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.