Friday, May 09, 2008

Meet Ronald Larsen, Pobre Patrón

Remember that lazy Latin American corespondent for the NY Times, Simon Romero, who thought fascists weren't so bad after all? Well he is back in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. And he thought he would take a break from misrepresenting the autonomy vote to visit a nice touristic nature reserve, Caraparicito, and chat with its owner Ronald Larson- that guy wanted by the police for kidnapping and leading an armed gang against visiting government officials. Romero might want to let the officials know how he got in there, the Ministry of Land and National Police have been trying to get into Caraparicito for months. Well, the product is today's NY Times piece "American Rancher Resists Land Reform Plans in Bolivia". Basically, I have to thank Simon Romero for vindicating my analysis of the story last month and my analogy of the Larsens to the cultural archetype Mr. Freedom! Rather than summerize my critique into one flowing prose, please entertain my thoughts as I go through Romero's piece and comment on it.

"CARAPARICITO, Bolivia — From the time Ronald Larsen drove his pickup truck here from his native Montana in 1969 and bought a sprawling cattle ranch for a song, he lived a quiet life in remote southeastern Bolivia, farming corn, herding cattle and amassing vast land holdings."

My bad, Ronald Larsen is just a Jeffersonian yeoman farmer, acquiring land in Bolivia (over 100,000 arces) through the shear beauty of his folksy voice. If you believe this bullshit, I hear the Brooklyn Bridge is going for a real low price these days.

"'I just spent 40 years in this country working my land in an honest fashion,” said Mr. Larsen, who resembled Clint Eastwood with his weathered features and lanky frame. 'They’re taking it away over my dead body.'"

Now the crazy comes out. That's right Larsen! Damn Injuns! Romero takes the lead:

"Mr. Larsen’s standoffs with the central government, replete with rifles, cowboys and Guaraní Indians, might sound like something out of the Old West. In fact, the battle playing out in the cattle pastures and gas-rich hills of his ranch, amid claims of forced servitude of Guaraní workers in the remote region, exemplifies Bolivia’s wild east."

Yeah!, wait... what was that about native "servitude" labor? Whatever, before we get there, let's hear about this Wild West Shoot Out!

"Tensions here erupted one day in February when Alejandro Almaraz, the deputy land minister, arrived before dawn at the entrance to Mr. Larsen’s Hacienda Caraparicito to carry out an inspection, a step usually taken before the government seizes ranches and redistributes them among indigenous farmers.

Both sides differ as to what happened, but everyone agrees that some violence ensued. 'I didn’t want this guy making any trouble, so I shut him up with a shot at one of his tires,' Mr. Larsen was quoted as saying last month by La Razón, Bolivia’s main daily newspaper.

Mr. Almaraz said he was kidnapped and held for a day on Mr. Larsen’s ranch. He responded to the incident by identifying the American rancher and his son Duston in a criminal complaint for “sedition, robbery and other crimes.”

Faced with a legal tussle over the standoff, Mr. Larsen now claims that he did not shoot at Mr. Almaraz’s vehicle. 'The tires were punched out with sharpened screwdrivers,' Mr. Larsen said. 'If I’d have been shooting at people that day, there would have been dead and injured.'”

(Note to Simon: the full original La Razon quote by Larsen included that claim that Deputy Minister of Land Alejandro Almaraz showed up on his property at night drunk and abusive)

So Larsen keeps changing his story, who cares? We all know indios like Almaraz are drunkards disrespecting the white man's ways. Almaraz was just carrying out his legal and constitutional duty to establish proper legal title among Bolivia's irregular landholdings and competing claims, the product of decades of unscrupulous business dealings and illegal donations made during the Banzer dictatorship. Oh yeah, and indigenous groups have a existing constitutional right to land surrounding their communities under the laws of Tierras Comunitarias de Origin. But enough with Ronald. I hear he has a nice looking son, who was named Mr. Bolivia in 2004.

"His quiet style contrasts with that of his oldest son, Duston, born in Bolivia, reared in Nebraska and educated at Montana State University. While Mr. Larsen prefers to lie low at the family home in Santa Cruz, the provincial capital, Duston, 29, has been in the spotlight since moving here in 2004.

Now Duston Larsen is focused on guarding the family’s land, ahead of his marriage to Claudia Azaeda, a talk show host and former beauty pageant winner. Depicted in newspaper cartoons as a gun-slinging “Mr. Gringo Bolivia,” he basks in the showdown with Mr. Morales, an Aymara Indian who as Bolivia’s first indigenous president has made land reform a top priority in his efforts to reverse centuries of subjugation of the indigenous majority.

'Evo Morales is a symbol of ignorance, having never even finished high school,' Duston Larsen said."

What a sweet heart! They grow up so fast, don't they- learning how to articulate prejudice so quickly. Times Magazine put it so well, "U.S.-educated Duston Larsen, referring to Morales' efforts to empower Bolivia's indigenous, wrote on his MySpace page in 2007, 'I used to think democracy was the best form to govern a country but ... should a larger more uneducated group of people (70%) be in charge of making decisions, running a country and voting?'" Now I get it! Morales and the government are going about it all wrong, trying to directly address poverty in South America's poorest country by sharing in the natural wealth a bit more because they are stupid!, stupid Indians are so silly. They should get some proper guidance from the United States on that, God knows fifty plus years of advice and expertise from the United States and international financial institutions hasn't been enough to get through to these thick headed natives. Now, back to that ridiculous notion that the Larsen's have indigenous Guarani slaves.

"He vehemently asserted that ranch hands and their families were free to come and go, after the Larsens and other ranchers were faced with government claims that ranches in their region held their Guaraní workers in servitude; the government has used the charge to move ahead with land seizures.

The reality of life at Caraparicito and other ranches may be more complex than either side suggests. At Caraparicito, workers get work contracts, food, clothing, housing and education for their children at a schoolhouse on the ranch. But wages remain low, with senior farmhands earning less than $6 a day.

'We are not slaves,' said Oscar Robles, 52, a ranch hand for almost two decades. 'But we are not prospering. We just exist.'"

Ahem, actually Simon, what you have just described and witnessed qualifies under Bolivian Law as servitude labor, i.e. slavery. It is one of the quaint laws, hold over from the postrevolutionary reforms after 1952 of making latifundias (those huge land estates started by the Spanish Conquistadors with 'happy' natives living on and working them) illegal. Simon, expect your ass to be called into Bolivian court to provide testimony in future prosecution of the Larsens. However, Romero points out that will never happen because the forces of Santa Cruz Autonomy against that central government were victorious on Sunday, May 4th, in the referendum on the Santa Cruz Autonomy Statute.

"The combination of oil, guns and land becomes even more combustible when mixed with Bolivia’s volatile politics. In a sharp rebuke of Mr. Morales’s socialist-inspired policies, Santa Cruz Province approved measures on Sunday that would halt land redistribution and allow provincial officials to renegotiate some energy deals.

Such a vote, which some people in the province consider a possible precursor to secession, might be expected to halt the maneuvers around Caraparicito. Indeed, Mr. Larsen’s battle is being watched closely throughout Santa Cruz, where foreign agricultural settlers include Brazilians, Canadian Mennonites, Okinawans and a handful of Americans.


[In an interview with Juan Carlos Rojas, the director of Bolivia’s land reform agency] 'Larsen made it clear that he was above the law,' said Mr. Rojas, who emerged from an April standoff at Caraparicito with his face bloodied from a rock-throwing exchange. Echoing comments by Mr. Morales, he said Santa Cruz’s newly approved autonomy was 'illegal' in his view.'"

The next time Simon travels to a small Latin country he knows very little about, I recommend familiarizing himself with their basic laws and constitution, or at least asking someone with actual authority on the matter. Sunday's autonomy vote was illegal and has no binding dictate, this point is not simply a matter of interpretation by Morales' government, it was struck down as unconstitutional weeks ago by the National Electoral Court, furthermore no reputed election observers showed up to watch it because the vote was recognized as illegitimate by the international community. The current constitution does not recongize (provincial) departmental autonomy and the proposed constitution, which does, has not yet been enacted; it will also not recognize the right of provincial governments to have any authority over land redistribution or directly renegotiating energy exploitation deals. Instead as Rojas states:

“The last I looked, the Larsens were living in Bolivia and not the Republic of Santa Cruz,” Mr. Rojas said. “Despite Ronald Larsen’s resistance, we are going to get into his ranch.”


Anonymous said...

Next time before you engage in a caustic tirade against individuals, maybe you should do a little research about the individuals themselves, and the true nature of the country, both present and past, not just that portrayed on television through news broadcasts.

The Bolivia that Mr. Larsen moved to in the 1960s was a violent, corrupt county and to a large extent remains that way today. To state that Mr. Larsen must believe he is living in the "wild west" of Montana is completely misguided. One, because Montana has not been a wild west for upwards of 100 years and two, if anything, Bolivia reflects the wild west lifestyle. Where else do squatters rights exist, where else was it common for individuals to break into your home and hold your wife and children hostage at gun point, where else do you have a President advocating the sale of cocoa and the theft of land rights from individuals who have worked for nearly 1/2 a century to improve their country - and that is what Bolivia is to Mr. Larsen - his country.

You seem to think that Mr. Larsen and his son are wealthy Americans living in Bolivia who take advantage and mistreat of the poor native people in order to further their own personal wealth. The reality couldn't be further from the truth - but you wouldn't know that would you because you've never met either of the Larsen's or the individuals who work for them And lets be realistic, we are talking about a third world country. The wages that the Larsen's pay their employees and their treatment is not what you'd generally find in an impoverished country.

El Duderino said...

Thank you for validating my perspective, again, through your display of ignorance and prejudice towards Bolivia. My other readers will find it insightful.

Bina said...

Ugh, no wonder Anonymous is anonymous. That is the most repugnant "defence" of a most repugnant individual that I have seen in a while. These racists may have expensive educations, but that doesn't make them any less ignorant. They don't deserve their good fortune. Which, of course, they STOLE from the native people. That's why they have no right to it, duh. And why they deserve to lose it and be kicked out, pronto.

Get it through your heads, anonymous cobardes--Evo Morales doesn't hate you because you're white. He's not in the habit of hating anyone, even though he was nearly beaten to death by white men's hired thugs. Hell, if he hated whites so much, he wouldn't have a white vice president--ever seen what color Alvaro Garcia Linera is?

What he hates, and what any reasonable person SHOULD hate, is theft backed up by racism and slavery. Something which white colonialists have practiced more than anyone in the world, and which they have legitimized with their own brand of squatters' rights--which they have sanctified with the seal of law. (If you don't believe me, read up on what happened in Sucre recently--it was a direct outgrowth of racist settlers' laws.)

Bolivia is NOT Mr. Larsen's country; it doesn't belong to him, and he does not own it and should not go around acting as if he does. And you, Anonymous, should not go around making excuses for this man's inexcusable racism.

Anonymous said...

Its what happens when you are too nice. These people do not understand it. Morales should have sent the military in to either arrest them for violating the laws or kill them if they resist with violence.

Some people don't understand anything less than their own blood pouring down their face.

Anonymous said...

They are Americans, what do you expect besides trash?

Anonymous said...

I got these little quotes in Democracy Center's blog. It's raised quite a ruckus. What think you?

"The Croats are Morales' Jews"
"Beni is Morales' Katrina"

El Duderino said...

So now Bolivia Libre, who seriously qualifies as a mentally disturbed, fascist apologist is someone to quote?

Hey anon, if you're going to have the decency of spouting disinformation. Have the decency of not using your US Government internet connection at the US Bureau of Labor Statistics because you are not anonymous to Sitemeter. Are you doing this work pro bono or is your employer paying you to call Morales as Nazi?

I swear you guys remind me so much of the narcs they'd plant public high school. No wonder the American Empire is in decline. We had so much fun exposing those douches. You're lucky this isn't high school anymore because once we'd let the football team know who they were, they'd disappear real fast.

snowflower said...

larsen may not have started out as an opportunist, but he sure became one; he needs to pack his bags and come back home to montana, with his three boys toting; ask for a return on your investment and be happy with that; americans like you make me sick; living quietly in a third world country is one thing, profiting off their land is another; consider your original investment as part of the american bailout plan; except that it's not a financial bail out for you; it's a "bail out" of bolivia; you get it? "bail out".

Douglas A. Willinger said...

"where else do you have a President advocating the sale of cocoa ..."

It's coca not cocoa.

And there is nothing wrong with coca, only the ignorant fools that would rather pervert it into concentrated cocaine so as to protect coffee and especially cigarettes.

If such people are that ignorant to confuse coca with chocolate, what credibility can they possibly have with anything else?

See the tags "Coca Forgotten Medicine" "Coca". "Vin Mariani" "Tobacco versus Coca" "Big Parm versus herbs" and "Criminal Mercantilism" at my blog "Freedom of Medicine and Diet".

Anonymous said...

Who the hell you think you are stupid duderino and Bina, making opinions about things that you dont know, where are you from?.
I am from Bolivia, and its sad to see my country go trough this caos, the socialism tesis failed long time ago and it would not work in Bolivia either....
Evo should focus on education to take country out of poverty.
I believe in Democracy and if the goverment had a problem with the way these families acquire their land, they should have at least offer them to legalize the situation, but no, it is easy for the stupid goverment to take things away to give it to the "poor"...he will start a revolution because now ingorant poor peole think they deserve things " for free" because they are poor and indigeneas as our stupid president....and people that work hard all their lifes for their business or land or whatever they own now, they are now obligated to share it or give it away to people that never did anthing for those things.... is that fair....? where the hell in the world is that fair?
why do you think people that cultivate coca, dont want to quit cultivating it?....because its easy to cultivate! it just grows without much help, much easier that cultivate other things like fruits or vegetables...
Evo is full of hate to white people and people from SC and people with money in general or people that have a better life than his. If you have ever heard any of his public spechees you would know by know how much hate he has inside him, but you have obviously not heard it and are just making stupid opinions about things you dont really know.
He is looking to divide my country taking advantage of the ingorance of the mayority of the indigeneas people.

I believe on a free country and when you had the opportunity to have an education or saw a business opportunity (without having an education) to make money and you and work hard for it, you deserve to make money and you deserve every dollar you make, now becuase the ignorant people dont have that vision or that education or saw the opportunity, they deserve to get it for free at someone else expense and work....
Evo should focus on giving our poor people in Bolivia a better education and better opportunities so in the future they create their own wealth, if he is trying to do this at the wealthy people expense it is wrong and the people in Bolivia that worked hard for their things will not let that happen, I asure you this....
Now before you make fun of someone else situation, make your research and put yourself in their shoes. Both of you seem full of anger inside you, and are probably loosers in the society you live, that is why you dont know who much it takes to create your own wealth or business, or how it would feel if someone will want to take it all one day... it is easier to seat on the other side and just watch and judge people rather than doing something productive with your life...

Anonymous said...

This is another douche bag found in many countries. Trust me -India/Bolivia/Venezuela. This is WHY many of our countries never prosper because douche bags like him are more plentiful then cockroaches.

I really do thing -a lot of these douchebags should be deported to the US as political refugees. This retard for all his edumacation forgets things like allegorical references, etc. I also love how 'improving' your country is inextricably tied to oppressing others, keeping the country as the most impoverished in the hemisphere and most of all enriching themselves personally.

I will bet my bottom dollar -the guy who talks about business- have inherited wealth. In fact- I would bet their bottom dollar- I have seen this scenario everywhere -sons/grandsons etc of upper middle class preening at their 'self-made' success. Bro- I will bet you 100K -that if I stick your ass on that farm as a hired help -with in a year -your 'hard work' and business ethics will bring a net return of ZERO. You guys are all so fake and full of yourselves- why don't you just take all your stoopid ass business acumenn to America. Somehow - I think you would do Bolivia a great favor as well as India, Venezuela, Panama and the Phillipines. Parasites the lot of you.