Sunday, June 29, 2008

Bolivia's Shame

Today in Chuquisaca's Prefect replacement election, following the previous MAS Prefect's resignation in the face of the divisive Pro-Sucre Capital movement, Sabina Cuellar (above) won the departmental election as the candidate of the Pro-Sucre "Inter-institutional Committee". The definition of an Uncle Tom, the ex-MAS constituyente, Sabina joined the Inter-institutional Committee whose militant activists include the Falange Socialista Boliviana and is allied with the Media Luna, officially because she broke with MAS over the issue of returning the capital back to Sucre (an untenable proposal, dead on arrival).

Apparently watching her former fellow masistas being assaulted by "univesrity youth" in the streets late 2007, graffiti referring to indigenous delegates as "aborted Llamas", and the outrageously racist events of May 24th straight out of the days of colonialism never caused this Indian women to rethink her relationship with her new found friends. Of course the leadership of the Inter-institutional Committee, headed up by the corrupt university rector Jaime Barron, is only too happy to put a native face on their racist movement. This is reactionary political manipulation and opportunism of the highest order.

To highlight these guys commitment to "democracy and liberty", on the eve of the election, when a documentary by the renowned Bolivian and sucreno director Cesar Brie, "Humillados y Ofendidos" about the May 24th violence was supposed to be aired on Bolivian television, the city's transmission cables were cut, a doc previously censored by Sucre's broadcasters. Jaime Barron blamed the government, claiming they were attempting to create an excuse for "canceling the election". It only makes sense then that two student members of the "Local University Federation" were detained outside the Departmental Electoral Court with 27 dynamite detonators, whom the government claims were sought immediately released by opposition PODEMOS party bosses.

The western press is naturally reading these developments as a victory for a "growing autonomy movement seeking to decrease the power of the central government". On that note, Vice President Garcia Linera challenged the Media Luna Prefects to demonstrate that their illegal autonomy referendums weren't complete shams by bringing out that "80 percent" support in the upcoming recall referendum.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Coup Watch Update

There is now open speculation in the Bolivian press and from diverse sectors about the possibility of a golpe de estado in the near future against Evo Morales' government . This is not the first time such rumors have floated, so let's not freak out, but you may ask yourself, why would the conservative opposition be probing the waters for such a move now?

Well the US Embassy might have a good answer for us. Because according to their surveys Evo will sail through the upcoming recall referendum August 10th with 60+ percent approval, while every single opposition prefect is in danger of being revoked. The only two safe seats are the MAS prefects in Potosi and Oruro. The opposition prefects of Cochabamba, Pando, and Tarija are almost certain to go, while support for the prefects of Beni and Santa Cruz is right on the line. Apparently their support dissolves when you get outside of the cities and encounter all those indigenous and campesino folks, my guess is who aren't too down with the racism.

These soon to be unemployed prefects tried to call for a cancellation of the recall referendums, a move which has blown up in their faces, as even the Departmental Electoral Courts which ran the illegal autonomy referendums and the largest opposition party PODEMOS (whose power is in the Senate) have stated that the referendums will go forward as scheduled.

However Oscar Ortiz of PODEMOS, the President of the Senate is reaching new heights of bullshit in pushing forward accusations of presidential complicity and "state terrorism" in that fishy Yacuiba bombing. Ortiz confirmed that he is certain the order for the bombing came from the Presidential Palace, why? eh, whatever.

Simultaneously, rumors emerged that the AK-47 found in the jeep of the military officer accused of carry out the bombing came from... Venezuela!, because tracking down the origins of a random Ak-47 in South America is so easy. The press claimed apart of a 100,000 AK-47 shipment Hugo recently bought from Russia, suspicious because Donald Rumsfeld said so, whose word is as good as gold. I just knew Hugo had his hand in this one! The Bolivian Defense Minister retorted bullshit and clarified that the Bolivian armed forces have 10,000 Ak-47s, acquired from China, not Venezuela.

