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, 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


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.


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!

Frontline Hits It

It's only seven minutes, and it doesn't go into detail, but Frontline's online iWitness video is well worth the watch--especially if this situation is new to you. A few sentences that stood out to me:
"...with 67% of the vote, Evo Morales is one of the most popular presidents in Latin America, if not the world."

"..there is very little difference in Latin America policy between Democrats and Republicans." (in response to what Bolivians think of the upcoming U.S. elections)

This kind of reporting is necessary to understand the situation here in Bolivia, and I thank Frontline, Joe Rubin, and Jean Friedman-Rudovsky. Caveat: Friedman-Rubin states that there were merely rumors of former Ambassador Goldberg plotting against the Morales government. Recent FOIA requests have confirmed his plotting. (In fairness, I think this video was produced before this information came to light.)

More on Boyd and Thor

Via BoRev come some links about HRF staffers: Thor Halvorsson looks like he's a spoiled playboy concerned that universities throughout the nation don't have men's studies programs; and Alek Boyd ... well, he's a nutcase!

Also from the BoRev, a mention of Frontline's iWitness Video Report, by Joe Rubin and Jean Friedman-Rudovsky. I am loading the video now, so I can't comment on that (and probably can't for another few hours--thank you, Bolivian Internet), but the text nails it head-on. Here's a great quote, which falls a little short in excusing murder, assault, riot, and treason:
"If I want to change a light bulb in the prefect's office, I have to send away to La Paz to do it," explained a spokesman for the Pro Santa Cruz Civic Committee.

Notice how there's no name attached, as if the speaker was perhaps a little embarrassed to be saying it. Or, rather, that it's a stinking lie.

Kudos to Frontline, in my eyes the best TV journalism out there. I can't wait till I have a stable Internet connection again and I can start bittorrenting its programs again.

Friday, October 10, 2008

It Makes Your Head Explode

El Dude is back! And he got me all confused with a post about Patrick Henry and Evo "My People Keep Begging Me to Use My Mano Dura But I've Been Really Restrained Even to the Point of Looking a Bit Ineffectual, That Is Until the Rascals in the Medialuna Lost This Last Confrontation and I Dragged Them to the Negotiating Table--Now I've Just Gotta Shorten My Nickname, or at Least Talk to These Crazy Bloggers Who Use It for Parenthetical Remarks!" Morales. So I had to click on the Google a bit to gain insight into who/what/where this "Human Rights Foundation" is that's been blaming the Sept. 11 massacre in Pando on Morales. And it looks like a kooky far-right organization on whose board sits one Armando Valladares, a Cuban exile (and, according to reports, a former "terrorist and Batista henchman") who recently wrote in a Spanish-language publication "that electing Barack Obama as the next U.S. President, would go against 'the values, principles and ideals that have shaped this great nation,' because the Democrat candidate strongly supports abortion, promotes the adoption of children by gay couples and advocates to terrorists." Ah, so the HRF's got some Bush fedeyeen on its board. O.K., but that doesn't mean it's biased, right? Well, it seems this "human rights" organization is only interested in criticizing Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador! (O.K., I exaggerate: It's got a pretty well-timed post on its website about this new tyrant in Chile named Pinochet. Really: Check it out.)

So, Morales is responsible for killing his own supporters, and Colombian president Uribe has clean hands. Got it?

Note to the HRF: "Transparency" is a concept that usually connotes a willingness to freely share information as to who donates money to your organization. A fancy webpage that merely says you are transparent and a PDF of your operating expenses--with no breakdown of contributions--is not "transparent."

Update:Pepito in the comments has even more info: Alek Boyd is associated with the HRF, an on his blog he asks: "Where is Venezuela's Pinochet?" (While not explicitly condoning Pinochet's rule of terror, he does downplay the disappearances when coupled with economic growth.)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Don't Pick Up the Phone

Family, friends, this is why I never call home:
Despite pledges by President George W. Bush and American intelligence officials to the contrary, hundreds of US citizens overseas have been eavesdropped on as they called friends and family back home, according to two former military intercept operators who worked at the giant National Security Agency (NSA) center in Fort Gordon, Georgia [...]

