportunidades para los bolivianos".

El cívico boliviano señaló que en estos momentos están amenazados y perseguidos políticamente por el Movimiento al Socialismo, "me pidieron que muestre a la comunidad internacional las permanentes violaciones a los Derechos Humanos que viene ejecutando el Gobierno de Evo Morales, las muertes provocadas por el Ministro Juan Ramón Quintana en Pando, los confinamientos y la suspensión de las libertades de los bolivianos que diariamente nos despertamos angustiados por las permanentes amenazas y chantajes que viene desarrollando el Gobierno nacional."

Marinkovic aclaró que como líder del Comité pro Santa Cruz, tiene el deber de salir de su país y dar a conocer estas verdades y salir en defensa de todos aquellos dirigentes cívicos que hoy se encuentran amenazados, "vamos a poner toda nuestro esfuerzo para defender a los dirigentes cívicos de Beni, Pando y Tarija, que hoy se encuentran perseguidos".

El líder autonomista indicó que luego de visitar Brasil, se trasladará a la sede de los Derechos Humanos en Costa Rica, la sede de la ONU en Estados Unidos y se reunirá con los intelectuales y organizaciones de Derechos Humanos de Latinoamérica; "no descansaremos hasta que la comunidad internacional entienda que en Bolivia la democracia está en peligro y que existe una gran preocupación de la población civil por la escalada de violencia que promueven los partidarios de Evo Morales", finalizó Marinkovic.



"En Bolivia se están violando los Derechos Humanos, se está violando las leyes, y es inconcebible que el Presidente de la República inicie en persona una marcha de la localidad de Caracollo a la sede de gobierno en La Paz, que tiene el objeto de amedrentar y chantajear a la democracia. En vez de atacar a la democracia y perseguir a los bolivianos, el Presidente Evo Morales debería pensar en nuestro país y los miles de familias que necesitan empleo, progreso y que la canasta familiar sea accesible a todos"; Branko Marinkovic en conferencia de prensa con medios televisivos de San Pablo, Brasil.

Peace Corps

Remember when the U.S. government pulled the Peace Corps out of Bolivia (and scared the hell out of my mom) because it was so damn violent down here? Well, 70(!) of those good people, instead of sitting idly by while the U.S. used them cynically in its propaganda war against President "67%" Morales, decided to quit the Peace Corps and return to Bolivia. Why?
“Peace Corps, unfortunately, has become another weapon in the U. S. diplomatic arsenal,” said Sarah Nourse, 27, of Mechanicsville, Md., another volunteer who opted out.

Right you are, Ms. Nourse, although that was already well-know.

Via Abiding, mercifully back from his break.

(Side note: The Peace Corps/State Dept. story was broken by none other than Jean Friedman-Rudovsky, who is featured in the Frontline video report below.)

Heh. It's from a couple of days ago, but I've been hungover and non-active since getting back to La Paz, so I didn't see this: Bina's on a tear!