Wednesday, March 25, 2009

UN: Pando was a massacre. Period

From an ABI article kindly translated by Bina.

According to Denis Racicot, United Nations High Commission on Human Rights, the events of September 11th, 2008 "were a massacre committed by functionaries of the Prefecture of Pando and persons allied with that institution."


IHT covers the story for English readers. Their opening paragraph:

The United Nations' human rights arm issued a report Wednesday finding that opponents of Bolivian President Evo Morales were responsible for some of the Andean country's worst human rights violations last year.

You think Eliza Barclay has heard about this? Or about that radio hatemonger Carlos Valverde Barberí? Otto has got a message for shit journalists like Eliza.

I think now is a good time for those who defended Eliza's work in the Atlantic to reflect on exactly what they are defending. It is certainly not informed public debate.

Meltdown - Bolivia

Relatively old piece but just as relevant.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Ensuring Miami freedom from sanity

Awhile back this group calling itself "The Association of Eastern Residents in Florida" (Asociaciòn de Residentes Orientales en la Florida) put me on their email listserve, I assume because either they did not read the content of the blog or were feeling overconfident that their pro-"Media Luna" crapoganda would convince me of the errors of my ways. Modelling themselves on the spectacular success of Cuban-Americans in overthrowing Castro I have been quietly laughing at their "news reports" and rants against Evo´s "dictatorship" appearing in my mailbox for many months now. They are honestly not important enough to comment much on.
However I want to share with you one of their protests in Miami titled "Free the Truth" demanding the release of Bolivia´s "political prisoners" which recieved coverage by local Miami Spanish language news. The crazy woman screaming unintelligently in the video is named Eva Sara Landau, fancies herself one of the group spokesmen and a "political exile" from Bolivia. Her facebook account which used to be open (and was included in the email I recieved) had pictures of the protest in which one member had a t-shirt listing Leopold Fernandez a "political prisoner" and pictures of Leopold Fernandez under arrest with the description "victim of Aymara communism". (I did download the T-shirt picture and will post it later)
There is really no use in hiding your disgusting commentary Eva, your group´s fascistic and racist sympathies are already obvious from the official website which links to people like the "Nación Camba". For those wondering whose face is printed on Eva´s shirt like an idiot, that would be Jorge Melgar currently jailed for calling for the assassination of Evo Morales on his radio program. These people seemed destined to hold onto their delusions of a "Media Luna" until the end of days in Miami. Disneyworld is not to far away, you might want to check it out it is a much more tangable fanstay.
So now I will leave you with something destined to confuse, disgust, and blow your mind. The "poster" below was recently included in one of their emails distributed to motivate Bolivian-Americans to protest Evo Morales when he came to the UN. I wish I could say I made it up.


Update: As promised photos downloaded from Eva Sara Landau's facebook page.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday wrap up

The New York Times lets the Indian speak on coca's behalf; still does not make up for Simon Romero. Bina also highlights an Evo interview for the Dutch press.

Evo also explains why Ronald Larsen is losing his land, "It is not that these lands were not in production, but that they were the site of human rights violations against the Guarani, who will now be their new owners."

The State Department patronizes Evo, demanding a "coherent" explanation for the expulsion of their diplomat. Evo believes he worked for the CIA. That clear enough?

Mark Weisbrot has breakfast with Pablo Solón, Bolivia's Ambassador to the United Nations.

And Ben Dangl discusses the problems facing decolonization.

OMG! BoRev is a psychotic genius.

Abiding gets a passing grade

The college professors over at Gringo Tambo have reviewed my work and given it at passing grade, a B-. It is entirely too kind of them. I never knew so many curse words were admissible. Seriously, if you go to Loyola University signing up in Clare Sammells' course would not be a bad idea for your GPA.

Sammells marks down my review of Eliza Barclay's piece in The Atlantic for "shooting the messenger", basically all the bad names I called Barclay. Sammells is right, I did shoot the messenger, because she put her name on the letter.

Journalists have a responsibility for what they write and Barclay ought to take it for "The Mugabe of the Andes?". The piece does not meet the most basic standards of objectivism, balance, and propagates a number of falsehoods. It is true that an intelligent and knowledgeable Bolivianist like Sammells will read this piece as a window into race politics of the conservative opposition, for which one could write an interesting paper. But The Atlantic is written for an audience of the general public with little to no knowledge of Bolivia. Most will come away associating Morales with Mugabe, petty-thug tyranny, economic disaster, and brown on white violence.

Sammells also comments on my Victor Cardenas post. She reads a making light of and defense of the home invasion into my writing which is not there. Sammells does take me up on the importance of context and history to properly confronting the incident, for which I am extremely grateful. As she notes, a refection on Bolivia's "indigenous movement" in all its diversity and history is the only starting point for such an exercise. However, she concludes on the wrong foot, directed towards the question of "authenticity". The argument I laid out and criticisms made against Cardenas by his detractors do not specifically concern indigenous authenticity. The fallacy of this confusion can be seen in the discursive acrobatics of Gringo Tambo contributor Miguel Centellas in the comment section, accusing me of racism and other nonsense.

Well, that is enough nerd talk for a few months. Cheers!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Victor Cardenas, mob rule, and Evo

My friend Otto is mad at me. He has noticed that I have not commented on a recent happening in Bolivia, the politically motivated attack on the home of Victor Cardenas. I had been avoiding it, but I have also been avoiding a number of big stories, like corruption in YPFB, a CIA scandal, and the expulsion of a US diplomat. The reasons are two fold.

One, I have been preoccupied lately and an upcoming project will necessitate putting the blog on hold for two or three months.

Two, sometimes events happen when commentary requires more than polemics, a few turns of phrase, and genuinely requires nuanced thought. This is one of those. I don't know if you've noticed, we don't do a lot of that here and I don't think anonymous caustic blogs are always the best place for such discussions.

But Otto wants it, so I will give it my thoughts. This requires me commenting on Jim Shultz's blog and his take, he gives a basic run down and some useful quotes from various parties. I also typically don't do this because it will require that I express some of the differences I have with Shultz, part of why I don't typically link to his musings on this blog (not that he links to any other Bolivia blog anyways). Shultz neglects dimensions of the story and is lesser for it.

The home of Victor Cardenas, an opponent of Morales' political agenda, was invaded last week by members of the Aymara community of which he is apart. The home was vandalized and Cardenas' wife and children were present, they were physically forced from the home. The reprehensible and criminal act has been condemned by all corners of Bolivian politics.

Shultz portrays the act as irrational mob violence visited upon Cardenas, neglecting the motive of the mob in carrying out the attack. I believe motives are as important as violence to understanding a criminal act. If you want to understand why Cardenas' own Aymara community would so violently turn against him you need to know the following.

is a political traitor to the indigenous movement.

Cardenas began his political career as a militant Katarista, Aymara nationalists who wagged war, at times armed, against the Bolivian state for the recognition and establishment of indigenous rights. In the early 1990s Cardenas came to lead a faction of the movement which sought reconciliation by politically aligning themselves with the center-right. Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada made Cardenas his VP and put an indigenous face on his disastrous neoliberal policies, responsible for the decimation of rural peasant economies and communities from which Cardenas came. Originally hailed as a beacon of hope for Bolivia's indigenous, Cardenas proved just as corrupt and ineffectual as his neoliberal buddies to whose politics he has remained loyal. In 2002 and 2003 these politics were behind the draconian clamp down of protests in altiplano Aymara communities by the national military, resulting in murders at the hands of soldiers and eventually escalating into the 2003 Gas War which unseated Sanchez de Lozada. Cardenas continues to speak on behalf of Bolivia's indigenous while his neoliberal politics are roundly rejected by all major indigenous organizations, recently coming out strongly in opposition to the new constitution which dramatically expands indigenous rights.

The stupid and ultimately criminal occupation of Cardenas' home last week by his neighbors was clearly meant to protest Cardenas' personal enrichment at the expense of his neighbors, claiming they would expropriate the property and transform it into an elderly home. Community leaders noted the contempt Cardenas had shown towards deference to communal authority. This is more important than you think. If you are subjecting your understanding of Bolivia to ideal western concepts of individualism you have already failed. Do these things justify the attack? No. But it is important you understand, so let's move on.

Treatment of the attack in the Bolivian press has been sensationalist and politically motivated. Period. It hurts Evo to have his supporters be seen as thugs, so the hostile corporate press will exploit the incident to their full advantage. A clear double standard operates. When homes of Carlos Romero or Saul Avalos in Santa Cruz were fire bombed the events brought scant attention and barely made the front page. Cardenas has also used the occasion to exploit his wife's and children's suffering, using the media spot light the day after the attack to announce his Presidential campaign.