"These were just really everyday, average, ordinary Americans who happened to be in the Middle East, in our area of intercept and happened to be making these phone calls on satellite phones," said Adrienne Kinne, a 31-year old US Army Reserves Arab linguist assigned to a special military program at the NSA's Back Hall at Fort Gordon from November 2001 to 2003.

Kinne described the contents of the calls as "personal, private things with Americans who are not in any way, shape or form associated with anything to do with terrorism."

She said US military officers, American journalists and American aid workers were routinely intercepted and "collected on" as they called their offices or homes in the United States.

H/T Digby.

Please Read

Otto has a point: Why aren't the English-speaking media reporting this? Why is the Bolivian political situation always framed as a more-or-less fair contest between Evo Chavez and the medialuna? Why aren't the crimes and the fascistic political ideology reported? The material is out there, in this blog and many others (listed at the left).

For your reading displeasure:
“They are intimidating our people. Yesterday an event occurred – they shot the driver of Mayor Edwin Cuellar of the municipality of Santos Mercado, and he is wounded. A girl was raped by these same groups. Last night in the community of Piedras, they tied up and offended the honor of this girl, until the members of the community came to her rescue. She is currently in the house of a schoolteacher. Because of these incidents, women can not go to where they wash and bring water. People come down from the mountain, in what seem to be planned attacks. In the municipality of Gonzalo Moreno, the brother of the head of the city’s human resources department was run down with a motorcycle. Currently he is at the Hospital in Riberalta, this has also been done by the same group of men who were hoods over their heads. These are only the cases that we know about; but surely there are many which we haven’t heard about yet.

Now read the rest.

And Bina gets a prize for finding this.

Che Day

Forty-one years ago today Ernesto "Che" Guevara was executed in the small town of La Higuera, Bolivia. I wanted to write a little piece about him, but I'm hunched over my computer keyboard today correcting English for a P.R. firm. (I don't think Che would approve!)

Anyway, here are some pictures I took on a recent trip to La Higuera and Vallegrande (where his body was interred under the airport until recently excavated). No matter if you think he was a savior, murderer, hero or scoundrel, he certainly lived up to the title Satre gave him: The most complete human being of our age. Here is some great writing on Che: Jon Lee Anderson's Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life, and an anthology of reporting, Che: The Life, Death, and Afterlife of a Revolutionary. I recommend both (especially if you are from the U.S. and naturally predisposed programmed to hate everyone involved in the Cuban revolution).

Something New Every Day

From the Mex Files:

Basulto, according to Martinez,:

… claims to have “fifteen documents” that irrefutably prove a homosexual relationship between Cortés and Moctezuma, and that, in a nutshell, Mexico was lost because of a queer (”México se perdió por una loca.”)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

God Help Us

The Week: "What Can the U.S. Do About Bolivia"
Um, haven't we done enough?
In the article is a link to an IHT editorial that, while unquestioningly towing the Bush administration's line, gets one thing almost right:

[Suspending Bolivia's trade agreements altogether] would undermine the anti-drug strategy - which seeks to wean poor farmers from the coca trade by opening the American market to other products - and play right into Morales's hands.

I don't see how that would play "into Morales' hands." Sure, he's a cocalero, but contrary to the claims from the east, he's no dumb Indian, and he wants a diversified economy. But, back to the first part of that quote: You want to coca production to go down, you've got to give the farmers another source of income.

More Lies, Delusions, Stupidity, Etc.

Hat tip to BoRev for pointing out this idiotic editorial from The Washington Post. I've made some notes on the most egregious statements.