Of course the accused officer's alleged connection with the Palace has yet to be verified. I would have thought that damning identity card would have been printed on the front page of every newspaper by now along with weapons found in the jeep. I guess they are saving the good stuff for later. Don't worry if you're starting to have doubts about the connection between the material evidence in question and the Presidential Palace, as Ortiz assures us that this Venezuelan terrorist plot goes even deeper. He is now certain the jeep and weapons came from the Venezuelan Embassy!

Also, the Union Juvenil Crucenista is apparently plotting to seize control of government offices in Santa Cruz and are getting into spats, and arrests with the national police. The alliance of Chapare campesino unions (Evo's homies) have decided to kick USAID out of their region. And why aren't more foreign English language journalists in Bolivia like this Brazilian.

It is important to view the current moment in relation to some history, that of Bolivia's neighbor. Don't forget that September 11th, 1973 the day Salvador Allende was killed, his socialist government overthrow, and Chile's democratic constitution eviscerated by Pinochet was the scheduled date for a recall referendum on Allende's presidency. However, in 2008 Bolivia the golpistas may be encountering different conditions.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Juan Enrique Jurado - Rojo, amarillo y verde

Its easy to forget the beauty of eastern Bolivia what with all the racist douchebags exploiting it. Juan Enrique, a tarijeno and MAS delegate to the Constituent Assembly, is a patriotic voice for the virtues of a united Bolivia many of the "Media Luna" seem to have forgotten, if they ever got it.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Media Luna puts foot in mouth

,Remember that recall referendum the Bolivian opposition controlled Senate put through to throw Evo out of office? And Evo agreed because he knew he'd win and the opposition department prefects would be put up to recall as well, many of them unpopular.

Well today, the big five opposition prefects got together and a decided they don't want to have a recall referendum anymore. No, now is the time for "national reconciliation", "dialogue", and a "grand national accord". Because this recall referendum doesn't jive with their "autonomy" and all. Ha ha ha. I shit you not, you can't make this stuff up.(ABI)

What makes this stupidity even funnier is that yesterday Evo predicted they would do exactly this and called on the opposition prefects "not to be cowards."(ABI)

Then later in the day, Evo's Minister Juan Ramón Quintana said, too bad, already passed by Congress, and actually we will prosecute your asses in court if you try to reject the recall referendum.(ABI)

So now that the sleaze ball opposition has figured out they can't recall Evo, they've come up with a new strategy, put him on trial for "state terrorism". (La Razon) Yes, the opposition party PODEMOS has suddenly decided they want Evo to be tried for that bombing in
Yacuiba, Tarija I thought smelled fishy.

So all these developments come days after an alleged attempt to assassinate Evo, does anyone else sense there are those pushing to plot a golpe de estado?

Tarija Votes: Misrepresentation, Omissions, and Baloney

(Center: Mario Cossio , Tarija Prefect, with Leftt: Ruben Costas, Santa Cruz Prefect, and Right: Branko Marinkovic, head of Comite Pro Santa Cruz)

Western press coverage AFP, AP, and Reuters of the fourth and final illegal autonomy vote in Tarija, Bolivia yesterday followed the same pattern of disingenuous coverage in Santa Cruz, Beni, and Pando. To their credit almost all coverage put the issue of natural gas revenue central, but let's continue.

The press continued with the thin claim that it is only Evo's view that the referendums are illegal and separatist. They don't mention that it was the National Electorial Court (CNE), the superior court on the matter, which ruled the referendums unconstitutional, while it is Evo's opinion that the statutes are separatist.

The referendum apparently passed with about 80 percent approval and 30 percent absentia. Isn't it funny how the results in Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, and Tarija were all almost exactly the same? They were not in the autonomy consulting referendum in 2005. Maybe it has something to do with the source of the results which happens to be exclusively the Bolivian corporate press, which AP and AFP did a good job of admitting. However they didn't mention the implication, that these elections were conducted without the presence of any reputed observers, national or international authorities. So basically, there is no reason not to seriously consider accusations of fraud by Tarija's campesino unions (ABI). These groups called for boycotting the referendum and set up two roadblocks on the day of the vote.

