jump to navigation

Bolivian Women Rise Up March 7, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Latin America, Women.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
     
Written by Lisa Macdonald   
Friday, 05 March 2010 12:33
Source: Green Left Weekly

In January, Bolivia’s left-wing President Evo Morales began his second term by appointing a new cabinet in which women are equally represented for the first time.

Morales, Bolivia’s first president from the nation’s long-oppressed indigenous majority, is leading a revolutionary process of transformation.

The 10 women ministers are from a wide range of backgrounds, and three of them are indigenous. Introducing the new ministers, Morales said: “My great dream has come true — half the cabinet seats are held by women.

“This is a homage to my mother, my sister and my daughter.”

In the December 6 national elections, in which there was the highest-ever voter participation in Bolivia, Morales and his Movement to Socialism (MAS) party won a resounding victory. Morales was re-elected with a record 64.2% of the vote and the MAS secured the two-thirds majority in the Senate needed to pass legislation to advance its pro-people program.

The proportion of women in Bolivia’s new parliament doubled, from 14% to 28%. Women now hold 47% of Senate seats and Ana Maria Romero from MAS has been elected Senate president.

This is a remarkable achievement in the poorest country in South America. It was not until the 1952 national revolution that either women or the 60% of Bolivia’s population that are indigenous were even entitled to vote.

Until 1996, women were largely prohibited from owning or inheriting land.

MAS senator Gabriela Montano told the BBC on January 29: “This is the fruit of the women’s fight: the tangible proofs of this new state, of this new Bolivia, are the increasing participation of the indigenous peoples and the increasing participation of women in the decision-making process of this country.”

Morales was first elected in 2005 on the back of five years of massive protests and uprisings — in particular against the privatisation of Bolivia’s gas.

Morales’ government has implemented some of the key demands of the people’s struggle — in particular the partial nationalisation of gas and the convening of an elected constituent assembly to draft a new constitution based on justice and equality for the indigenous peoples.

The new constitution — passed in a national referendum in January 2009 — guarantees equal rights for women and men, and empowers women and Bolivia’s indigenous majority in all areas of society.

Morales and MAS have stated that their goal, reflecting the will of the people, is to build a new state “from below” that is based on three pillars: “plurinationality” (recognition of indigenous equality); regional and indigenous autonomy within the framework of “a democratic decentralisation of power”; and a mixed economy in which the state plays the central role in strategic sectors.

At his January 21 inauguration, Morales argued for the need to build a “communitarian socialism” in Bolivia — to replace capitalism’s destruction of life and the planet.

Despite women’s traditional exclusion from politics, they were at the centre of the process that brought Morales to power and, with most to gain from the radical changes under way, have become a driving force in the revolutionary process.

Thousands of campesino (peasant) women were the backbone of the roadblocks, marches and demonstrations against the neoliberal policies implemented by pre-Morales governments.

They played a key role in the huge protests in 2000 and 2003 against foreign corporate ownership and further privatisation of Bolivia’s natural resources. Their leadership in the coca growers’ movement and for indigenous land rights has been a motor force of the revolution.

Montano told the BBC: “The awakening of women has been brewing for a while. Women have been a key element in the consolidation of this process of change led by President Morales, from the rallies, the protests, the fights.

“Now, they will be a key element in affairs of national interest.”

Bolivia’s women’s movement still has many big battles to win. The power of the Catholic Church means that women are still unable to access safe and legal abortions, and Bolivia has the highest maternal mortality rate in Latin America.

Female illiteracy is still around 20% and domestic violence is a major problem, Bolivia’s women’s rights organisations say.

Bolivia’s laws establishing women farmers’ right to land ownership are among the most advanced in Latin America. The Morales government allocated property deeds for 164,401 hectares of land to 10,299 women between January 2006 and January 2009 (compared with only 4125 such deeds between 1997 and 2005).

However, illiteracy and traditional cultural practices mean that many rural women are still unaware of their rights under the new constitution.

Morales and the social movements are striving to overcome the legacies of centuries of colonial and imperialist oppression.

Equal gender representation in government, although a significant achievement in any country, is far from a guarantee of equality and freedom for all women.

But when that representation is the product of, and embodies leaders of, mass struggles by the poorest and most oppressed women, it takes on deep significance.

It is a central part of the broader struggle by the oppressed in Bolivia to create a new society

The women of Bolivia are proving that women can fight and win — for their rights as women and for a radically new type of society based on equality and self-determination by the people.

The courageous and inspiring struggles of women and other sectors of the oppressed in Bolivia are part of a global struggle.

Bolivian Vice-President Alvaro Garcia Linera used his January 21 inauguration speech to call for global socialist revolutions: “No revolution can triumph if it is not supported by other revolutions in the world. The empire is a global demon, and the only way to defeat it is [by] globalising the power of the people.”

Climate Discord: From Hopenhagen to Nopenhagen December 24, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Environment, Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
“Many feel that Obama’s disruption of the process in Copenhagen may have fatally derailed 20 years of climate talks.”
Published on Wednesday, December 23, 2009 by TruthDig.com

by Amy Goodman

Barack Obama said, minutes before racing out of the U.N. climate summit, “We will not be legally bound by anything that took place here today.” These were among his remarks made to his own small White House press corps, excluding the 3,500 credentialed journalists covering the talks. It was late on Dec. 18, the last day of the summit, and reports were that the negotiations had failed. Copenhagen, which had been co-branded for the talks on billboards with Coke and Siemens as “Hopenhagen,” was looking more like “Nopenhagen.”

As I entered the Bella Center, the summit venue, that morning, I saw several dozen people sitting on the cold stone plaza outside the police line. Throughout the summit, people had filled this area, hoping to pick up credentials. Thousands from nongovernmental organizations and the press waited hours in the cold, only to be denied. On the final days of the summit, the area was cold and empty.

Most groups had been stripped of their credentials so the summit could meet the security and space needs for traveling heads of state, the U.N. claimed. These people sitting in the cold were engaged in a somber protest: They were shaving their heads. One woman told me, “I am shaving my head to show how really deeply touched I feel about what is happening in there. … There are 6 billion people out there, and inside they don’t seem to be talking about them.” She held a white sign, with just a pair of quotation marks, but no words. “What does the sign say?” I asked her. She had tears in her eyes, “It says nothing because I don’t know what to say anymore.”

Obama reportedly heard Friday of a meeting taking place between the heads of state of China, India, Brazil and South Africa, and burst into the room, leading the group to consensus on “The Copenhagen Accord.” One hundred ninety-three countries were represented at the summit, most of them by their head of state. Obama and his small group defied U.N. procedure, resulting in the nonbinding, take-it-or-leave-it document.

The accord at least acknowledges that countries “agree that deep cuts in global emissions are required according to science … so as to hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius.” For some, after eight years with President George W. Bush, just having a U.S. president who accepts science as a basis for policy might be considered a huge victory. The accord pledges “a goal of mobilizing jointly 100 billion dollars a year by 2020″ for developing countries. This is less than many say is needed to solve the problem of adapting to climate change and building green economies in developing countries, and is only a nonbinding goal. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refused to specify the U.S. share, only saying if countries didn’t come to an agreement it would not be on the table anymore.

Respected climate scientist James Hansen told me, “The wealthy countries are trying to basically buy off these countries that will, in effect, disappear,” adding, “based on our contribution to the carbon in the atmosphere, [the U.S. share] would be 27 percent, $27 billion per year.”

I asked Bolivian President Evo Morales for his solution. He recommends “all war spending be directed towards climate change, instead of spending it on troops in Iraq, in Afghanistan or the military bases in Latin America.” According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, in 2008 the 15 countries with the highest military budgets spent close to $1.2 trillion on armed forces.

Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, one of the major NGOs stripped of credentials, criticized the outcome of the Copenhagen talks, writing: “The United States slammed through a flimsy agreement that was negotiated behind closed doors. The so-called ‘Copenhagen Accord’ is full of empty pledges.” But he also applauded “concerned citizens who marched, held vigils and sent messages to their leaders, [who] helped to create unstoppable momentum in the global movement for climate justice.”

Many feel that Obama’s disruption of the process in Copenhagen may have fatally derailed 20 years of climate talks. But Pica has it right. The Copenhagen climate summit failed to reach a fair, ambitious and binding agreement, but it inspired a new generation of activists to join what has emerged as a mature, sophisticated global movement for climate justice.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

© 2009 Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 800 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.

The Pot Calls the Kettle Black December 12, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in About Hillary Clinton, Bolivia, Foreign Policy, Latin America.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

Hillary Clinton with Pepe Lobo, the newly “elected” president of Honduras, who has recently come to power in an election rejected and considered illegitimate and fraudulent by virtually every government around the world that is not a virtual puppet of the US.  This photo by itself is capable of generating resentment towards the United States throughout the entire Latin American world, not to mention the vast Latino population in the States.


Roger Hollander, December 12, 2009

It is no big news to note that Americans tend to be ethnocentric.  The United States is the benevolent sun around which the rest of the world revolves.  Many Americans criticize their government — this was especially true during the Bush era — but few are either willing or able to step outside the apparent inborn prejudice and jingoism to look at the US as others do around the world.  Internal critics of any particular US government castigate the incumbent regime for making “mistakes,” for being in error.  Few are willing to admit that their government is criminal, a danger to world peace and security.

Living outside the United States helps one to see things in perspective. Today I read an article that appeared in the Associated Press in Spanish that I could not find on Google in English (too harsh criticism of the US for American readers?).  It reported that Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, had rejected threats made by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about Bolivia’s relationship with Iran.  I suppose a typical American might respond to this by thinking: Iran bad, Iran president anti-Semetic, Iran nuclear threat, Hillary right to come down on Bolivia.

Morales’ response was to the effect that what right does the pot have to call the kettle black.  He noted that the US itself exports terrorism abroad, that it sends troops to invade countries half-way around the world, that it has military bases all over the world.  He could have mentioned that the US has a long history of allying itself with tyrants and dictators (currently the newly elected pseudo-president of Honduras, the product of a military coup), and he could have mentioned that as a nuclear threat, no one can begin to match the United States with a nuclear arsenal that could blow the globe to pieces a thousand times.  Rather, Morales noted that Bolivia was interested in dialogue and relationship with all nations of the world.

With the super-hawk Hillary Clinton at the point, the Obama administration has its ambassador to the world that could fit into the most right-wing Republican administration.  Her name will go down in history alongside of the likes of John Foster Dulles (who advocated the nuclear bombing of Vietnam), Henry Kissinger (responsible for the criminal bombing of Cambodia), Nixon’s Al Haig, George Schultz, Colin Powell (who lied to the world for Bush to justify the invasion of Iraq), and the Bush marionette, Condoleezza Rice.

Clinton’s and therefore Obama’s agressive (to the point of threats) policy toward Latin America, toward the progressive and popular governments in Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Ecuador (not to mention Cuba), are in the tradition of the Monroe Doctrine and cold war geopolitics.  More “plus ca change …” we can believe in.

I would add that I do not particularly enjoy seen Morales and Venezuela’s Chávez siding up with the likes of Iran’s notorious dictatorial and anti-Semitic Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; but that is what nations do, they engage in diplomatic and trade agreements with other nations.  Imagine how it appears to non-Americans to see Clinton and Obama appearing alonside Iraq’s illegitimate President Talabani, Afghanistan’s Karzai, Israel’s ultra-right Netanyahu,  and now the puppet of the Honduran military, Pepe Lobo.

The Speed of Change: Bolivian President Morales Empowered by Re-Election December 7, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Democracy, Latin America.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
Print E-mail
Written by Benjamin Dangl
Monday, 07 December 2009, http://www.upsidedownworld.org
Image

MAS Victory Celebration in La Paz, Bolivia (ABI)

Bolivian President Evo Morales was re-elected on Sunday, December 6th in a landslide victory. After the polls closed, fireworks, music and celebrations filled the Plaza Murillo in downtown La Paz where MAS supporters chanted “Evo Again! Evo Again!” Addressing the crowd from the presidential palace balcony, Morales said, “The people, with their participation, showed once again that it’s possible to change Bolivia… We have the responsibility to deepen and accelerate this process of change.” Though the official results are not yet known, exit polls show that Morales won roughly 63% of the vote, with his closest rival, former conservative governor Manfred Reyes Villa, winning around 23% of the vote.

The Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), Morales’ political party, also won over two thirds of the seats in the lower house and the senate, meaning the MAS administration will have an easier time passing laws without right wing opposition.

Many of Bolivia’s indigenous and impoverished majority identify with Morales, an indigenous man who grew up poor and was a grassroots leader before his election as president in 2005. Many also voted for Morales because of new government programs aimed at empowering the country’s marginalized people.

“Brother Evo Morales is working for the poorest people, for the people that are fighting for their survival,” El Alto street vendor Julio Fernandez told Bloomberg reporter Jonathan Levin on election day.

“He’s changing things. He’s helping the poor and building highways and schools,” Veronica Canizaya, a 49-year old housewife, told Reuters before voting near Lake Titicaca.

During his first four years in office Morales partially nationalized Bolivia’s vast gas reserves, ushered in a new constitution written in a constituent assembly, granted more rights to indigenous people and exerted more state-control over natural resources and the economy. Much of the wealth generated from new state-run industries has been directed to various social and development programs to benefit impoverished sectors of society.

For example, Inez Mamani receives a government stipend to help her care for her newborn baby. The funding is thanks to the state-run gas company. Mamani, who also has five other children, spoke with Annie Murphy of National Public Radio about the program. “With my other children, there wasn’t a program like this. It was sad the way we raised them. Now they have milk, clothing, diapers, and it’s great that the government helps us. Before, natural resources were privately owned and there wasn’t this sort of support.”

In addition to the support for mothers, the government also gives stipends to young students and the elderly; the stipends reached some 2 million people in 2009. “I’m a teacher and I see that the kids go to school with hope, because they get breakfast there and the subsidies … I ask them how they spend the hand-outs and some of them say they buy shoes. Some didn’t have shoes before,” Irene Paz told Reuters after voting in El Alto.

Thanks to such far-reaching government programs and socialistic policies, Bolivia’s economic growth has been higher during the four years under Morales than at any other period during the last three decades, according to the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research.

“None of this would have been possible without the government’s regaining control of the country’s natural resources,” said CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot. “Bolivia’s fiscal stimulus over the past year was vastly larger than ours in the United States, relative to their economy.”

During Morales’ new term in office, with over two thirds control in both houses of congress, the MAS government should be able to further apply the changes established in the new constitution, a document passed in a national vote this past January. The MAS base is eager for land reform, broader access to public services, development projects and more say in how their government is run. The mandate and demands for massive changes are now greater than ever.

As Bolivian political analyst Franklin Pareja told IPS News, “In the past four years, the change was an illusion, and now it should be real.”

***

Benjamin Dangl is the author of The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia (AK Press) and the forthcoming book Dancing with Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America (AK Press). He is the editor of TowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events and UpsideDownWorld.org, a website on activism and politics in Latin America. Email: Bendangl(at)gmail.com

Peru Indians Hail ‘Historic’ Day June 19, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Environment, First Nations, Latin America, Peru.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
Published on Friday, June 19, 2009 by BBC News

Indigenous groups in Peru have called off protests after two land laws which led to deadly fighting were revoked.

 

[Natives armed with spears set a roadblock at the entrance of the Amazonian town of Yurimaguas, northern Peru, on June 10, 2009. Peru's Congress on Thursday revoked two controversial decrees on land ownership in the Amazon river basin which triggered protests by indigenous groups that left at least 34 people dead in early June. (AFP/File/Ernesto Benavides)]Natives armed with spears set a roadblock at the entrance of the Amazonian town of Yurimaguas, northern Peru, on June 10, 2009. Peru’s Congress on Thursday revoked two controversial decrees on land ownership in the Amazon river basin which triggered protests by indigenous groups that left at least 34 people dead in early June.(AFP/File/Ernesto Benavides)

Hailing victory, Amazonian Indian groups said it was an “historic day”. 

At least 34 people died during weeks of strikes against the legislation, which allowed foreign companies to exploit resources in the Amazon forest.

The violence provoked tension with Peru’s neighbour, Bolivia, where Preisdent Evo Morales backed the Peruvian Indians’ tribal rights.

“This is a historic day for indigenous people because it shows that our demands and our battles were just,” said Daysi Zapata, vice president of the Amazon Indian confederation that led the protests.

She urged fellow activists to end their action by lifting blockades of jungle rivers and roads set up since April across six provinces in the Peruvian Amazon.

The controversial laws, passed to implement a free trade agreement with the US, were revoked by Peru’s Congress by a margin of 82-12 after a five-hour debate.

Diplomatic dispute

The worst of the clashes occurred on 5 June when police tried to clear roadblocks set up by the groups at Bagua, 1,000km (600 miles) north of Lima.

At least 30 civilians died, according to Indian groups, as well as 23 police.

Peru’s Prime Minister Yehude Simon said the reversal of policy would not put at risk Peru’s free trade agreement with the US, but he has said he will step down once the dispute is settled.

The dispute led to a diplomatic row between Peru and Latin American neighbours Venezuela and Bolivia.

Peru recalled its ambassador to Bolivia for consultation on Tuesday after Bolivian President Evo Morales described the deaths of the indigenous protesters as a genocide caused by free trade.

Peru’s Foreign Minister Jose Antonia Garcia Belaunde called Mr Morales an “enemy of Peru”.

BBC © MMIX

USAID’s Silent Invasion in Bolivia May 19, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Latin America, Venezuela.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
Written by Eva Golinger   

 

Monday, 18 May 2009

 

Recently declassified documents obtained by investigators Jeremy Bigwood and Eva Golinger reveal that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has invested more than $97 million in “decentralization” and “regional autonomy” projects and opposition political parties in Bolivia since 2002. The documents, requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), evidence that USAID in Bolivia was the “first donor to support departmental governments” and “decentralization programs” in the country, proving that the US agency has been one of the principal funders and fomenters of the separatist projects promoted by regional governments in Eastern Bolivia.

 

Decentralization and Separatism

The documents confirm that USAID has been managing approximately $85 million annually in Bolivia during the past few years, divided amongst programs related to security, democracy, economic growth and human investment. The Democracy Program is focused on a series of priorities, the first outlined as “Decentralized democratic governments: departmental governments and municipalities”. One document, classified as “sensitive”, explains that this particular program began when USAID established an Office for Transition Initiatives (OTI) en Bolivia during 2004. The OTIs are a division of USAID that function as rapid response teams to political crises in countries strategically important to US interests. The OTI only address political issues, despite USAID’s principal mission dedicated to humanitarian aid and development assistance, and they generally have access to large amounts of liquid funds in order to quickly and efficiently achieve their objectives. The OTI operate as intelligence agencies due to their relative secrecy and filtering mechanism that involves large contracts given to US companies to operate temporary offices in nations where OTI requires channeling millions of dollars to political parties and NGOs that work in favor of Washington’s agenda. After the failed coup d’etat against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in April 2002, USAID set up an OTI in Venezuela two months later, in June 2002, with a budget over $10 million for its first two years. Since then, the OTI has filtered more than $50 million through five US entities that set up shop in Caracas subsequently, reaching more than 450 NGOs, political parties and programs that support the opposition to President Chávez.

 

In the case of Bolivia, the OTI contracted the US company, Casals & Associates, to coordinate a program based on decentralization and autonomy in the region considered the “media luna” (half-moon), where the hard core opposition to President Evo Morales is based, particularly in the province of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. Casals & Associates was also charged with conducting a series of training seminars and workshops to strengthen oppositional political parties that were working against then presidential candidate Evo Morales in 2004 and 2005. After Morales was elected president at the end of 2005, OTI directed the majority of its funding and work to the separatist projects that later produced regional referendums on autonomy in Eastern Bolivia. Their principal idea is to divide Bolivia into two separate republics, one governed by an indigenous majority and the other run by European descendents and mestizos that inhabit the areas rich in natural resources, such as gas and water. After 2007, the OTI, which had an additional budget of $13.3 million on top of USAID’s general Bolivia program funding, was absorbed into USAID/Bolivia’s Democracy Program, which since then has been dedicating resources to consolidating the separatist projects.

 

USAID’s work in Bolivia covers almost all sectors of political and economic life, penetrating Bolivian society and attempting to impose a US political and ideological model. The investment in “decentralization” includes all the support and funding needed to conform “autonomous” regions, from departmental planning to regional economic development, financial management, communications strategies, departmental budget structures, and territorial organization designs – all prepared and implemented by USAID representatives and partners in Bolivia.  As part of the program titled “Strengthening Democratic Institutions” (SDI), USAID describes its work to “enrich the dialogue on decentralization; improve management of departmental budgetary resources; and promote regional economic development.” Through this program, USAID has even created “territorial organization laboratories” to help regional governments implement their autonomy successfully.

 

In one document dated November 30, 2007, just months before the separatist referendums held in Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija during early 2008, the Democratic Initiatives Program of OTI/USAID worked closely with the Prefects (regional governments) to “develop sub-national, de-concentrated” models of government. In those regions, those promoting such “sub-national, de-concentrated” models, or separatism, have made clear that their objective is to achieve a political, economic and territorial division from the national government of Bolivia, so they can manage and benefit solely from the rich resources in their regions. It’s no coincidence that the separatist initiatives are all concentrated in areas rich in gas, water and economic power. The multi-million dollar funding from USAID to the separatist projects in Bolivia has encouraged and emboldened destabilization activities during the past few years, including extreme violence and racism against Indigenous communities, terrorist acts and even assassination attempts against President Morales.

