Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Lies, Lies, Lies, Exagerations

Not to be outdone by the loonies in Santa Cruz, the Bush administration is now offering flights to U.S. citizens out of Bolivia--at cost. Citing increased political tension, it has yanked the Peace Corps out of the country and advises other U.S. to consider leaving. Why the U.S. is doing this--especially when there are dozens if not hundreds of airplanes flying in and out of the country every single day--is not clear from reports. Nobody, I repeat, NOBODY is stuck in Bolivia. Perhaps it has to do with the U.S. ambassador having been sent packing?

Coincidentally (because none of these actions are related the other, mind you), Bolivia just popped up on the U.S. drug blacklist.

Actually, you know, maybe this is all true, because if the Bush administration were to just invent all this it would look incompetent, and it's certainly done a fine job so far in foreign relations till now!

Also, more hysteria from Time. Civil war? I don't think so. The entire continent has rallied around Morales; Bolivia is a landlocked country. And did I hear "67%"? Yes, I did.

I think that a lot of these doomsday scenarios--particularly the ones coming out of Washington--are being used to exacerbate the crisis, nothing more. There is a crisis going on, but recent events have illuminated a peaceful way out. Information is what we need to understand what is going on down here, and, as usual, the U.S. government is covering something up. Call and write to your representative and senator and demand that all information be released as to what groups the U.S. is funding in Bolivia.
Update: Ten Percent sums it up so much better:
So this is how the Empire responds when its subversion fails, for the gullible public it is spun like goody US stands firm against evil druggie rabble (and so nice to smear both Bolivia and Venezuela by lumping them in with frickin’ Burma!). But the timing is clear, it is a response to Bolivia defeating the coup in the east and UNASUR standing in solidarity with Morales. But then no one could ever accuse -former? addict- Bush of not being a petty little shit.


Lorien said...

A few notes:

1. Early last week Evo demanded the withdrawal of the DEA from the Chapare. Without a job to do here and without the welcome or at least acceptance of the Bolivian president, the DEA chose to remove itself from not just the Chapare but all of Bolivia. Bolivia has been "declassified", which is a status shared by Venezuela and Burma, and means that the government is actively opposed to compliance with the U.S. DEA.

2. A $10,000 bounty currently exists on the head of every DEA agent. As far as I know, it's known who set the bounty and to whom it has been advertised. In Cochabamba, at least, word is starting to get around.

3. It's not uncommon for embassies to withdraw in hostile or semi-hostile environments. Politically, Bolivia is hostile to the United States.

4. Regarding evacs at-cost: the State department has long had a policy that there would be no official evacuations for U.S. citizens in Bolivia. The evacs being arranged are only in La Paz. the only real justification for official and free evacs is if it's a mandatory evac, which this is not. There probably will not be a mandatory evac. But because the embassy is pulling out, it's appropriate for them to offer an official at-cost evac, because we will not have the luxury of military rescue or protection if things do at some point get extremely dangerous for us gringos.

5. Because of the reports that the U.S. is deliberately and systematically inciting the opposition movement, anti-American sentiment is growing exponentially. Even in Cochabamba the street violence towards gringos is increasing, and Cochabamba is a very calm, peaceful, and easy-going department. Saturday morning a young American woman was attacked by three men, mugged, and left needing 20 stitches in the back of her skull. Her taxi driver, to whom she was walking before the attack, sat and watched it happen. That's not normal behavior Cochabamba. Also during the weekend when tensions were highest, the general attitude on the street and in restaurants was much more hostile towards Americans/et al..

The bottom line is that much of this is standard politics in a hostile diplomatic situation. The higher-ups in the Bush administration do get the final say - and in the case of the DEA leaving, Bush signed the order. However, the real decisions are made much lower in the chain of command. There comes a point at which the ultimate decisions aren't made in the Oval Office, even if that's where the buck stops.

and for context? This anarchist isn't a supporter of our current administration!

also, thanks for posting that video today. It's not nearly as informative as people make it out to be, but it's good to have!