Almost everyone quoted Tarija's Prefect, Mario Cossio (left, photo-AP) to present the implications, "Tarija is consolidating its autonomy, which will be the tool to construct well-being for our community and for a great Bolivia," Cossio said (AP), and from the head of the Departmental Electoral Court (CDE) Miguel Angel Guzman to characterize the vote, he "said voting went smoothly, except at four polling places" (AFP).

What they did not tell you about these guys. Prior to the vote, Cossio threatened to dismiss local employees of the departmental government who abstained, and the CDE similarly threatened to expunge from official voter rolls those who abstained (ABI). These threats motivated Tarija's Independent Association of Professionals to threaten legal action against Cossio and Guzman (Tarija Libre/ABI). Additionally, Cossio's uncle may have formed his own fascist hit squad, the "Youth with Vision of Change" (Jóvenes con Visión de Cambio) (Al Minuto), accused of working with members of the Union Juvenil Crucenista (Tarija Libre/ABI) on the day of and previous to the vote to intimidate opponents, assaulting a taxi driver (ABI) and the son of the head of Tarija's campesino union CSCB (ABI).

Concluding the vote, Cossio made a speech claiming he will not let the national government lower Tarija's share of natural gas revenue to below fifteen percent (ABI). This certainly inspired AP to make this weird speculation about eastern autonomy: "The states have yet to test their self-declared freedoms by withholding gas revenues from Morales' government." Of course it ignores the basic fact that gas exploitation revenues are first collected and held by the national government (remember that gas nationalization thing two years ago?) and then allocated to departments and municipalities. The "autonomous" departments have nothing to withhold. Evo Morales' government does and has stated that they will withhold revenue if Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, and Tarija proceed with their illegal autonomy statutes and form local autonomous governments- you know, create extra-constitutional government agencies.

On that point, the national public prosecutor has accepted looking into legal charges against Santa Cruz Prefect Costas and Santa Cruz CDE president Mario Orlando Parada for conducting the illegal May 4th referendum (ABI). Also Morales' government says it will conduct a financial audit of the Santa Cruz referendum to figure out who exactly payed for it and if any laws were broken in the process, my guess is yes. Although I doubt anything will come of these maneuvers.

But this last omission takes the cake. Last week, prior to Tarija's referendum, the municipality of Yacuiba (where that bomb went off Saturday) independently held its own elections, June 15th for a Subprefect without sanction of Tarija's CDE. Tarija's CDE and Prefect Cassio characterized the election, without statutory basis, as illegal (La Prensa). You mean like when Tarija ignored that superior CNE ruling and pushed ahead with its autonomy referendum anyways? Oh, the hypocrisy is so rich it's making me hungry. Morales' government remained non-hypocritical by agreeing with Tarija that the Subprefect election had no legal basis (Erbol/Al Munito).

Isn't it all grand?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Something stinks in Tarija

Today is the illegal autonomy referendum vote in Tarija, Bolivia. I was going to wait a day until reports filtered in to put a summary together, but surprising and suspicious events yesterday require commentary.

Headlines across Bolivia's newspapers are leading with this story. Early Saturday morning a dynamite explosion caused minor damage to the Unitel television station in Yacuiba, Tarija. Unitel is a news corporation opposed to Evo. The local police arrested a military officer, Jorge Nava Zurita, near the scene with a jeep packed full of deadly goodies (pictured above). According to Yacuiba's local prosecutor, the officer is a member of the Evo Morales' Presidential Palace Guard and admitted to planting the bomb. Additionally 19-20 (I've read different numbers) youth from Santa Cruz (La Razon claims barrio Plan Tres Mil, an area of MAS support) were apprehended separately at a hotel. The local prosecutor claims the two groups were working together to intimidate the public during the referendum vote, apparently having a list of local officials and residences.

Presidental Minister Ramón Quintana denounced the acts, demanded an investigation, rejected any suggestion of government complicity, and denied the claim that the officer worked at the Palace, stating that he wanted to actually see and verify the identification card cited by the prosecutor.

Head of the opposition party PODEMOS, Jorge "Tuto" Quiroga held a press conference in which he claimed Evo is using "state terrorism" to disrupt the autonomy vote. When pressed to substantiate his accusation, Tuto retorted that he "knows there are people in the government who placed bombs, who should change their attitude and not return to the methods of the past..". Remember that Tuto is literally the political successor to Hugo Banzer, the Bolivian dictator who actually perpetrated state terrorism, in keeping with his contemporaries such as Pinochet, Stroessner, and Videla.

In my opinion this all doesn't add up. So lets say Tuto is right and Evo is a terrorist looking to disrupt the autonomy vote (already ruled illegal by the national electoral court), this unprecedented attack would have to be the dumbest feat of terrorism yet. Why attack a solitary TV station the day before the vote and not on the morning of the vote? Unitel would be the first opposition media station attacked by Evo supports (the opposite is not true). Then get caught with your jeep full of equipment you'd use the next day to assualt people, the list and location of whom you've given to some youth supporters caught in their hold up because...?

It all frankly makes more sense to me as a patsy operation, nicely timed for the domestic and international news cycle to make Evo out as the bad guy while pursuing an illegal and non-monitored election as fascist thugs do the actual job of political intimidation (as was done previously in Santa Cruz, Beni, and Pando). Maybe I'm just paranoid following the alleged assassination attempt on Evo Friday, in which the local Santa Cruz prosecutor let the suspects go. You tell me.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Western Press still doesn't believe Fascists exist

Even after they got caught trying to kill Evo!

Inca Kola News beat me again to yet another whooping Bolivian headline, that two men were arrested yesterday on suspicion of plotting to kill the President, Evo Morales. But I've got the picture scoop! Those are the two suspects on the left, Junior Fernando Vaca Méndez and Carlos Yovani Domínguez (ABI). They were found at a Santa Cruz airport prior to Evo's arrival in possession of this rifle, below (ABI). Both are members of the fascist Union Juvenil Crucenista, an activist arm of the leading anti-Evo pro-autonomy organization, the Comite Pro Santa Cruz.


If you ever see these guys, please notify national Bolivian authorities as the local prosecutor in Santa Cruz let them go immediately on "lack of evidence"... please look at that gun again. An action the central government is rightly pissed about and working to correct.

While you can read about the above facts through western press coverage (AP and Reuters), the last facts, of their involvement in the militant, fascist wing of the pro-autonomy movement, darling of the western media, is noticeably missing. I wonder how that got lost in translation? As I've noted before, this omission is a recurring phenomena of western press coverage of Bolivia. What's behind this? Your guess is as good as mine, but I say, if something stinks of fascism, dump it fast!

Update
Machetera blog notes the same here, and tells us what Chavez thinks here.

Sorry, AP did state: "The Interior Ministry, in charge of security, said the two men were members of a conservative Santa Cruz youth group that has led protests against Morales' leftist policies." How innocuous.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Let Them Eat Detention

French Ambassador to Bolivia, Alain Bouquet proved that not just Americans can be douchebags in Bolivia when he explained that the new draconian EU deportation "Directive of Return" is intended "to work better against labor exploitation", as "many European businessmen take advantage of the illegal condition of the undocumented persons and exploit them at work." (Xinhua) "It is important to make it clear that it is not the intention of the European countries to arbitrarily expel the undocumented, but it is a matter of legal safety." That's why the new regulations allow for undocumented immigrants to be detained for up to 18 months before deportation proceedings without any legal recourse to challenge their imprisonment. Some "legal safety"...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Leading His People to the Sea!