 

Strengthening Political Parties in the Opposition

 

Another principal priority of USAID in Bolivia as outlined in the declassified documents is the extensive funding and training of oppositional political parties. Through two US entities, the International Republican Institute (IRI) and National Democratic Institute (NDI), both considered international branches of the republican and democrat parties in the US that receive their funding from the Department of State and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), USAID has been feeding – with funding and strategic political aid – political groups and leaders from the opposition in Bolivia. During the year 2007, $1.250.000.00 was dedicated to “training for members of political parties on current political and electoral processes, including the constituent assembly and the referendum on autonomy.” The principal beneficiaries of this funding have been the opposition political parties Podemos, MNR, MIR and more than 100 politically-oriented NGOs in Bolivia.

 

Intervention in Electoral Processes

 

An additional substantial part of USAID’s work in Bolivia has been devoted to intervening in electoral processes during the past few years. This has included forming a network of more than 3,000 “observers”, trained by USAID grantee Partners of the Americas, a US corporation that also receives funding from major companies and entities that form part of the military-industrial complex. The creation of “networks” in “civil society” to monitor electoral processes has been a strategy utilized by Washington in countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaragua, to later use such apparently “independent” observers in an attempt to discredit and delegitimize elections and denounce fraud when results are not favorable to US interests. In the case of Venezuela, for example, the organization that has implemented this strategy is Súmate, a Venezuelan NGO created with funding and strategic support from USAID and NED, that has presented itself in the public opinion as “apolitical” but in reality has been the principal promoter of the recall referendum in 2004 against President Chávez and later the leader in denouncing fraud after every electoral process in Venezuela lost by the opposition, despite that such events have been certified as legitimate and “fraud-free” by international institutions such as the Organization of American States, European Community and the Carter Center. These “networks” function as centers for the opposition during electoral processes to strengthen their position in the public opinion and through the mass media.

 

Penetration in Indigenous Communities

 

USAID’s work in Bolivia is not just oriented towards strengthening the opposition to Evo Morales and promoting separatism, but also involves attempts to penetrate and infiltrate indigenous communities, seeking out new actors to promote Washington’s agenda that have an image more representative of the Bolivian indigenous majority. One declassified document clearly outlines the necessity to give “more support to USAID and Embassy indigenous interns to build and consolidate a network of graduates who advocate for the US Government in key areas.” The document further discusses the need to “strengthen democratic citizenship and local economic development for Bolivia’s most vulnerable indigenous groups.” Per USAID, “this program shows that no one country or government has a monopoly on helping the indigenous. The program shows that the US is a friend to Bolivia and the indigenous…”

 

The declassified documents in original format and with Spanish translation are available at: www.jeremybigwood.net/BO/2008-USAID

 

 
 
“If the world is upside down the way it is now, wouldn’t we have to turn it over to get it to stand up straight?” -Eduardo Galeano
En Español
Brasil: Vigilia contra ofensiva agropecuaria en la Amazonia
 

 

Paraguay: Protestas y balas de goma por el retorno al país de Sabino Montanaro
 

 

UD Notebook

Putting the street into the notebook. A blog by Ben Dangl.

New Book
Resource Wars & Social Movements in Bolivia By Ben Dangl
International News
© 2009 Upside Down World Joomla! is Free Software released under the GNU/GPL License.

Bolivia: Unraveling the Conspiracy April 29, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Latin America.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
www.upsidedownworld.org Print E-mail
Written by Franz Chávez   
Sunday, 26 April 2009
(IPS) – The dismantling of a commando made up mainly of men described by the Bolivian government as foreign mercenaries could lead authorities to the people who organised around a dozen different attacks carried out since 2006 in the city of Santa Cruz.

Bolivian Vice President Álvaro García Linera said the attacks were aimed at destabilising the lefting government of Evo Morales and were to culminate in the assassination of the president.

He said business leaders and landowners in the eastern province of Santa Cruz were financing the clandestine operations by the five alleged terrorists, three of whom were shot and killed by the police.

The vice president said some of the businessmen and landowners backed such action of their own accord, and that others did so under pressure.

But the leader of the opposition-controlled Senate, Santa Cruz businessman Oscar Ortiz, questioned the official report that the men were killed in a shootout, and said he suspected they were simply murdered by the police.

According to witnesses, however, police had attempted to arrest the men in downtown Santa Cruz, and they fled to a hotel, where a half-hour shootout came to an end when the alleged plotters reportedly detonated a grenade inside their hotel room.

Santa Cruz governor Rubén Costas, Morales’ most prominent political opponent and one of four governors who have sought autonomy for their provinces, initially suggested that the supposed assassination plot was staged, but is now demanding an impartial investigation.

For its part, the rightwing Santa Cruz Civic Committee, led by local business leaders and landowners, is demanding to see the evidence and photos of the commando that the government says it has.

The Apr. 16 police operation, in which two men were arrested and three killed, took place in an upscale hotel in the capital of the department of Santa Cruz, a city of 1.5 million located 900 km east of La Paz.

No police or judicial investigation has so far clarified the months-long escalation of bomb attacks and fires that targeted the homes of cabinet ministers, government officials and opposition leaders in Santa Cruz, the stronghold of the business and landowners associations and other conservative sectors opposed to Morales since he took office in January 2006.

However, the Apr. 15 attack on the Santa Cruz home of Roman Catholic Cardinal Julio Terrazas, which was carried out with military-style plastic explosives, caused a public outcry, and the police set out to track down the culprits.

Terrazas was out of town at the time of the attack, for which no one claimed responsibility.