Lorien said...

Oh, also:

Until today, the Tarija airport was not flying. People in Tarija WERE stuck in the country.

Plus, with Santa Cruz being in a delicate situation, international travel is at risk. I spoke to a travel agent this morning who explained that only a few international flights leave from La Paz, and almost all international flights at least route through Santa Cruz. If Santa Cruz gets hairy, then so could international travel. Whether or not it will get hairy is unknown - since when has anyone accurately predicted Bolivia? - but it's unfair to criticize the State department for behaving by the book in terms of citizens' travel/safety options.

mgrace said...

Funny how an Israeli I talked to two days ago got a flight out of Bolivia, to Brazil, easy as pie. Add to that another foreigner who easily got away. Add to that my experience of traversing the roadblocks in BOTH directions without any difficulty. I`m afraid your argument doesn`t hold water. (Except for Tarija--you are right.)
I would like to see your source for the bounty on DEA agents. I can`t take heresay too seriously, but please give me more info and I`ll listen.
Concerning the gringa in Cochabamba--that sucks. But violence toward rich foreigners is nothing new, especially in a poor country. In Guatemala, I heard multiple tales of gringos getting kidnapped, assaulted, and was even on the scene five minutes after a girl I was studying with was pistol-whipped and nearly kidnapped for god-knows-what. That didn`t mean there was anti-gringo sentiment nor did it mean that we were being targeted any more than usual. I think it meant that people there are really poor. In fact, three months ago a fellow traveler was nearly strangled to death on the streets of La Paz. What does all this signify? To me, it signifies that I should be very careful. To you, something different. But to use a clichè, the plural of anecdote is not data. And , with all due respect, I don`t see what you insist is there.
On to the state department: The Bush administration is obviously acting in bad faith. It has a history of this and I am reluctant to believe anything that comes out of there. You think it isn`t micromanaged? I suggest you read Scott Horton`s legwork over at Harper`s for an illustration of what this administration will do to control at every level. This ain`t paronoia--this is USA 2008.
Thank you for your comments, but I don`t think you`ve laid out your case very well. Feel free to keep trying, though.

Lorien said...

I only noted Tarija as being a location to which your "Nobody, I repeat, NOBODY is stuck in Bolivia." clearly did not apply. Santa Cruz is still traveling without problem; if circumstances change, then that could be at risk. Further, your own descriptions of traveling through the roadblocks indicates that although you didn't experience danger, your ability to travel was impeded to a moderate degree. Travel through those same roadblocks would seemingly have been a different matter for, for example, a family with slight luggage and pets in a vehicle. That is a change in liberty of movement. I repeat, what we currently see is standard State Department actions in volatile locations in which a) escorted evacuations are not provided, and b) the Embassy is leaving/has left.

Given the nature of our medium, I will not provide my sources on the DEA bounty matter. I will state that it is sources, plural, and that they range in access to that information and levels of objectivity. I am confident in that information and am willing to state it as fact (otherwise I qualify my statements accordingly). My word is all that I'm willing to provide on that one, sorry.

Violence towards foreigners is not new. Isolated incidents must be considered with care. You do make the assumption of "rich foreigners" which is not a fair assumption to make. However, Cochabamba has a very unique tone to it from what I can tell (I've not had the liberty to travel through the rest of the departments yet, unfortunately), and demeanor was significantly different over the weekend and has for the most part returned to normal. I maintain that the anti-American sentiment is growing stronger, and regardless of the causes for that sentiment it is churlish to insist that the State Department is being devious when its actions are standard policy.

As for micromanagement: the key is not in how many decisions are passed down from the top, but which sets of information are sent up from the bottom. I don't doubt that micromanagement exists, and instead argue that such patterns easily extend deep into the twentieth century. I'm all for conspiracy theories; I think you're picking an easy target when the problem is far greater.