No, not Moses- but maybe better, Evo Morales may have secured Bolivian access to the sea through Chile! I couldn't believe it either, go to Inca Kola News for details. If this deal pans out, Evo will be elevated to status of living god in Bolivia. And you thought being the first indigenous president, nationalizing natural gas, and convoking the drafting of a new constitution made Evo pretty historic and prestigious. This development alone would be enough to sail Evo through the August 10th recall referendum. If you don't believe me, you don't know Bolivia.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hope he bought a one way ticket

The recently appointed US Ambassador to Bolivia (his previous stint was in Pristina, Kosovo), Philip Goldberg has been called back to Washington, DC to discuss "security" issues after last weeks protest ("How soon can we move the secret US military base in Paraguay to the independent Republic of Santa Cruz?"). The State Department is "concerned" that Bolivia is not serious about protecting the fortress like US Embassy in La Paz (AFP, also photo source), they only tear gassed a protest of thousands of their own citizens to keep rocks and firecrackers from blotching the Embassy's walls. Instead of getting pissy about having to pay for a new paint job, it might be more useful to ask what might have enraged such a crowd, like I don't know, giving "political asylum" to former Bolivian Defense Minister Carlos Sanchez Berzain wanted for the politically motivated murder of over 60 people and hundreds wounded in the 2003 El Alto 'Gas War'.

Somehow I doubt Goldberg will be discussing any of this in DC or any of his other recent douchbaggery like that time his Embassy was asking Fulbright scholars and Peace Crop volunteers to spy for them, or when he was photographed in Santa Cruz chumming it up with local business men and a then fugitive Colombian criminal, and why USAID is channeling funds to the conservative opposition. Or maybe he will.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Mr. Bolivia better get a Lawyer

(Guarani family captured by slave hunters, by Jean-Baptiste Debret)

So the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights came down to Bolivia and found that yes, native Guarani workers in the Chaco are living under conditions of servitude through "debt bondage and forced work", analogous to slavery. They pointed the finger specifically at Alto Parapetí where Ronald and Dustin Larsen have their ranch and head up the local "Defense Committee" accused of assault and kidnapping. The delegation also added one more offense to the list, that of exploiting child labor- which only seems natural if you've already got slaves and all.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Slavery... duhr, poverty?

(Reuters Video Link-"Slavery in Bolivia?")

Our favorite American family, those kidnapping, Injun fighting, and slave holding Larsens are back in the news, this time Dustin Larsen defending against accusations that father and son exploit slave labor. No, "there's no slavery" just, uh... "extreme poverty." This coming from the distinguished graduate of Montana State who called Evo Morales a "symbol of ignorance". Evo may not have a diploma, but he sure can string a sentence together. Rather than ask if the government is cynically using slavery charges to expropriate land maybe Reuters correspondent Deborah Lutterbeck should ask whether the Larsens are trying to exploit western media exposure in order to disingenuously legitimate their less than upstanding acts (criminal charges have been filed) and untenable legal position to claim preeminent land title against constitutionally mandated land reform.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Evo gives the EU a history lesson

Go to Machetera to read a translation of Evo Morales' open letter to the European Union concerning their new "Return Directive" for the deportation of undocumented workers in the EU.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Not forgetting any time soon

It was recently revealed through the Bolivian press that the United States may have granted "political asylum" to the butchers of Black October so yesterday Alteños (residents of El Alto) made their displeasure felt down the hill at the La Paz US Embassy. AP surprisingly wrote an informative, balanced, and factually correct story. What's stopping them from doing it the rest of the time? Also informative, as always, is the Andean Information Network piece.

Update

In typical patronizing fashion the US Embassy in Bolivia today stated they "regretted the 'violence' staged Monday by the protesters", (Xinhua) and "'respect all the democratic and pacific manifestations,' but Monday's incidents went to the contrary. 'We reaffirm that our wish is to improve the bilateral relations with Bolivia on the basis of mutual respect,' the statement said." Yeah, this one is going to go over well in El Alto...