WITH U.S. attention fixed elsewhere, a significant part of Latin America continues to march away from the "Washington consensus" of democracy and free-market capitalism that has governed the region for a generation. The latest step came last week in Ecuador, where voters approved a new constitution [this is somehow undemocratic?] that concentrates power in the hands of President Rafael Correa.... The new constitution repeals a limit on presidential terms that had stood since the country returned to democracy in 1979, and it could allow Mr. Correa to stay in office until 2017 [note: Either McCain or Obama will also be allowed to be in office in the U.S., if elected, until 2017]....

The Bush administration has struggled for years with the question of how to respond to these developments. For the most part it has chosen to sidestep Mr. Chávez's provocations, calculating that his regime will eventually self-destruct -- a bet that looks better with each drop in the price of oil....

Monday, October 6, 2008

Back in La Paz

Boy, that bus trip kicked my ass! It was a beautiful ride, though, at least in the afternoon as we ascended the Andes. One thing about Bolivia I don't think I'll ever grow used to is the varying geography and climate zones. This county has it all.

I've been out of the loop for the past few days, and I need to play catch-up. Luckily, Otto at Inca Kola News is on it as always.
  • Read his take on the breakdown in negotiations in Cochabamba between Morales and the rebel prefects.

  • Do you doubt that fascism in the medialuna exists? You saw the video, now read the report of an ex-government minister getting attacked in Santa Cruz by the UJC--the Santa Cruz Youth Union, hereby referred to as the Hitler Youth. These people are deplorable.

  • Over and over again, I listen to people bitch and moan about Hugo Chavez. Sure, the man can be a loose cannon, but I think the complaints hinge on issue that he's a strongman with full coffers who actively opposes the U.S., denying the behemoth to the north opportunities to meddle in the south as it once so actively did. I wish people would read their history books and learn about the consequences that this interference has wrought on Central and South America. But some people never learn, and Otto takes one of those to task for his resentment of Chavez's stature at the expense of the little people. Well done, Otto. Well done.

But not all estadounidenses are stupid. I'm proud to have a friend who's actively working toward understanding vis-a-vis North and South America. There was a book party last week in New York City for Richard Fleming's Walking to Guantánamo. It looks like it was fun: See for yourself.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Hitting the Road

It's back to beloved La Paz for me, which means 20 hours on the bus! So don't stay up. I'll turn out the lights when I get home.

I Couldn't See That Coming

President Morales has banned the U.S. D.E.A. from flying over Bolivia, according to Xinhua. (Why, oh why does a Chinese news outlet consistently break more Bolivian news than U.S. outlets?)

"I want to publicly tell ... that they cannot authorize the DEA to fly over Bolivian territory," Morales was quoted by state news agency ABI as saying Thursday.

Good for Evo! The less U.S. meddling, the better. And that cocaine problem? I don't believe that it's a Bolivian problem as much as it is a U.S. problem. Cut the demand, and the supply will go down. Ah, but I'm a radical. I believe in peace, self-determination, equal rights--you know, the stuff that the U.S. was once supposed to stand for (although it never did).

And according to Christian World News (yeah, I know, but wait for it), "Bolivia's Missionaries Forced to Leave":

"They are trying to bring new laws, like homosexual marriages, abortion. Trying to say that family is not important and some others," [Dr. Timoteo Sanchez] said. "So we see that this is a terrible time and there is a lot of confusion on our churches."

One reason North American missionaries are feeling threatened is because they've been promoting Christian values in Bolivia for decades.

Anyone who has ever been to Latin America, and especially Bolivia, knows how deeply anti-Christian the people are here. It's neigh impossible to find a church in any town of any size. Evengelical churches are nonexistent. I believe President Evo Raul Fidel Chavez will make a presidential decree any day now banning religion. Next on his list: love. It's terrible here. (But come on down, my queer friends! It appears that Bolivia is evolving faster than the U.S., if you can believe a word in this article.)

Read that article carefully, and you'll find out that no one is really forcing the missionaries out. They're leaving on their own, after the U.S. State Department's absurd warnings and own evacuation of embassy personnel.

