Monday, May 5, 2008

I'm Back; Bolivia Boils Over

It's been a busy week in the mountains of Guatemala, but I'm now able to conjugate the present tense of caminar. (I think I'm fluent enough in Spanish now to move on.) For those hundreds of readers waiting with baited breath on what happened in the hills (Don Flan), you'll have to hold on for a few more hours for my epic magnum opus on Guatemalan history, politics, labor movements, pistol-whippings, and machete-wielding crazy-eyed gringos.

For the moment, though, let's move further south, to Bolivia, where the economic elite, perhaps a little miffed that an indigenous man had the nerve to assume the presidency of that country (long controlled by a tiny economic elite of European descent, to the detriment of its indigenous majority) in 2005, have attempted an illegal quasi-secession of the Santa Cruz province, which is a gas-rich economic powerhouse of the country. The president, Evo Morales, has had the temerity to suggest that the distribution of wealth in that country might be fairer, especially for poor indigenous folk who've borne the brunt of labor since the Spanish conquest. But the rich white folks who control a third of Bolivia's economy feel different:

"We in this region are positive about the conquest," said Luis Nunez, the [Santa Cruz Civic Committee]'s vice president. "We do not in any way resent what that history meant for us. It reflects who we are now."
A sentiment worthy of David Duke. Yesterday's vote (which was boycotted by 40 percent of eligible voters) seems to be a victory for the secessionists, but it remains to be seen whether a) the central government will allow autonomy for the province, and b) whether Bolivia's trade partners in Brazil and Argentina will conduct business with the rogue province. Both countries are governed by heads of state who sympathize ideologically with Morales, and are unlikely to cut Bolivia's central government out of any trade deals. Also waiting in the wings are three other provinces that are eying the success of Santa Cruz's autonomy movement, with possible referendums of their own in the coming weeks.

Sounds like a good time to head down south!


They say it's a cold world said...

I think you're right. But it will take you a long time to caminar all the way to Santa Cruz. Time to jump on a plane. How much support does Morales have in his own military, and how closely allied are the top generals with the secessionist elite?

They say it's a cold world said...

Oh yeah, and by the way, welcome back, at least to the interweb...

Anonymous said...

No kidding - welcome back to life as we like it - that is, being in touch with you! Nice writing. Enjoy practicing your Spnsh. Safe travels, Matt.

Anonymous said...

Hola amigo..

The comments by the Santa Cruz civic committee VP are far too common among the wealthy in latin america in my experience.

Hope you are enjoying your journey south. We'll have to make up a tie-breaker "ajedrez" one day. Looking forward to your epic magnum opus on machete wieding crazy eyed gringos in the guatemalan hills.


mgrace said...

Fy, youi scoundrel! Leave your email address either here or send it direct to my mail!