Monday, June 09, 2008

Pointers in Bad Journalism

BoRev (also cartoon source) drew my attention to an article in the Christian Science Monitor by Sara Miller Llana on Bolivia's opposition autonomy movement, "Bolivia's autonomy referendum signals rightist backlash" and its description of the (fascist and racist) student movement's expansive ambitions, “We want this to spread not just to the rest of the country but to Venezuela, Ecuador, and Nicaragua as well, to end with this centralism throughout Latin America.”

For a western reporter seemingly new to Latin America, Llana manages to feature all the key aspects of contemporary (poor) western journalism on the region's shifting politics, lets hope just out of novice good fortune. The piece stays within the follow main four pointers:

1) Always remember, new leftist governments in Latin America are all about dogmatic "socialism", ushering in dictatorship or some kind of authoritarianism, "centralism", whatever you want to call it and the conservative opposition is all about "democracy", "resistance" to said authoritarianism, and above all for "freedom".

2) No need to bring up any kind of history, who can remember that stuff anyways? If you do, make sure it is not offensive to the assumptions of point 1.

3) If those conservative opponents happen to be violent or associate themselves with professed racists or fascists, just ignore it. No one in the corporate English language press will challenge your reporting anyways.

4) Finally, no need to actually interview those wacky lefties, unverified claims about said lefties by conservative opposition leaders will suffice for "objective" investigative research. A couple quotes from some kind of "expert" is all you need... if you're worried about balance.

Just fill in the blanks like country and president name and you're fit to print!

On the last point Sara Llana only manages to make one rookie mistake in passing specious opposition propaganda to readers that Bolivia's leftist government (along with the rest of the 'pink tide') is "Led and financed almost entirely by oil-rich Venezuela, they have formed an alliance in their pledge to create a new Latin America." Firstly, this statement is boldly false. Besides being an home grow political movement, Morales' MAS government is principally financed by rent from natural gas exploitation in Bolivia!- vastly improved by the government's "controversial" gas nationalization in 2006. (There is no need to even source this fact, its a duh kind of thing.) False accusations like this one only come from Bolivia's conservative (and delusional) opposition- namely the PODEMOS party. Tuto, the party's head recently made similar accusations (as he does every few weeks). Llana's mistake, according to current standards, was not so much asserting the statement as not clearly attributing it a single source- a statement of fact, to which only she is accountable. Guys like Simon Romero know to quote an opposition leader on such a claim, so they'll never have to go back later and redact or correct their story.

The recurring false claim that MAS and Evo Morales are essentially political puppets of Chavez carries malignant implications that go further than simply attempting to tarnish Morales by his associations with the hot headed and charismatic US media boogy man of Hugo Chavez. The implication is that Morales, an Aymara Indian, and his indigenous supporters (remember Bolivia is majority indigenous) have no independent agency of their own- no independent thought or action. It is an implicitly racist assumption. -You see, because Indians are children in need of proper guidance and discipline to discourage perverse influences. Us, white people, bearers of civilization, know what is best.- These stereotyping themes run through Bolivia's opposition press (example: see these political cartoons from Sucre's El Correo del Sur) and not surprisingly our own.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Human Rights Foundation is full of it


The Human Rights Foundation, founded in 2005 to counter the biases of such disreputed human rights groups "undermining capitalism" as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, has been "observing" human rights developments in Bolivia (HRF Bolivia) as well as putting their stamp of approval on the illegal May 4th Santa Cruz Autonomy vote and their conclusions are as misconstrued as you might expect. Get the full story from Walter Mingolo (Duke U. Lit. Prof) in his critique Racism and Human Rights, thoroughly revealing HRF's blind hypocrisy.