And finally, the best anti-Morales mural I've seen yet, found in Samaipata (which, although they are pro-autonomy here, I have to say is a groovy little town).

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Tlatelolco 40 Years On

It's rather late in the day to point you all out to this, but 40 years ago today there was nasty scene in Mexico City. Go to Machetera and read up about the 1968 massacre of students by the Mexican authorities on the eve of that year's Olympics. It's a sobering--and none too well known--story that is overlooked in the States, but in the context of the times was very important, and shockingly sad. Watch the video too.

And for those of you who have a hard time believing in the incredibly nasty meddling of the U.S. in Latin American affairs, read through the whole thing. It's got some shocking FOIA info that should make your blood curdle.

(To quibble a bit with the article: Echeverría was arrested in 2006 in connection with the massacre, but I believe he was found too old to stand trial.)

It's Here!

My good friend and (when I'm there) great neighbor (BBQs par excellence) Richard Fleming´s book, Walking to Guatánamo, was officially released yesterday. Amazon's got it, and so should you. In it, Richard, well... he walks to Guantánamo Bay, across Cuba (sometimes cheating, though). The book is a meditation on the birds, religion, music, culture of Cuba, written in an alternatingly serious and humorous tone. Richard, unlike some wonks, never takes himself too seriously, yet he also reaches out and touches Cuban culture in a way that makes it immediate and real, sometimes terribly sad. He's no ideologue, and he confronts some of the shortcomings (or maliciousness) of the Castro regime, while also appreciating the unique situation that that small island country--so different than the States, yet so near--is faced with. Any Latin Americanist, birder, religionist, musicologist or simple armchair adventurer will get a kick out of it.

Also, be sure to check out his blog (to the left): The Brooklynite on Ice. He's everywhere in the world all the time. I used to be jealous of him when I read the blog while I was stuck back at home, and it's one of the things that finally made me pack up and strike out on my own.

Student Newspapers ...

... Can be better than the "professional" ones. The University Daily Kansan doesn't get everything right (it wasn't an anit-government protest i Pando), but reporter Betsy Cutcliff gets some choice quotes from Bolivian students in the heartland of the States. Keep it up, Betsy.

C'Mon, Limeys!

All of South America did it, now why won't you jump on board?

Pressure is growing on Foreign Office minister Kim Howells to support the beleaguered Bolivian government of Evo Morales after attacks on it from right-wing forces within the country.

I don't know if this works (and you need U.K. postcode), but it's worth a try.

(And don't forget to contact your Senator or Representative, if you are from the U.S., and demand to know which groups the U.S. is funding in Bolivia.)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Rose-Tinted Glasses Shattered

I hate to toot my horn, especially because what's allowing me to do that is the financial implosion of my country, but I just have to say that the real-estate market in my adopted hometown, New York City, is finally coming to the end of its bull(s$%t) stage, says the NYT.

When I was a real-estate reporter for an unmentionable paper in Manhattan, one of the most tragic things to happen (out of many) was Tishman-Speyer's takeover of Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village--another example of gentrification and a turning-away of providing affordable housing for the middle class (even if, when the gigantic East Side complexes originally opened, they wouldn't let African-Americans in). Well, I don't know how good this is for the tenants, but I am chuckling at Tishman's latest woes:

Commercial properties are not the only ones facing problems. On Friday, Standard & Poor’s dropped its rating on the bonds used in Tishman’s $5.4 billion purchase of the Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village apartment complexes in 2006, the biggest real estate deal in modern history. Standard & Poor’s said it cut the rating, in part, because of an estimated 10 percent decline in the properties’ value and the rapid depletion of reserve funds.

Who knows, maybe with this downturn New York will get interesting again?

Note: I'll try to avoid writing about real estate again, but you know, ain't too much happening down here today! (And by the way, where the hell has the Dude gone? Too wasted on white Russians to post?)