The central, but unstated, point which I was attempting to make is that you appear to be looking at this from a very dualistic and rigid point of view. Bush vs. Evo. Racist fascism vs. indigenous democracy. In so doing, you're running roughshod over the diversity of elements which are present on the domestic Bolivian scene and the international scene. Your dualistic approach also leaves you presenting a good guy/bad guy analysis of life here, and that clearly does not apply. At the risk of being accused of anecdotal fallacies, the situation cannot be that simple when I can walk out my door, sit down with a few shopkeepers or hail a few taxis and readily find someone with strong to overwhelming indigenous heritage who fiercely opposes the new constitution.

If you're using a broad brush, you won't be able to catch the details. But that's the catch to democracy, isn't it? In the chorus of the 67%, who is listening to the other 33%?

El Duderino said...

So now democracy is what 33% want? Hey, if you are so scarred, just leave. Seriously, no one will stop you.

I really enjoy your blog. Happy to promote it to the small corner of the internet which reads mine. We should meet up sometime.


Lorien said...

Correction! Regarding the bounty in my first comment, I intended to say "it is UNknown". I don't have that data.

Sorry for the confusion on that one.

Lorien said...


a) Do grow up. A difference exists between awareness/assessment and fear. Amusing sidenote: actually, Bolivia would stop me leaving! My passport is still in La Paz for visa processing. It's silly, but I'm not complaining. Just means I get to stay here longer!

b) I did not state that democracy = 33%. Rather, democracy is insufficient for just societies. To ignore the desires and concerns of the 33% is unjust. 67 people out of 100 do not have the moral right to tell the remaining 33 what to do. The moral logic behind that would be that might - in numbers - makes right. We can observe that that's not always the case. Again, humanity is MUCH more complex than this! There has to be a balance, and so far that hasn't been found or established in Bolivia.

mgrace said...

Meanwhile, in Bolivia--which is not an anarchist state--democracy (just or unjust) dictates tht the majority rules. In this case, it's 67%.
I understand your argument, but it's so far off in the regions of unworkable ideology (at least at this pont in the development of human consciousness) that I don't know what your trying to illustrate.
33% of the population doesn't want to use hydrocarbon revenues to give the poor and infirm $26 a month; 33% of the population doesn't want to redistribute fallow land (with some of those that own it seemingly happy to continue using slave labor); 33% is content to smack around Indians on the street, and at the cafe I am sitting in right now yell "Indio" at the TV when it shows Morales; 33% is in support of the massacre in Pando (which you apparently have grave doubts about who killed whom, citing no so sources, naturally); 33% wanted the recall referendum before they declared it illegal once they knew they wouldnt win; 33% likes to go around burning government buildings and state-owned industries--what else does this 33% like to do that I've left out?
Yes, there can be a tyranny of the majority, and compromises have to be worked out between Morales and the opposition. But this ain't anarchist world, friend, and your poor, blighted 33% engages in actions that are pretty hard to defend in real world.

Lorien said...

I've no interest in forcing, or even at this stage advocating, my political ideals on another country. I'm not even pushing for those ideals in the States - it's not practical for society at the moment. At no point did I advocate anarchism in Bolivia - I made a flippant remark about myself. Stop nitpicking little things that let you ignore the big picture.

I am, however, very interested in advocating that countries follow their own laws. That has not occurred in Bolivia with the new Constitution. A simple majority is *not* how Bolivian law is arranged in that matter, for example. It's much closer to a republican (note little 'r') system. Delegates are elected from each area, ala a representative sample from the nation. The Constitution is then to be considered, evaluated, and approved by 2/3 in a clear and just process. That didn't happen - the Constitutional process was a travesty in manipulation.

Cards on the table: I'm okay, which means I wouldn't be thrilled but I would be content, if Bolivia decided to accept Marxist ideals... if its own laws and systems are followed in the process. That makes it a fair choice made by the country. If conducted properly, then that 33% may not end up happy but at least they would have been represented to a certain degree. Right now, this is just more trouble, more manipulation, and another version of forced servitude by one faction against another. That's not healthy, and that's not just.