The gun battle in the Las Américas hotel in Santa Cruz occurred the night after the bombing attack on the cardinal’s home. The police reported that members of an elite anti-terrorist unit had been involved in a gunfight with a far-right group of mercenaries, and that three men were killed: Romanian-Hungarian Magyarosi Arpak, Irishman Michael Dwyer and Bolivian Eduardo Rózsa Flores, who also apparently holds Hungarian and Croatian passports.

Two others were arrested: Bolivian-Croatian Ramiro Francisco Tadic and Romanian-Hungarian Elod Toaso.

The police also reported that they found a cache of sniper’s rifles, high-calibre firearms, munitions, and plastic explosives similar to those used in the attack on Terrazas’ home, as well as the lid of a container that might have been used to hold the explosives in the bombing attempt the night before.

The arsenal was found in a marketplace warehouse belonging to the Cooperativa de Teléfonos de Santa Cruz de la Sierra, a telephone company owned by wealthy local business leaders who are active in the opposition to the Morales administration.

In September 2008, one of the three men who were killed, Eduardo Rózsa Flores, a Bolivian journalist from Santa Cruz who fought in the Balkans war, had taped an interview with a Hungarian TV personality “in case anything happens to me.”

In the interview, which was broadcast by the Hungarian MTV station after the news of his death came out, Rózsa Flores said he had been invited by the opposition in Bolivia to set up an armed defence force to protect the autonomy of the province of Santa Cruz. He also said that “We are ready, within a few months in case co-existence doesn’t work under autonomy, to proclaim independence and create a new country.”

While the hidden arms cache in a building owned by rightwing opposition businessmen was reported in Santa Cruz, Vice President García Linera warned in statements from La Paz of the presence of mercenaries, and Morales said from Venezuela – where he was taking part in a meeting of the ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas) bloc, held ahead of the fifth Summit of the Americas hosted by Trinidad and Tobago – that the group was plotting to assassinate him.

Rózsa Flores, the son of a Communist militant who settled in Santa Cruz, was commander of an international brigade in the Balkans conflict made up of 380 mercenaries from 20 different countries, who were fighting for Croatian independence.

Political violence and terrorist attacks are nothing new since Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, was sworn in. Radical rightwing opposition groups stormed central government buildings in Santa Cruz last September, while anti-government protesters caused a natural gas pipeline explosion in the southern province of Tarija.

And on Sept. 11, 2008, a group of indigenous supporters of Morales were violently blocked by provincial authorities from entering the town of El Porvenir in the northern Amazon jungle province of Pando.

The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and a United Nations commission condemned the massacre of 13 indigenous peasants, which led to the arrest of conservative Pando governor Leopoldo Fernández, who is in prison in La Paz awaiting trial.

The survivors described the incident as an “ambush” by the opposition, and video footage showed people desperately swimming across a river to escape, under gunfire.

The incident was the bloodiest in over a week of often violent protests by the rightwing opposition in Bolivia’s relatively wealthy eastern provinces, which have been fighting for autonomy.

Bolivia, South America’s poorest country, is basically divided between the western highlands, home to the impoverished indigenous majority, and the much better off eastern provinces, which account for most of the country’s natural gas production, industry and GDP. The population of eastern Bolivia tends to be lighter-skinned, of more mixed-race (Spanish and indigenous) descent.

 

Barack Obama’s South of the Border Adventure April 25, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in About Barack Obama, Barack Obama, Latin America.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

CB Trinidad Americas Summit Obama

 

By Roger Hollander, www.rogerhollander.com, April 22, 2009

 

It’s amazing what you can learn about a Gringo when you put him together with a bunch of Latinos.

 

Barack Obama, as the adored new president of the giant republic to the North, likely arrived at last weeks Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago expecting to strut his stuff.

 

The President would have been briefed on the question of the Cuban Blockade; the latest shenanigans of his putative hemispheric nemesis, Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez; free trade issues, and the like.  But it is not likely that any of his advisors would have thought to advise him about the romantic and spontaneous nature of the Latino soul.

 

You have to have lived amongst Latin Americans (as I have for the past fifteen years) to understand how natural it was for Chávez to greet Obama with open arms (“Chávez Hates America” Republicans and the lapdog North American mainstream media equate disagreement with a government’s policy with dislike of its people; Latin Americans are generally astute enough to be aware there is a difference).  But what was really not only a stroke of genius but also totally in character was Chávez’s presenting Obama with a signed copy of Eduardo Galeano’s classic masterpiece on U.S/Latin American relations, “The Open Veins of Latin America.” 

 

And how did Obama react?  According to his spokesperson, the president would probably not read the book because it was in Spanish.  Talk about a dud of a response.  And can you imagine Obama presenting Chávez with the North American counterpart to Galeano’s work, I’m referring to Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States?”   I apologize if I’m wrong, but I would bet that President Obama is not even aware of the Zinn’s best seller alternative version of U.S. history, much less read it.  On the other hand, it would be hard to convince me that there is a president of a Latin American republic that is not familiar with Galeano.

 

Next up steps Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega whose speech includes a criticism of US imperialism throughout the 20th century.   In it he mentions the failed U.S. sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961.  Obama’s response?  “I’m grateful that President Ortega did not blame me for things that happened when I was three months old.”  Ha, ha.  Very funny but quite beside the point.

 

But if there was ever a contrast between Latin American and North American leadership, it is exemplified in the person of Bolivia’s young, charismatic and dynamic President Evo Morales (But Obama is also young, charismatic and dynamic, you say?  True, but wait and see).  Morales, the first native president of a nation that is 60% Indigenous, would have arrived at the Summit a bit under the weather, having just come off a five day hunger strike, which he conducted on a mattress on the floor of the Presidential Palace.  Morales is a former coca farmer and labor leader, who in the tradition of Gandhi and California’s great farm worker leader, Cesar Chavez, is a strong believer in the efficacy of the hunger strike as a political strategy.  His longest previous hunger strike lasted 18 days (can you picture Bill Clinton going more than 48 hours without a Big Mac?).  The current fast was to protest tactics used by obstructionist Congressman that were preventing a vote on a measure that would increase Indigenous representation in Congress, and enable elections to go ahead in December in which Morales would be eligible to run for re-election (and where because of his immense popularity he is virtually a shoo-in).

 

Many if not most North Americans can understand direct action or civil disobedience on the part of a Martin Luther King, but from the President of the United States?  How undignified.  And to what end?  Well, here’s what Morales achieved: the obstructionists backed down, and the Congress approved the election law.  Why would they have done that?  Because Morales enjoys enormous popularity among the Bolivian electorate.  He went over the heads of the right wing congressmen and appealed directly to his people, and his adversaries saw that they had no choice but to back down.  Now can you imagine Barack Obama taking advantage of his enormous popularity to engage in such a heart-felt demonstration of his convictions in order to stand up say to the private health insurance industry and its bought-lock-stock-and-barrel representatives in Congress in order to achieve a single-payer universal healthcare plan (which he once supported but now is “off the table”)?  Can you imagine him conducting a sit-in in the Oval Office in order to face down the Pentagon and the merchants of death military contractors in order to rally the kind of popular pressure that would force approval for a substantial reduction in the gargantuan defense budget?  (Try channeling your inner John Lennon, and Imagine!)

 

So what was the interaction between Morales and Obama at the Summit?  First you must realize that for the past year or so, Morales has been the target of right wing terrorists, who have attempted to destabilize his government by brutally attacking his supporters and who have recently failed in an attempt on his life.  So Morales approached President Obama directly at the Summit – man-to-man, no bureaucratic intermediaries, no diplomatic niceties – and (according to Bharrat Jagdeo, the president of Guyana, who attended the session) presented him with specific information about U.S. mercenaries who he said were operating in his country.  The President again came up with a non-response response that was as rote and as lame as his others. He stated that his administration ‘does not promote the overthrow of any democratically elected head of state nor support assassination of leaders of any country’ (which, if true, would be quite a radical departure from past U.S. foreign policy towards Latin America!).  Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, confirmed the account.  End of discussion.

 

 

So what is my point?  What I am trying to show is that there is a refreshing authenticity about some Latin American heads of state, who can be candid and direct on a person to person basis in a way that we seldom if ever see in North America.  U.S. presidents go in for photo-ops and prepared statements that more often than not occult hidden agendas.

 

The tragic irony here is that Obama’s speedy and dramatic rise to the presidency was largely due to his ability to convince the American people of his own authenticity.  He convinced us that we could believe in him.  It is said that a person who can dissemble while at the same time projecting unimpeachable sincerity has the recipe for wielding immense power.  And Barack has shown himself to be a first class dissembler.  He convinced the American people that his administration would be a “genuine change” from that of previous administrations while in a few short weeks in office he has forged ahead both with President Bush’s major domestic and foreign policies (continued giveaways to Wall Street and the corrupt banking and finance industries on the home front; military escalation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a disingenuous promise to leave Iraq which he knows the generals will not stand for, and blind uncritical support for Israeli militarism and apartheid in the area of foreign policy).

 

Barack Obama did not get to where he is today by taking principled stands on issues.  He cut his teeth in the corruption riddled cradle of Chicago ward politics, where winning and holding power is the only principle that matters.  His cynical choice of anti-gay bigot Rick Warren to give the Inauguration prayer and his support of the so-called Jewish Lobby and Israel’s war crimes in Gaza are only two of many examples of his going for the votes and principles be damned.

 

It is interesting to note that early on in his career Obama evidenced his ability to project an image as an agent of change while at the same time remaining snuggly in bed with the status quo.  This is what a colleague said of him when interviewed by the Toronto Star in 1990 in a story about Obama as the Harvard Law Review’s first Black editor:

 

“He’s willing to talk to them (the conservatives) and he has a grasp of where they are coming from, which is something a lot of blacks don’t have and don’t care to have,” said Christine Lee, a second-year law student who is black. “His election was significant at the time, but now it’s meaningless because he’s becoming just like all the others (in the Establishment).”

 

 

But I would add a caveat.  Few if any of the Latin American presidents at the Summit, (with the possible exception of Daniel Ortega, when he was the Sandinista guerrilla leader) have sent men and women into battle to kill and be killed.  They are not the heads of state of the world’s largest military power and self-appointed imperial policeman.  While on the other hand, from the moment that Obama’s hand slipped off the Bible on Inauguration Day, it was awash in blood (he is already responsible, for example, for more civilian deaths in Pakistan that result from U.S. unmanned drone missiles than was President Bush).

 

We should therefore not expect Barack Obama to be anything more than a slightly kinder, gentler enforcer of United States imperial mandates.  That is what he has spent his entire life preparing to do.  We need to realize that it is not “change we can believe in” that we should expect from him, but rather “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”

 

Genuine winds of “change you can believe in” are in fact blowing throughout most of Latin America, especially in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, but also to a lesser degree in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, El Salvador, Paraguay, Chile and Nicaragua.  It is a refreshing breeze, one that North Americans also hunger for but will soon realize that they have been duped once again.