The current fixation on Morales is wrong headed. Ultimate responsibility rests with those community leaders who participated in and facilitated these acts. This was not a case of Evo's government engaging in political intimidation of opponents. The decision to occupy Cardenas home was made at a local level and ultimate responsibility belongs at the local level. Bolivia does not need or want Evo to simply fill in the traditional paternal role of a criollo President in brown skin, passing out favor and punishment to indigenous communities based on "good behavior". Democracy demands deliberative community process and responsibility, so don't ask Evo to act otherwise. In my opinion, Evo has fulfilled his role as President and source of moral guidance for the indigenous movement in denouncing the acts while recognizing the legitimate frustrations and anger motivating them. Further mitigating actions belong to the justice system.

Shultz takes exception to Evo's recognition of Cardenas as a traitor to the indigenous movement. I disagree with Schultz. Legitimating grievances does not legitimize violence, repeat does not. Shultz's equivocation of recognizing grievances as condoning violence is unsophisticated for a man with such extensive knowledge of lived experience in Bolivia and frankly child-like.

Bolivia's indigenous communities have no reason to tolerate Cardenas' pretensions to speak on their behalf and they should not. He ought to be marginalized as a fraud and scam.

Shultz passing of judgement while offering little to no context or nuance plays directly into the sensationalist and colonialist game of elite interests behind the Bolivian corporate press, of dividing Bolivia's indigenous politics into "good Indians" and "bad Indians", frightening middle class Bolivians with the prospect of a coming Indian Revenge should the savages be given to much power (not speak of the racial fears present in the western press). The degree to which Shultz has unwittingly placed himself in poor company can be seen in the safe-harbor his discourse has offered for genuine racists and hatemongers trolling his comment section.

Otto on the other hand has given us a very insightful and constructive analogy to think through. Otto reminds us of the violence visited upon Nazis after the liberation of concentration camps by their former captives, principally Jews. Jewish grievances were certain and legitimate and the summary justice executed debatable, however in the fifty years since we have witnessed the memory of Nazi crimes exploited by ideologues and monsters to perpetuate blind self-victimization and outright genocide, as most recently witnessed in Gaza. Certainly we do not want the same fate for Bolivia. Like 20th century Jewish politics, one cannot intelligently pass judgment or enlighten opinion without first accounting specific grievances, in their context. Such neglect often plays to malevolent intent.

The Jewish analogy also brings us to another important question concerning the incident. Does the attack, as suggested at Gringo Tambo, evoke a "worrisome trend" in Bolivian politics of violent intimidation of political opponents, making the analogy of Morales to Mugabe less hyperbolic? No. If other incidents like this were to occur, yes. Of course we know that the opposite is not true, MAS politicians have routinely been the subject of physical assault. That said, the government's rejection of the attack is important to setting a necessary precedent, before a trend emerges. If Morales wanted to exploit the vicitimization of indigenous peoples in Bolivia to suppress political opponents, frankly, far worse would have already been visited upon Cardanes, Costas, Marinkovic, and the rest.

It really is important not to be flip in one's assessment of this incident. For instance, while delivering an insightful point about democracy in Bolivia Otto uses patronizing and racist language, clearly not the intent. He calls Bolivia's democracy "still in its infancy", "primitive", and in a "childish phase". Otto's intent was not to call Bolivians a bunch of child-like Indians, in need of proper guidance to grow into a mature democracy like the United States (where apparently the Bill of Rights has not existed for the past eight years). Otto was attempting to make the more nuanced point that a population so long oppressed often does not have the ready civic mechanisms at hand to justly express its rule.

"Mob rule" is not a useful term here. "Mob rule" is so often denounced in Bolivia and interchangeable with so many kinds of collective action as to be meaningless. Usually it means denouncing the democratic right of Bolivians to take to the streets and hold a corrupt politician to publicly account. Here the "mob" desired similar ends but acted in a fashion more like the corporatism of their former masters. The incident points to the challenges of constructing what is referred to as "communitarian democracy" in Bolivia from not only external neocolonialist threats but also the internal legacies of colonial rule, patterns of rule whose exercisers are as equally treasonous to the creation of a culture of life as Cardenas.

Of course teasing out the dimensions of such problems goes way beyond Morales. Questions of democracy, rulers-ruled, and community will still be with us after Morales is long gone. You won't find quick answers or solutions (besides one's own moral self-satisfaction) to these questions in sensationalist headlines, trite denunciations of "mob rule", or a white man lecturing Indians on proper self-governance. It certainly goes beyond the discussion I have given you here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Eliza Barclay is some kind of stupid

Wow, we've seen some stupid shit before by gringo journalists on Bolivia, but damn, Eliza Barclay has managed to put herself pretty high in the running with just one story on Morales in The Atlantic magazine, "The Mugabe of the Andes?"

BoRev pretty much sums it up but this piece of dirt racist journalism requires some extra beat down.

Barclay tells us all about how Evo is stirring up racial divisions (by being brown), inciting violence (by being brown), destroying the economy (by being brown), and acting like a petty-thug dictator like Mugabe (by being brown) except for some reason the vast majority of Bolivians keep supporting him and keep voting for him. Wonder why? Well Barclay doesn't have one word from a single Evo supporter who make up a pathetic 60+ percent of the population.

So where did Barclay get all of these amazing and terrible facts about Evo? Well the solid objective source of opposition political figures like former congressman Luis Eduardo Siles who gave her the clearly non-hyperbolic analogy of Morales=Mugabe... so why not just put it in the title.

The facts that Bolivia's economy has and continues to grown under Morales, that all that racial divisiveness and violence involved professed racists and fascists humiliating, beating, and massacring Evo's indigenous supporters- Eliza Barclay has never heard of it and apparently does not want to, those savages brought it on themselves.

So to top it all off Barclay ends with what has to be one of the dumbest paragraphs in Bolivian journalism:

Although the lowlands have prospered from farming and natural gas, the highland regions remain stuck in a poverty trap that Morales has shown little flair for unlocking. When he expelled the U.S. ambassador and the Drug Enforcement Administration in late 2008, he killed a trade agreement with the United States that was one of the few lifelines for Bolivia’s exports. Depressed oil and gas prices have since meant less revenue for Bolivia, and less support from Morales’s chief mentor and benefactor, Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez. The only growth industry, in fact, appears to be coca.
Very insightful, I learned a lot in this paragraph. Apparently, based on nothing, we learn that Evo in fact has not governed over a period of economic growth. That in addition to being the President of Bolivia (able to expell US diplomats and the DEA), Evo is also the President of the United States who retaliatorly cancelled (against Congress' wishes) Bolivia's trade preferences. (Barcley's cause-effect scheme here is extra retarted because she previously wrote a story on the US cancelling of Bolivia's trade preferences). Also, Evo apparently has the power to lower global commodity prices... by expelling the DEA (huh?), and while she is at it, just tack on the totally unqualified and false statement that coca is Bolivia only growth industry.

Then there is poor Evan Abramson, one of the best photojournalists working in Bolivia, who has to have his work (a narrated video photo-essay, "¡Evo Sí!") attached to this idiot. We feel for you. Eliza Barclay also fashions herself a photojournalist, you can check out her work at her website. I think I know why she hasn't picked up much in the field, it is called focus.

Cochabamba Anarchism

Cesáreo Capriles’ legacy
Cochabamban anarchism

By Wilson García Mérida
Los Tiempos
February 1, 2009
Translated by Scott Campbell

“Art and Work” (Arte y Trabajo), the weekly publication born during the golden age of the 1920s, and which disappeared for its opposition to the Chaco War, is the most paradigmatic intellectual precedent of Cochabamban anarchism. Its founder and director, Cesáreo Capriles López, published the first issue of the magazine on February 27, 1921, with a print run of 800 copies. The editorial page of that first edition contained a posthumous homage to Prince Kropotkin, who had passed away earlier that year. About the libertarian Russian noble Capriles wrote:

“He renounced his princely prerogatives, the flatteries of Nicholas II’s court, and all the advantages that his personal and intellectual conditions could have won him in European societies. Likewise, the Bolsheviks didn’t want him, because his libertarian dream went beyond the dictatorship of the proletariat. Like the man whose dignified words, perhaps from the Sermon on the Mount: ‘while the wretched exist, luxury is a crime,’ he has achieved immortality.”

continue reading part 1...

Part 2

Part 3

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Just a little thing

A few of you probably thought I went a little loony when I posted this Naomi Wolf video last October, about the dangers of domestic military deployments in the United States. Certainly we have all laughed at some point over the last eight years at one of our paranoid stoner friends who claimed Bush-Cheney & Co. were at any moment going to declare martial law and take over the country.

Well as it turns out your stoner friends were actually very perceptive and Bush was ready to do just that or at least had filed the necessary paperwork. The latest John Yoo Justice Department memos released effectively declare the constitution null and void and any rights you already had not kissed goodbye. Some gems:

“the Fourth Amendment does not apply to domestic military operations designed to deter and prevent foreign terrorist attacks.”

“First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully.”