Friday, September 29, 2006

Notes on News out of Bolivia

Since arriving in Bolivia, it has become increasily obvious how poorly this country is covered in the english language press. The link I have provided to a google news search for Bolivia is about a good a spread of Bolivian news coverage as exists.
The first observation I have made is that it takes atleast if not more than twenty-four hours for any happenings in Bolivia to make it into the news, or more exactly to be translated into english from spanish. Second is that american and european news agencies coverage is very sporadic, following some events and not others with little discrimination according to relative importance.
For instance, this last week a major meeting of social organizations from all over the country, campesino cooperatives to mining and teachers unions (MAS´s primary constituants) was held in Cochabamba with the President and Vice-President in attendance. The pressing issue was the main political question in Bolivia today; through what kind of majority will the new constitution be drafted and passed, an absolute or super majority. MAS had been pushing for a absolute majority because of the veto power it gave the opposition neo-liberal PODEMOS party in halting MAS´s stated reforms.
Frustrated, PODEMOS supported a day of strikes across the eastern departments (states) two weeks prior. The strike was largely facilitated by locking workers out and using the fascist paramilitary Crucena Youth Union for enforcement. Several days prior to the social meeting, several campesino groups and mining unions had decided to blockade the east, particarly Santa Cruz in retaliation for the strike and a stalled land reform bill sitting in the national legislature that would take land from large landholders. Seeing little to gain, the MAS led government negotated an end to the blockade.
At the meeting of social organizations, a compromise position was reach in which MAS proposed parts of the constitution be drafted by an absolute majority while the final complete constitution be approved by a two-thirds majority. This compromise is currently being greatly contested in the constitutional assembly here in Sucre. Nowhere in the english language press will you find this story in any spectrum of politicaly tainted narrative.
The most widely distributed article on Bolivia two days following in the New York Times was Bolivia Reaches for a Slice of Coast that Got Away. The main pull of this article is that fact that Bolivia officially has a navy without an ocean. This little fact is not news. Bolivia lost its coast to Chile in a war over one hundred years ago and continiously has had an official navy despite. The loss has never been officially accepted by Bolivia, so why should they give up a naval department? It makes complete sense for Bolivia and is nothing new. The negotations initiated by Morales with Chile to regain access to the sea have not progressed for months.
This news article is not exactly news, it is an interest peice for Americans to read over their morning coffee, be slightly amused by such an odd fact and maybe smirkly shoot the way of a collegue at the office or a cocktail party. "Hey Gary, get this..." This is one of those moments I wish I had a copy of Foucault, Marxs, or Gramsci to pull a devestating quote from about modernity and subjectivity. But I don´t. All I have is a sense that our perspective on the world ought to be different and can be, if we want it.
The most informative news coming out of Bolivia are sporadic reports writen by free-lance journalists, radical activists, and academics that summerize months or years into digestable chunks, but do not allow the reader to feel as present or engaged in the moment as continuous reporting. The best day to day coverage comes from the Cuban Prensa Latina. While this paper certainly has an obvious political slant, it is the only english language coverage committed to following the progression of happenings in Bolivia as they occur, day by day.

No comments: