Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bush still President

Predictably, the US Asshole in Chief, unable to effectively retaliate against that uppity Indian Evo who had the audacity to tell the US ambassador that Bolivia was not a gringo colony and ought to fuck off, has lashed out against those with the least recourse to defend themselves, moving to suspend trade benefits for Bolivian artisan and textile goods. If anyone seriously thinks this move will weaken Evo, they ought to look at that picture of Bush because that is what most Bolivians will think of the development, the only real losers being those textile workers laid off until new foreign markets are found. If recent events are any gauge, also expect this move to only further diplomatically isolate the US from the region.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Bolivia Crisis for Beginners

Katherine Lebedur of the Andean Information Network dispels myths and explains Bolivia.

Hat Tip: Culturetrek

Evacuation of Peace Corps from Bolivia: Dispelling Myths

Andean Information Network, Sept. 25 2008

AIN wanted to share with you a letter from a Peace Corps volunteer who was evacuated from Bolivia. The official message of the U.S. about the safety of Americans in Bolivia at this time would have the world believe that there is a real threat. The most recent Department of State Travel Warning asserts, “The Department of State has authorized the departure of non-emergency personnel and all family members of U.S. Embassy personnel in Bolivia and suggests all U.S. citizens defer non-essential travel to Bolivia. U.S. citizens currently in Bolivia should remain vigilant, monitor local media, review their security posture on a regular basis, and consider departing if the situation allows.”

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Our empire in decline

Remember that boy genius of the American establishment who told em' they were the champions of history- game over, except not. Well apparently right in the middle of his hypotheses spectacularly imploding, some people are still listening to Francis Fukuyama and he still thinks he's someone to tell other people what they ought to be doing. Chile's El Mercurio interviewed Fukuyama and he gave us this gem of fool proof insight into Bolivia.

Question: "In the book you speak of the necessity to make a sustained effort to improve the distribution of incomes in Latin America, and that this deficiency has perpetuated social problems and inequality in the region. Is the level of violence currently seen in Bolivia part of this context?"

Fukuyama: "Unfortunately, in Bolivia conditions do not exist for a better system of redistribution. Evo Morales' attempt to remake the constitution is an attempt to more radically distribution power inside Bolivia, and that is only going to create a redistribution of wealth among them."

Good one Fukuyama. Can't beat that logic. Newsflash: you're irrelevant.

(apologies to BoRev for the massive plagiarism)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Banana. Der Banana? Banana!

You know how people in wacky corners of the blogsphere have been talking about there being fascists, actual fascists, behind the veil of the "democratic" autonomy movement in eastern Bolivia. But that is all just crazy talk from some paranoid lefty stoners. Well you decide if it is best to put on or take off your tin-foil hat for this one, because Down South just posted a video of some autonomy supporters recently marching down the streets of Santa Cruz with peculiar arm bands and open palm hands stretched out as if they are trying to hail something. I don't get it. Am I suppose to laugh, cry, or what? Seriously, go check out the video.

If you pay attention to the beginning of the parade column you'll see they have blue banner flags which identify them as the Bolivian Socialist Falange (FSB), recently sprung anew in Santa Cruz. If you don't know who the falange are, type Francisco Franco or Spanish Civil War into Google.

Patrick McDonnell picks up Simon Romero's slack

Patrick McDonnell of the Los Angeles Times has done what Simon Romero and nearly every other western journalist covering the Santa Cruz autonomy movement have so far been unwilling to do, name and discuss the role of the militant pro-autonomy group, the Santa Cruz Youth Union (UJC, their banner above). Not only that, but McDonnell wrote an entire piece just about them, "Young Bolivians fight for their regions". I gave McDonnell a hard time for his wanting article on Chuquisaca's new Prefect Sabina Cuellar, but he and the LATimes certainly deserve high praise for running the first story in major US daily on the UJC! (naturally, the piece has faults but that can wait)

Additionally, the story does not cower from the fierce and violent politics surrounding the UJC, stating "detractors label the union a neo-fascist gang of modern-day brownshirts whose adherents crack heads in the service of the eastern landlord elite." It is a big deal for the "F" word to be used by the US press, even if only from the mouths of "detractors". (There is this strange myth in the US that since we 'defeated' fascism in WWII it is impossible for anyone to be a fascist since, unless of course they have a swastika tattooed on their forehead, but at that point one is too idiotic to even be a fascist and is instead simply a "white supremacist"). So kudos LATimes editors for dealing with reality and letting the "F" word pass through the presses.

The article focuses on the sad story of UJC member Edson Abad Ruiz, a young man who did not listen to his mother, joining the militants in a raid on a roadblock at a pro-government town near the city of Santa Cruz, Tiquipaya, in which he suffered injuries latter resulting in his death.

So now his fellow unionistas have made him a "martyr". For what? Seriously. A martyr to what? Marinkovic's land estates? Ron Larsen's slavering? Ruben Costas' racism? "Santa Cruz"? Whose Santa Cruz? Is Tiquipaya and its residents not also apart of Santa Cruz? What a travesty.

Now, if I can move to some criticisms of the article.

The strangest part of the piece is its translation of UJC's name, the Unión Juvenil Cruceñista as "Juvenile Union of Santa Cruz". Why is "Juvenil" the only word not properly translated, as "Youth"? Is the actual name too close in resemblance to other "youth" groups in history? Honestly it is just weird.

While giving readers an honest look at the face of the UJC, the piece skirts directly addressing the question of their backers, that "oligarchy" detractors so speak of. Might readers not have found it informative that the UJC is formally connected to the elite Comite Pro Santa Cruz, old links going back to its establishment which have not just recently "sprung up". Also that the Comite Pro Santa Cruz is an unelected council of prominent regional business and political leaders, who claim to speak on behalf of Santa Cruz. Eventually, the press might find it necessary to drop the quotes on "oligarchy".

Finally, reading the article we are constantly reminded, beginning with the title, that the UJC is only one side of a violent conflict seemingly polarized between dueling political forces and local militias. But where is the other side? We heard of them, about them, but not from them. I imagine Tiquipaya residents have a different take on the UJC and this "ambush" they apparently pulled. No? But I guess all these loose ends are for tying up later.(?)

So now that the cat is out of the box, where is everyone else? Where are their takes on the UJC? Huh? Come on Simon Romero. Where you at New York Times, "paper of record"? Are you just going to let some jerks in the cultural wasteland of Los Angeles simply beat you to the scoop? What are you, the SFChronicle? I guess you're just a bunch of pussies. You heard me. What ya' got?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"Camba" nutters march in Santa Cruz

Down South gives us some photos of the "Nacion Camba" marching in Santa Cruz, rallying to oppose the return of government offices back to... the government. As he notes just by the way they present themselves, the "Nacion Camba" is a super nutty fascist group (making sure the UJC isn't the only game in town) which openly advocates the break up of Bolivia (and Brazil, Paraguay?). The map comes from their own website.

Eduardo Gamarra is a hack

Eduardo Gamarra, the director of Florida International University's Latin American and Caribbean Center, frequent Maimi Herald columnist, and described "expert on Bolivia" by the Washington Post does not know shit about Bolivia. As it turns out, he simply makes up out of whole cloth "facts" to fit he prescribed prejudices, then later to be quoted in US newspapers as "expert" analysis. In layman's terms: bullshit.

In most spectacular fashion, Gamarra demonstrates his affinity to bullshit in his latest editorial on Bolivia, "Morales fosters more poverty, despair, unrest". Contrary to the title, the piece does not discuss poverty or despair but a whole lot of unrest... something about a fascist coup plot and lots of racist opposition violence. Whatever, it is certainly all Morales' fault somehow ...because... current supporters of Morales got uppity in El Alto in 2003. I guess it was the fault of these protesters that more than 60 of them were gunned down in the 2003 'Gas War'. Maybe those wacky Indians shot themselves? just like CNN told us happen at the Pando massacre.

But we haven't even gotten to the steaming pile yet, before which I'd like to remind everyone of Gamarra's last editorial on Bolivia, "Washington Silent on attack at US Embassy". In it he claimed that the protest by El Alto residents rightly pissed over US granting of "political asylum" to the butchers of the 2003 'Gas War' was actually a mob, encouraged by Morales, trying to "burn down" the US Embassy. This fictional account was later picked up by Simon Romero at the NYTimes to villianize Morales in an article on the "Drug War" in Bolivia.

Because the 2003 El Alto protests do not quite explain what is happening today, 2008, in Santa Cruz and elsewhere in the Media Luna, Gamarra further explains that opponents to Morales are fighting "efforts to unilaterally impose a constitution that was approved irregularly and only by members of the official party." First, actual approval of the proposed constitution will ultimately be up to the Bolivian people to decide in referendum. However, it is not the will and desires of the Bolivian people Gamarra concerns himself with in this editorial but rather perceived "irregulaties" in final drafting of the document by the Constituent Assembly which he falsely claims was approved by only members of Morales' MAS party. Don't trust me? Ask Dorian Medina, the owner of Burger King Bolivia and head of the center-right UN party, who participated in final drafting (maybe he's a secret communist?) or any member of the 10 political parties who voted on the proposed constitution during the Constituent Assembly's closure in Oruro.

Now, why is this falsehood so serious and damaging to Gamarra's reputation? Because it is a fact that is in no way open to dispute or interpretation (we're talking about counting numbers here) and a very old one at that. It's been nearly a year for Gamarra, sitting in Maimi, to read through all the various reports and accounts of the Constituent Assembly and acquire such a basic fact. But oddly, this "expert on Bolivia" has managed to loaf the last ten months, not even able to do a basic fact check on a point absolutely central to his argument railing against Evo's supposed tyranny, to the defense of professed racists and fascists. Gamarra, you're a joke. Please. Take a break.

U.S. reaps what it sows in Bolivia

The near breakdown of relations between the United States and Bolivia is a perfect example of the baleful consequences of the inherent disrespect the U.S. historically has exhibited toward the region.

Despite La Paz's and Washington's ideological differences, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon might have made one more effort to indicate a clear U.S. commitment to the territorial integrity of Bolivia. Vigorous support of President Evo Morales in the face of the opposition's reckless strategy on the part of Santa Cruz and the eastern region pro-autonomy leaders might have provided a compelling pressure on the secessionists, who were more interested in getting their hands on the region's hydrocarbon windfall revenues than in avoiding the violence that tragically has claimed many lives.

continue reading...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

90 experts on Bolivia and Latin America ask State Dept. to reveal Bolivia funding

Don't take my word on the shadiness of US funding for political opposition groups in Bolivia and their racist, violent tactics. Take the word of these 90 Bolivia and Latin America experts! woot! Their letter to the US State Department in full:
To Dr. Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Secretary of State

Cc: Phillip Goldberg, U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia
Henrietta Fore, Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development
Representative Eliot Engel, Chair, Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Committee of Foreign Affairs
Senator John McCain
Senator Barack Obama

Dear Dr. Rice,

We are writing out of deep concern over recent events in Bolivia that have left dozens dead and cost millions of dollars in lost revenue to the Bolivian government and the Bolivian people. We are especially concerned that the United States government, by its own admission, is supporting opposition groups and individuals in Bolivia that have been involved in the recent whole-scale destruction, violence, and killings, above all in the departments of Santa Cruz, Pando, and Chuquisaca.

Since the United States government refuses to disclose many of the recipients of its funding and support, there is currently no way to determine the degree to which this support is helping people involved in violence, sabotage, and other extra-legal means to destabilize the government of Bolivia.

Yet since the democratic election of Evo Morales in December 2005, the U.S. government has sent millions of dollars in aid to departmental prefects and municipal governments in Bolivia. In 2004, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) opened an "Office of Transition Initiatives" (OTI) in Bolivia, which provided some $11 million in funds to "build on its activities designed to enhance the capacity of departmental governments."[1]

The OTI in Bolivia sought to "[build] the capacity of prefect-led departmental governments to help them better respond to the constituencies they govern," and even brought departmental governors to the U.S. to meet with state governors.[2] Some of these same departmental governments later launched organized campaigns to push for "autonomy" and to oppose through violent and undemocratic means the Morales government and its popular reforms.

According to the OTI, it ceased operations in Bolivia about a year ago; however some of its activities were then taken up by USAID, which refuses to disclose some of its recipients and programs. USAID spent $89 million in Bolivia last year. This is a significant sum relative to the size of Bolivia's economy; proportionally in the U.S. economy it would be equivalent to about $100 billion, or close to what the United States is currently spending on military operations in Iraq.

U.S. taxpayers, as well as the Bolivian government and people, have a right to know what U.S. funds are supporting in Bolivia.

On August 10, a national recall referendum was held in which Bolivian voters had the opportunity to vote on whether the President, the Vice-President, and eight of nine departmental prefects should continue in office. President Evo Morales and Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera won with more than 67 percent of the vote, much more than President Morales' original electoral victory in 2005, which had the largest margin in the country's electoral history.

The recent opposition violence appears to be an organized response to this mandate, attempting to use extra-legal means to win what the opposition could not gain at the ballot box. This includes the National Democratic Council (CONALDE), composed of "five provincial governors, business associations, conservative civic groups, and legislators of the rightwing Podemos party led by former president Jorge Quiroga."[3]

Perhaps most alarming is the recent evidence of close collusion and cooperation between the departmental governments and violent groups such as the UJC (Unión Juventud Cruceña, or Union of Santa Cruz Youth) and the Santa Cruz Civic Committee. As a new campaign of violence began following the August 10 recall referendum, a Reuters journalist interviewing Santa Cruz opposition leader and prominent businessman Branko Marinkovic witnessed UJC members going into Marinkovic's office and coming out with baseball bats.[4] Even more startling is evidence that the events of the past two weeks are the result of a deliberate decision by the opposition coalition CONALDE to pursue a campaign of violence. Media reports describe how opposition Podemos legislators were ejected from an early September CONALDE meeting after voicing opposition to the violent methods under discussion.[5]

News articles in the past week further noted the support from some departmental prefects and other regional government officials' for the violence. "The conservative governors are … encouraging the protesters in their actions," Agence France Presse reported, adding that, "The opposition coalition, which also includes town mayors, have focused their attention on the main source of Bolivia's income: the natural gas fields that lie in their eastern half of the country," and "Militants linked to the opposition group set up road blocks to add pressure to the governors' demands for more control over gas revenues." [6]

The racist nature of the UJC and other hate groups is well known and documented. These groups have focused their attacks mostly on indigenous MAS (governing party) supporters. In May, for example, members of the "Interinstitutional Committee," composed of civic and local leaders, and other youth militants forcibly marched indigenous and peasant supporters of President Morales to the city center of Sucre (Chuquisaca), beat them, stripped them of clothing, and forced them to chant anti-Morales slogans while berating them with racist taunts.[7]

As you know, at least 15 people have been killed in the past several days in Pando alone - the great majority of them Bolivian peasants and farmers - in what eyewitnesses describe as a massacre by assassins with machine guns. The Bolivian government has arrested Pando prefect Leopoldo Fernández in connection with the killings.

This violence, which has been accompanied by sabotage that has caused extensive economic damage, is utterly deplorable, and should be condemned from every quarter. Yet the U.S. government response has been weak. Before the extent of the massacre was known, and before the Bolivian government had declared U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg to be persona non grata, many had already been killed and economic damage done. Yet as of September 12, according to its website, the U.S. State Department had said only that it regrets the expulsion of Ambassador Goldberg and that this "reflects the weakness and desperation [by President Evo Morales]" and "an inability to communicate effectively internationally in order to build international support," and suggested that the Bolivian government is not improving the well-being of its citizens.[8]

The State Department website shows no statement between May 5, 2008 and September 11, 2008,[9] indicating that the State Department failed to condemn the violence in recent months, and also failed to congratulate President Evo Morales on his overwhelming victory in the August 10 referendum.

We call on the U.S. government to turn a new page in its relations with Latin America by clearly and unequivocally condemning the violent, destructive and anti-democratic means employed by members of Bolivia's pro-"autonomy" opposition. Most importantly, Washington must also disclose its funding for groups inside Bolivia - through USAID and other agencies - and reveal the names of the recipients of these funds. The U.S. government must cease any and all support - financial or otherwise - to any group or person in Bolivia and other Latin American countries that engages in violent, destructive, terrorist, or anti-democratic activities such as we have witnessed with great shock and sadness in the past weeks in Bolivia.


Ben Achtenberg, Refuge Media Project, Boston, MA

Emily Achtenberg, Housing Policy & Development Consultant, Boston MA

Robert Albro, Assistant Professor of Antrhpology, School of International Service, American University

Juan Manuel Arbona, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Bryn Mawr College

Byrna Aronson, Boston, MA

Teo Ballvé, Journalist, former editor of North American Congress on Latin America Report on the Americas

Ericka Beckman, Assistant Professor of Spanish and Portuguese, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Charles Bergquist, Professor Emeritus of History, University of Washington

John Beverley, Professor of Hispanic Languages and Literatures, University of Pittsburgh

Michelle Bigenho, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Hampshire College

Lina Britto, Ph. D. Candidate, Department of History, New York University

Beverlee Bruce, Ph.D., Program Associate, Planning Alternatives for Change, New York City

Marisol de la Cadena, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of California-Davis

Joaquín Chavez, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History, New York University

Mike Davis, Distinguished Professor of Non-Fiction, University of California-Riverside

Nicole Dettmann-Quisbert, Sudbury, MA

Luis Duno-Gottberg, Associate Professor of Hispanic Languages and Literatures, Rice University

Arturo Escobar, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Duke University

Nicole Fabricant, Ph. D. Candidate, Department of Anthropology, Northwestern University

Samuel Farber, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Brooklyn College

Sujatha Fernandes, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Queens College

Lesley Gill, Professor of Anthropology, Vanderbilt University

Marcial Godoy-Anativia, Associate Director, Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, New York University

Daniel Goldstein, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Rutgers University

Manu Goswami, Associate Professor of History, New York University

Greg Grandin, Professor of History, New York University

Bret Gustafson, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Washington University

Charles R. Hale, Professor of Anthropology, University of Texas-Austin, former president of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA)

Jack Hammond, Professor of Sociology, Hunter College and CUNY Graduate Center

Daniel Hellinger, Professor of Political Science, Webster University

Eric Hershberg, President, Latin American Studies Association (LASA)

Doug Hertzler, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Eastern Mennonite University

Kathryn Hicks, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of Memphis

Connie Hogarth, Center for Social Action, Manhattanville College

Forrest Hylton, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History, New York University

Rachel Kahn-Hunt, Professor Emerita of Sociology, San Francisco State University

Caren Kaplan, Professor of Women's and Gender Studies, University of California-Davis

Laura Kaplan, Bronx Community College

Steven Karakashian, Milwaukie, OR

Marie Kennedy, Visiting Professor of Urban Planning, UCLA, Professor Emerita of Urban Planning, University of Massachusetts-Boston

Eben Kirksey, Ph.D., National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, Santa Clara University

Naomi Klein, Journalist

Benjamin Kohl, Associate Professor of Geography and Urban Studies, Temple University

James Krippner, Associate Professor of History, Haverford College

Richard Krushnic, City of Boston, Department of Neighborhood Development, Boston, MA

Maria Lagos, Associate Professor Emerita of Anthropology, Lehman College, CUNY

Amy S. Lang, Professor of English and Humanities, Syracuse University

Daniel Lang/Levitsky, New York, NY

Brooke Larson, Professor of History, State University of New York-Stony Brook

Catherine LeGrand, Associate Professor of History, McGill University

Florencia E. Mallon, Julieta Kirkwood Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Angela Marino Segura, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Spanish & Portuguese, New York University

Francine Masiello, Acker Professor of Humanities, University of California-Berkeley

Marie-Josée Massicotte, Director, International Studies and Modern Languages, University of Ottawa

Richard Monks, Vice-President, International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 877

Elizabeth Monasterios, Professor of Hispanic Languages and Literatures, University of Pittsburgh

Pablo Morales, Editor, NACLA Report on the Americas, New York, NY

Mary Nolan, Professor of History, New York University

Lisette Olivares, Ph.D. Candidate, History of Consciousness, University of California-Santa Cruz

Almerindo E. Ojeda, Professor of Linguistics, Director of the Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas, University of California-Davis

Andrew Orta, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Deborah Poole, Professor of Anthropology, Director, Program in Latin American Studies, Johns Hopkins University

Nancy Postero, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of California-San Diego

Seemin Qayum, Independent Scholar and Development Consultant, New York, NY

Peter Ranis, Emeritus Professor of Political Science, City University of New York Graduate Center

David C. Ranney, Professor Emeritus of Urban Planning and Policy, University of Illinois-Chicago

Gerardo Renique, Associate Professor of History, City College-CUNY

Marcus Rediker, Professor of History, University of Pittsburgh

Christina Rojas, Director, Program for International Studies, Carleton University, Montreal, CA

Nancy Romer, Brooklyn College & Professional Staff Congress/CUNY, AFT #2334

Fred Rosen, Senior Analyst, North American Congress on Latin America

Karen B. Rosen, Cambridge, MA

Karin Rosemblatt, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Maryland, College Park

Frances Rothstein, Professor of Anthropology, Montclair State University

Ethel S. Ruymaker, Oakland, CA

Tamara Lea Spira, Ph.D. Candidate, History of Consciousness, University of California-Santa Cruz

Kent Spriggs, Spriggs Law Firm, Tallahassee, FL

Diana Steinberg, Boston, MA

Marcia Stephenson, Associate Professor of Spanish, Purdue University

Steve Striffler, Zemurray Chair in Latin American Studies, University of New Orleans

Estelle Tarica, Associate Professor, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, University of California-Berkeley

Sinclair Thomson, Associate Professor of History, New York University

Marilyn Young, Professor of History, New York University

George Yudice, Professor of Spanish and Portuguese, American Studies, and Latin American Studies, University of Miami

Jeffrey R. Webber, Ph. D. Candidate, Political Science, University of Toronto

Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director, Center for Economic and Policy Research, Washington, DC

John Womack, Robert Bliss Professor of Latin American History and Economics, Harvard University

Patricia A. Wright, Retired Urban Scholar, University of Illinois-Chicago

Carol Zuckerman, MD, Boston, MA

Rosanna Zuckerman, Boston, MA

[1] USAID/OTI Bolivia Field Report, July - September 2006.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Franz Chávez, "BOLIVIA: Divisions Emerge in Opposition Strategy." Inter Press Service. September 4, 2008.
[4] Eduardo Garcia, "Foes of Morales stage general strike in Bolivia." Reuters. August 19, 2008. Found at
[5] Franz Chávez, "BOLIVIA: Divisions Emerge in Opposition Strategy." Inter Press Service. September 4, 2008.
[6] Agence France Presse, "Bolivia orders US ambassador out, warns of civil war." September 11, 2008.
[7] Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Press Release, "IACHR Deplores Violence In Bolivia And Urges Punishment Of Those Responsible." N° 22/08. May 29, 2008. Accessed at on September 16, 2008, 5:52pm EST.
[8] U.S. Department of State Press Statement, "Expulsion of U.S. Ambassadors to Venezuela and Bolivia." September 12, 2008. Accessed at on September 16, 2008, 4:46pm EST.
[9] U.S. Department of State website: Bolivia - Releases. Accessed at on September 16, 2008,4:35pm EST.

Morales strengthened by Latin American leaders

They give us a good discussion. Hylton's work is essential reading for gringos.

Reuters serves up another good read!

Reuters is quickly moving up ladder to hopefully compete for best English language coverage of Bolivia. This latest piece "Bolivia holds fragile talks to end political crisis" (ok, its from Thursday, but I didn't read it until Friday) shows again that western news outlets are indeed capable of writing accurate and balanced stories on Bolivian politics. Without getting into too much detail of the article, it does what any story should: tell the facts, set the tone, get perspectives from diverse sides, and allude to deeper complexity beyond say Morales vs. Media Luna dichotomies without over complicating a short article for easy reading. (Seriously, just accurately quoting someone from the government or MAS makes a huge difference. It is amazing how much gets printed lacking that basic standard) Good job! If everyone covering Bolivia raised the bar what would become of this blog? Hopefully I'll get to answers the question.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Bolivia's Morales faces opposition governors

Goldberg still at it

In addition to posting this spot on photo of ex-ambassador Philip Goldberg, The Latin Americanist recaps Goldberg's recent comments at a Wash DC forum defending his douchbaggery in Bolivia. To demonstrate just how unfairly those mean Bolivians treated little ol' him, Goldberg recalls a question some uppity Bolivian journalist asked him when he first arrived in 2006, "is it true that you are part of a plot to assassinate President Morales?". How outrageous!

Well that rude reporter looked pretty smart in June 2007 when the visiting relative of a US Embassy security officer was caught trying to smuggle 500 .45 caliber rifle rounds through Bolivian customs disguised as cheese. (I shit you not). And then again in June 2008 when two members of the Santa Cruz Youth Union got caught with rifle, scope, and ammunition in hand looking to kill Evo. Will evil Bolivia ever stop bullying Goldberg? What injustice!

Abiding Achiever Award

It is my honor to announce the first "Achiever" award for excellence in English language journalism on Bolivia to Franz Chávez of Inter Press Service News Agency. (Not like this blog is prestigious enough to give out awards -the pauper behind it has little to give- and Chávez already has a prestigious and noteworthy career in Bolivian journalism, but hey, it is not very often we get to celebrate good journalism on Bolivia, so here goes.)

Chávez recent work has shown a tireless effort to convey the reality of contemporary Bolivian political life, name names, and boldly face the stark ugliness of prejudice others would rather simply ignore. He was the only, repeat the only, English language newswire reporter to cover the 'unprintable' events of May 24th in Sucre. Little by little, justice moves forward and the world becomes a better place in part due to people like him. So let it be known that Franz Chávez is most officially awesome!

Here is just a taste of his more recent awesomeness:

-"Divisions Emerge in Opposition Strategy", Sept. 4th

-"'Twenty Families Are Obstructing Governability' - Expert", Sept. 10th

-"U.S. Ambassador Expelled for Allegedly Supporting Violent Opposition", Sept 11th

-"Deaths in the Amazon", Sept 13th

Right on man! Shit yeah.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The spies who spun me

USAID will not tell us who they are funding in Bolivia (tip:BoRev), but "USAID 'is looking to hire a PR firm to tout its work in Bolivia as diplomatic relations have strained with the left-leaning South American country,' reports O'Dwyer's. USAID will pay $500,000 for the first year of an up to three year contract, 'to highlight its emergency supply efforts, opportunities for the poor, and other economic and social welfare programs it has funded in Bolivia.'"

Making a dent

I have to say I was a bit shocked when I read this latest article by Simon Romero in the NYT, "Bolivian Troops Arrest Governor of Rebellious Region". While it still describes the Pando Massacre as a "violence last week between antigovernment and pro-Morales protesters", it first tells the reader what Leopoldo Fernández has actually been accused of, "overseeing a massacre of peasants." So I guess it's "official" record now.

Also Romero gives us this perfectly decent statement concerning background, "The divisions that led to the violence involve disputes over petroleum royalties and Mr. Morales’s efforts to overhaul the Constitution to empower the impoverished indigenous majority." While there is plenty omitted there (and in the rest of the article), at least on the surface it is totally factually correct. I didn't think they could do it. The big improvement rests in Romero's description of the constitution, noticeably lacking the regular bullshit about increasing Presidential power and the supposed "dubious legality" of the proposed text. Did someone do their reading assignment?

So congratulations Simon, you've written your first article on Bolivia meeting the most basic standard of "balance" for semi-decent journalism. I really wonder what kind of recent "internal coup" has been going on in the NYT or Simon's head to actually publish these lines.

Then yesterday, Reuters publishes an article that reads as if it was written, well, for/by this blog. "Morales emerges stronger from crisis". It interviews Mark Weisbrot and makes the same points I made several days ago about the political failures of the opposition coming out of this crisis, even citing the exact same sources I used. Funny... I have to say Reuters coverage has markedly improved in the last couple weeks since the out break of opposition violence. I am not quite sure what to attribute this to, I haven't been paying enough attention to the bylines to say if they've changed staffing or what. But whatever it is (even plagiarism), please keep it up!

So I would like to say that it appears, for at least the moment, that the work this blog, all its friends, and affinities (and anyone else out there!) are doing to propagate a reality based understanding of Bolivia are making moderate inroads with 'mainstream' press. Let's keep it up!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Revenge of Consonance

Three good reads on the Media Luna's "civil coup":

"Reactionary Rampage" by Forrest Hylton

"Revolt of the Rich" with Mark Weisbrot

"The Machine Gun and the Meeting Table" by Benjamin Dangl

Also, go read this petition "Support Bolivian Democracy" and cast your vote on whether such a tiny and poor country of brown people is truly worthy of democracy.


I did not post on it at the time, but during the Media Luna's coup attempt a very eerie meme seemed to be floating around the English language press. I do not know if its significance was understood at the editorial desks, but our collective fascist ghosts were certainly haunting. So while actual fascist thugs were beating and murdering leftist and indigenous opponents, the British Guardian and BBC published stories on Bolivia's Nazis.

On September 9th, BBC published "Nazi-era photos surface in Bolivia"(link fixed) about the life of Hans Ertl, the 1936 Berlin Olympics photographer and former lover of Leni Riefenstahl. Like many Nazis, Ertl moved to South America after the war, ending up in Bolivia where he spent the remainder of his life. I recommend the read. The photo above is Ertl and his family in Bolivia 1953.

Then on Sept. 10th, the Guardian published an account by Bolivian journalist Gustavo Sanchez of bringing Klaus Barbie to justice, "In pursuit of Bolivia's secret Nazi". Another good read. As Sanchez recounts, Barbie led a politically active life in Bolivia, hanging with drug traffickers and arms smugglers, as well as playing a prominent role in the bloody 1980 "Cocaine Coup".

The connections between Bolivia's contemporary fascists and the Nazi past are not always limited to their mutual pretensions to racial supremacy. Do not forget that Branco Marinkovic is the son of a 1950s Croatian immigrant (hint, hint). If it is not already obvious, political struggle in Bolivia is about a lot more, and more significant, than you will usually read about.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Is that all you've got?

US Deputy of Hemispheric Affairs Sean McCormack called Evo's expulsion of US ambassador Goldberg a "grave error". Goldberg ominously declared as he left that there would be "serious consequences". Oh no, this looks bad...

So today, President Bush put Bolivia on the "blacklist" of non-cooper-aterous bad guys in the mini-GWOT, the "War on Drugs", along with Venezuela and Burma. Take that! You're on the list. Possibly no more anti-narcotics aid you weren't too happy with in the first place. And we are pulling out our spies... I mean, Peace Corps workers (apologies to the decent ones out there) as well as telling our citizens to get on overpriced flights to Peru! And the Mormons too! Ya didn't see that one coming, it's gotta hurt...

Yes, let's laugh at Bush and don't forget how happy Condi was with her new guitar from Evo before she figured out it was made of coca leaf. hahahaha. You have to hand it to Evo. He sure can set one up.

Also, that Bolivian civil war everyone was looking forward to is not happening. As RickB said of the coup plot over at Ten Percent, "Epic Fail".

"Same old story"

Bina at News of the Restless doesn't hold back in giving the Wash. Posts' disgusting editorial on Bolivia a piece of her mind. Borev also jumps on the Wash. Post case and slams CNN's idiotic coverage of violence in Bolivia.

Down South Scoop

As Inca Kola News just noted, head straight over to the "Down South" blog for on-the-spot pictures of racist "cambas" rallying in support of Pando's murder Prefect Leopoldo Fernández, circled in the picture to the left being boarded on a plane to La Paz. Note the look of desperation and confusion in their faces. "Down South" is an excellent addition to the Bolivia English language blog circuit. Bookmark it!

So much for Evo "losing control"

Pando's murderous scumbag Prefect Leopoldo Fernandez (left, photo BBC) has been arrested and currently being transported to La Paz where he will face genocide charges. I am happy to say that we were wrong to report he had fled across the border to Brazil (it is literally just across the river from Pando's capital, Cobija) and instead chose to hide out in the Prefectura until the army captured him. "Genocide" seem harsh? Well the more one reads about the El Porvenir Massacre, the more "genocide" seems like a description qualifier. Of course now that the country appears to be more firmly under legitimate government control is the time US Peace Corps reacts by leaving the country.

UNASUR: Never Again!

Head over to Inca Kola News and read the nine point "Moneda Declaration" of UNASUR firmly supporting Evo and slapping down the coup plotters. The obvious significance of this declaration (surely lost in the western press) is well, huge and historic. The symbolism of the fact that the declaration is named after the Presidential Palace in which Salvador Allende was killed in the 1973 coup, Sept. 11, will not quickly be lost in S. America now united in the organization. Wherever you are Allende, the people are reclaiming history as their own. I am sure he is proud.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Santa Cruz, Republica de Mierda

Let's go over what's been happening in Santa Cruz, eastern Bolivia, and spearhead of the conservative autonomy movement. The violence and "civil coup" attempt witnessed last week has been a long time coming. The elite business and political interests behind the Santa Cruz autonomy movement and directing its fascist "shock groups" have been planning this move for months, if not years. I've noted their intentions before and for good reason have been running a "coup watch".

But why now? Simple. Desperation. Despite their best efforts, the Bolivian people resoundingly backed Evo (67%) in the August recall referendum that the opposition approved before rejecting and finally submitted to. Things looked pretty bleak for the hypocritical opposition following the recall referendum. The next logical move seemed to be passage of the proposed constitution (which will really put these jackasses in a bind) so they decided to escalate confrontation and go for broke... scheduling the start of this latest protest round and "civic strike" for August 19th, the 37 anniversary of the dictator Hugo Banzer's golpe de estado.

Ok, got it. But what has been the official casus belli? Officially this "protest" was called to demand the end of the use of natural gas revenue in funding a national elderly pension and send the money back to regional department coffers, even though Media Luna shares of natural gas revenue have more than doubled since Evo nationalized the sector in 2006. So take a hard look at that photo to the left because that is literally what the opposition Prefects are against. The word "sick" comes to mind.

So the strike got off to a typical start, featuring fascists thugs beating up on brown people, but the kicker- distinguishing it from the past- was a failed attempt to seize control of the Santa Cruz's local National Police station. But even still, the "civil strike" didn't look to be going anywhere- far from crippling Evo's government. Whatever, just move forward with that unconstitutional "Autonomy Statute" passed in illegal and unverifiable referendum vote and pretend like you are an independent government facing imminent confrontation with those tyrannical "monkey" Injuns.

As Inca Kola News noted, the municipal government of Santa Cruz got caught red handed trying to acquire bullet proof helmets and shields to arm their "Municipal Police" (above). Note: in Bolivia there is no such thing as "municipal police" (at least not legally speaking) only a National Police force exists.

Next, as News of the Restless followed, the autonomistas turned Santa Cruz's central plaza into a hate fest, beating up on a pro-government march. (video below)

There is really no need to speak Spanish in order to understand what's going on in the following video. Hate is a universal language.

As you may have already read, autonomy supporters escalated further last week by taking and then looting government offices in Santa Cruz and elsewhere in the Media Luna. This was done by members of the Santa Cruz Youth Union (Union Juvenil Crucenista, UJC). Even though the US press refuses to admit these fascists exist, the occasional honest report slips through.

Here they are with their cute UJC shields, the cross emblem clearly visible for all to witness (what good Christians, no?). And yes, they claim to be fighting for "democracy and liberty". If you have seen La Batalle de Chile (link to film), you'll note these guys look exactly the same as those fascists organized to precipitate the 1973 coup.

Below is the photo the New York Times printed with an article by Simon Romero that, of course, doesn't mention UJC's existence, even by some euphemism.

The caption reads: "Bolivian farmers who support President Evo Morales fought Saturday against those who called for more autonomy from his government."

Yup, that is how thin these "journalists" are. The photos contradict their own captions and reports. If you want to review the UJC one can, again, read my "Note to Simon Romero" or better yet just look at the cartoon below, capturing their pure essence.

It is truly not exaggeration to call them fascists. If these guys don't qualify as fascists, no one does. And to be fair. Who are they fighting against? Spot the difference.

(source: AP)

In addition to government offices, the offices of CEJIS, an indigenous legal assistence NGO were also looted. You may ask, 'Why trash some NGO office when it is a coup you are after?' Except CEJIS is the principle NGO working with the National Agrarian Reform Institute (INRA, trashed below) to break up illegally extensive landholdings (quite a few of them in Santa Cruz). Did I forget to tell you that Branco Marinkovic (the president of the elite Comite Pro Santa Cruz whose offices the UJC operates out of) is one of the largest land holders in Bolivia? Right. Also, these scumbags use slave labor. Yeah, no joke.

Just in case you thought Marinkovic and Santa Cruz Prefect Rubin Costas were good "civic" leaders not directly associated with this violence, here are their statements:

Marinkovic: "Those who are causing the violence are from the government, who have deployed violent people against our right to express ourselves and fight for our rights and for democracy"

Costas: "What has happened is the consequence of State terrorism that exerts the central government and in its blindness prevents it from recognizing the rights of the people."

About that tyrannical state terrorism, police and military shock troops oppressing autonomy supporters never appeared, because Evo explicitly told the military not to act as it would have resulted in deaths. Watching helpless police and soldiers be humiliated by the autonomy supports has not gone over well in the barracks. If Santa Cruz's "civil coup" has achieved anything, it has succeeded in turning general sentiment in the national military firmly against the autonomy movement. Note to fascists: turning the national military against you is a stupid way to pull off a hostile coup. Hitler figured that out the hard way in the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch, but naturally you racist jackasses wouldn't know that because you'd have to actually open a book to learn that one.

So it has to be said, because you are unlikely to read it through normal channels, that the opposition coup attempt in Santa Cruz and across Bolivia has failed (or it is better to say 'is currently in the process of failing'), but it would be impossible to say exactly what will come next (Otto agrees). Evo's off handedness has exposed these thugs to clear public viewing, and it seems general sentiment in Santa Cruz is beginning to turn against the scumbags and douches leading the autonomy movement (who really wants to associate themselves with this ugly mess?). An anonymous letter published in Santa Cruz's highly conservative daily, El Deber, has called for the disbanding of the Comite Pro Santa Cruz and UJC and reorganization of the autonomy movement on peaceful and reconciliatory lines. The Comite Pro Santa Cruz is an entrenched fifty year old institution in Santa Cruz, so to have its disbanding called for in El Deber is kind of a big deal. Additionally, the principle conservative opposition political party PODEMOS is falling apart and disbanding as a legal entity. As witnessed in the lead up to the "civil coup" attempt, Media Luna Prefects and primary opposition party PODEMOS found themselves totally unable to formulate a common agenda, scrambling as they're all moving towards irrelevance.

Do not expect to hear much about Evo Morales' incredible leadership guiding his government and country through this crisis right in the face of these racists and fascists. To do so would be to the heretical reversal of the racist stereotypes and discourses buried deep within much 'mainstream' analysis following Bolivia- that old and deep understanding of the Indian or any browny as an ignorant child. Rather, it is Evo who is properly treating the conservative opposition as spoiled children acting up (that they are!), negotiating their privileges while laying a down a firm line not to be crossed.

Media Luna Prefects still scumbags

Since yesterday, Vice President Garcia Linera has been leading government dialogue and negotiations with opposition Prefects to resolve the situation. They've had success getting the opposition to agree to withdraw from government buildings and lift the remaining agrobusiness blockade on foodstuffs out of Santa Cruz. Positive developments I would say.

But get this. Mario Cossio (left), the Prefect of Tarija, initial demands on Linera were to lift the "state of emergency" in Pando, drop the arrest warrant against Pando Prefect Leopoldo Fernández for the El Porvenir Massacre, and include him in the dialogue. Linera rightly said "N-O", 'we don't negotiate with murders'.

Also Cossio wanted to come to the UNASUR meeting today in Santiago, Chile. To which they replied, 'Right, this meeting is for S. American Presidents. And you would be the President of what country exactly?'.

Press "favoritism" in Bolivia

As commentator "Will" noted, segments of the Bolivian media are complaining about "favoritism" by the government towards state-funded press and Red Erbol, allegations concerning the military blocking of journalists entrance into Pando during the "state of emergency". The "La Paz Association of Journalists" considers this act a further "attack against free expression". Ok, well here is a letter from "Reporters Without Borders" to President Evo and the opposition Prefects concerning certain attacks on journalists that the "La Paz Ass." didn't bother to appear very worried about. You be the judge on what's more serious for the future of free expression in Bolivia.

Dear Mr President, Sirs,

Reporters Without Borders, a worldwide organisation that defends press freedom, is pleased to note that President Evo Morales’ offer of talks has finally been accepted by opposition prefects after ten days of violence that has left at least 20 dead in the departments calling for autonomy and led to martial law being declared in Cobija, capital of Pando.

This wave of clashes, following earlier outbreaks, has badly hit the press, particularly public and community media. The worst incidents have been the torching of state-run Canal 7-Televisión Boliviana, in Santa Cruz on 9 September by members of The Santa Cruz Youth Union (UJC), the abduction on 12 September, of Juan Domingo Yañique, of radio Red Patria Nueva by militants of the Beni civic committee and gunshot wounds suffered by Claudia Méndez, of privately-owned Red PAT, during a military operation in Cobija.

continue reading... (link fixed)

Kudos to RSF for doing its job in Bolivia. Also, there was a report by the UNIR Fundacion two weeks ago on rising attacks againsts journalists in Bolivia. Apparently 50% of all attacks occurred in that shining beacon of liberty, Santa Cruz. Makes you wonder why western journalists seem so sympathetic towards the "autonomy" movement. I guess they aren't the ones being threatened by fascist thugs.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Good Reading for English Speakers

Machetera has done the English speaking world a service by translating the following reports on the Massacre of El Porvenir.

Bolivia: Death Toll Reaches 30 in Massacre. Government Unable to Capture Fugitive Prefect

106 Missing in Cobija; Commission Begins Search

How the Massacre in Porvenir Happened

So how long will the western press ignore what actually happened and who's really responsible? forever...?

While you're at it also check out her translations of articles covering Goldberg's expulsion and fascist coup attempt in Santa Cruz.

Expelling Goldberg is a “Big Mistake,” Says United States

Bolivia’s Government Denounces the Fascist Coup Which Has Begun in Santa Cruz

The Bolivian Government Declares the U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg Persona Non Grata

Getting the word out

If you've just got here, don't waste your time piecing together recent events in Bolivia from this blog. Instead head over to Ten Percent where RickB has done an excellent job of summarizing this blog and Inca Kola News as to what's actually going on in Bolivia, here and here. Not only that, but RickB has gotten these excellent wrap-ups on Sam Seder's blog, an AirAmerica talk show host.

Note to Uncle Sam: S. America has its act together

Inca Kola News highlights the significance of UNASUR's meeting tomorrow in Santiago, Chile of S. American presidents to push for a peaceful resolution to violent opposition protest againt Morales in eastern Bolivia. The significance? Uncle Sam is not invited and with the latest statements by Uribe of Colombia and Alan Garcia of Peru, S. America unanimously supports Evo Morales' government against these fascist coup plotters. The world is a changin'. Will the US get on board the Peace Train?

A liar to the end

Philip Goldberg's last comment before heading back north: "The accusations made against me, against the [US] embassy, against USAID, against my country, and against my people are completely false and unjustified."

That kind of bullshit only flies in the US press. Everyone else with eyes to see with know exactly what you've been up to. So don't be dragging "your" people into your douchebaggery!

Sixteen now thirty

Thirty bodies have now been recovered from the "Massacre of El Porvenir". Let's hope this is the last of these posts.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Fourteen now sixteen

Two more bodies were found in the "Massacre of El Porvenir". Even the AP was forced to recongize the culpability of autonomistas in this violence, as Reuters admitted two days ago.