Hat Tip: Bolivia Changes

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Peru recalls ambassador after Evo states the obvious

(Peruvian President Alan Garcia, left and Evo, well, feeling small)

"The foreign minister said the excessive comments made by the Bolivian president made it difficult for Peru to maintain a friendly diplomatic relationship with Bolivia, adding that President Morales should not interfere with Peru's internal affairs." (Xinhua) My, what serious and ill advised comments were these to drive Alan Garcia's ministers batshit crazy?

Evo: "(in 1989) I was a fan, I was an admirer of Alan Garica, an excellent speaker, anti-imperialist and very thin. Now I see him very fat and not very anti-imperialist." (Inca Kola News) Evo added, "I'm very worried about Alan Garcia."

Evo made the remarks in reference to Peru's acceptance of a bilateral "Free" Trade Treaty with the United States that will likely reap untold damage on Peru's small rural producers (just those indigenous campesino folks no one cares about) while being a member of the Andean Community of Nations (CAN), and that maybe this treaty isn't in the best interests of building a unified Andean trade bloc. In 2006 Venezuela withdrew over Columbia and Peru's plans to accept free trade deals.

I say forget the issue of Peru's membership in CAN, the whole Peruvian nation ought to be worried about Garcia's health. Those ministers need to devise a diet plan, pronto! (Photo-News of the Restless)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Fighting Cholitas

Anyone thinking about messing with Bolivia better reassess because these Mamas are packing... lucha libre power.

The Fighting Cholitas, 2006 documentary Moto Films

Monday, June 02, 2008

More of the Same in Beni, Pando

Yesterday, copycat Autonomy Statutes to Santa Cruz were voted on in Bolivia's eastern departments of Beni and Pando. English language newswires saw these events 'fit to print' and are particularly instructive. I learned from AFP that Beni and Pando are "two impoverished Bolivian provinces"- wow, I always knew the conservative opposition was standing up for the little guy against those wealthy, greedy Indians. I also learned from the AP and CNN that the Statutes passed with 89 percent of the vote in Beni and 85 percent in Pando, woot- Autonomy is really popular! Their source? Well, the trustworthy Bolivian corporate press' estimates. No need to mention that these totals are completely unverifiable as the elections were conducted without any oversight from national electoral agencies or international observers, such as the OAS and EU- usual foreign electoral observers in Bolivia. Abstention according to Beni and Pando's admission was high, roughly 35 and 45 percent respectively. Also, according to Morales' leftist government officials (you know they are friends with Chavez, Chavez!) these statute votes were totally illegal and unconstitutional, but that's just like their opinion, man. Why pay attention to pesky things like constitutions and laws when your buddies down at the social club told you those ignorant indios are wrong?

"Members of the Youth Autonomous Union of Beni clash with supporters of Bolivian President Evo Morales", (AFP)

Weird that AFP is willing to admit the presence of fascist thugs in Beni through photo captions but makes no mention of such groups in the main text of their newswire. Instead, the repeated line across the board is that violence generally manifested itself with pro-government groups burning ballot boxes- never mind their are suspicions, as in Santa Cruz, that these boxes were already filled with cast ballots before ever reaching polling stations. There were additional early reports that one MAS supporter was killed in Beni, lets hope that both these rumors aren't true. Unionistas did attack Beni's Worker and Campesino Federation the day of the vote and cut the transmission cable of Bolivian State Television into Trinidad, Beni's capital. Reporters Without Borders deserves some praise for denouncing these acts.

It is also interesting that the statutes are presented as somehow "shielding" or protecting eastern Bolivia from national government programs, namely land reform. I suppose it goes back to ignoring the fact that these statutes are unconstitutional, the legality of the referendums aside; but the question is how? With what authority and institutional power? Morales government has already stated that it will not appropriate any government funds for the new autonomous departmental governments in Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, or possibly Tarija, as they have no legitimacy or dictate. (See this national speech by Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera) How will these new departmental governments finance themselves or assert their authority? The only answer, if we assume they continue down the same path, is separatist violence. I am afraid the Media Luna is playing a dangerous game, one they can only lose in the end.