 

Bolivian President Says Plot on His Life Was Tied to Coup Attempt April 19, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Latin America.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

 

Published: April 18, 2009, www.nytimes.com  

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago — Evo Morales, Bolivia’s president, said that a reported attempt to assassinate him last week was linked to a vote in Congress that would allow him to run for re-election, and he suggested the plot was related to a coup attempt last year that led him to expel the American ambassador.

Mr. Morales said earlier last week that an elite police squad shot dead three men in the eastern Bolivian city of Santa Cruz who were involved in a thwarted plot to kill him, his vice president and his chief of staff. They were killed after they opened fire on commandos who tried to enter their hotel room.

On Saturday Mr. Morales said the police had determined the plot involved European mercenaries, with Bolivians aiding in the planning. Investigators are looking into how the suspected plot was organized and financed, with Mr. Morales saying he did not believe that Bolivian businessmen and oligarchs “financed so much money.”

Opponents of Mr. Morales said it was too early to describe the episode as a foiled assassination plot without detailed proof.

Mr. Morales said the episode was related to his five-day hunger strike, which ended Tuesday. He fasted to protest delays in voting on a measure that could allow residents of a gas-rich area to seek administrative autonomy for their provinces and make him eligible for re-election.

He used the bulk of a press conference here to detail the history of what he believes to have been involvement by American officials in attempts to overthrow him. In September he expelled American ambassador Philip S. Goldberg, accusing him of supporting rebellious groups in eastern Bolivia. Mr. Morales also later threw out officials from the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.

Mr. Morales said Saturday that he gave instructions to his vice president to intervene with certain “neo-liberal” groups. Police officers discovered arms, bombs and telescopic sights with silencers, he said.

Early Saturday, at a meeting of 12 South American leaders, the Bolivian president presented Mr. Obama, who was attending at the group’s invitation, with specific information about mercenaries who he said were operating in his country, said Bharrat Jagdeo, the president of Guyana, who attended the session. Mr. Obama responded in the meeting by saying that his administration does not promote the overthrow of any democratically elected head of state nor support assassination of leaders of any country, Mr. Jagdeo said. Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, confirmed the account.

Mr. Morales told reporters after the meeting that if Mr. Obama does not repudiate the alleged plot to kill him, “I might think it was organized through the embassy.”

El Salvador Votes Away Its Bad Past March 20, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in El Salvador, Latin America.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

by Mark Weisbrot

Last Sunday’s election in El Salvador, in which the leftist FMLN (Farabundo Martí Front for National Liberation) won the presidency, didn’t get a lot of attention in the international press. It’s a relatively small country (7 million people on land the size of Massachusetts) and fairly poor (per capita income about half the regional average). And left governments have become the norm in Latin America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela have all elected left governments over the last decade. South America is now more independent of the United States than Europe is.

But the FMLN’s victory in El Salvador has a special significance for this hemisphere.

Central America and the Caribbean have long been the United States’ “back yard” more than anywhere else. The people of the region have paid a terrible price – in blood, poverty and underdevelopment – for their geographical and political proximity to the United States. The list of US interventions in the area would take up the rest of this column, stretching from the 19th century (Cuba, in 1898) to the 21st, with the overthrow of Haiti’s democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide (for the second time) in 2004.

Those of us who can remember the 1980s can see President Ronald Reagan on television warning that “El Salvador is nearer to Texas than Texas is to Massachusetts” as he sent guns and money to the Salvadoran military and its affiliated death squads. Their tens of thousands of targets – for torture, terror and murder – were overwhelmingly civilians, including Catholic priests, nuns and the heroic archbishop Oscar Romero. It seems ridiculous now that Reagan could have convinced the US Congress that the people who won Sunday’s election were not only a threat to our national security, but one that justified horrific atrocities. But he did. At the same time millions of Americans – including many church-based activists – joined a movement to stop US support for the terror, as well as what the United Nations later called genocide in Guatemala, along with the US-backed insurgency in Nicaragua (which was also a war against civilians).

Now we have come full circle. In 2007, Guatemalans elected a social democratic president for the first time since 1954, when the CIA intervened to overthrow the government. Last September, President Zelaya of Honduras – which served as a base for US military and paramilitary operations in the 1980s – joined with Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez when they expelled their US ambassadors. Zelaya defended their actions and postponed the accreditation of the US ambassador to Honduras, saying that “the world powers must treat us fairly and with respect”. In 2006 Nicaraguans elected Daniel Ortega of the Sandinistas, the same president that Washington had spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to topple in the 1980s.

El Salvador’s election was not only another step toward regional independence but a triumph of hope against fear, much as in the US presidential election of 2008. The ruling ARENA party, which was founded by right-wing death squad leader Roberto D’Aubuisson, made fear their brand: fear of another civil war, fear of bad relations with the United States, fear of a “communist dictatorship”. Almost comically, they tried to make the election into a referendum on Hugo Chávez. (Venezuela kept its distance from the election, with no endorsements or statements other than its desire to have good relations with whomever won.)

ARENA was joined by Republican members of Congress from the United States, who tried to promote the idea that Salvadorans – about a quarter of whom live in the US – would face extraordinary problems with immigration and remittances if the FMLN won. Although these threats were completely without merit, the right’s control over the media made them real for many Salvadorans. In the 2004 election the Bush administration joined this effort to intimidate Salvadoran voters, and it helped the right win.

The right’s control over the media, its abuse of government in the elections and its vast funding advantage (there are no restrictions on foreign funding) led José Antonio de Gabriel, the deputy chief of the European Union’s observer mission, to comment on “the absence of a level playing field”. It’s amazing that the FMLN was still able to win, and testimony to the high level of discipline, organisation and self-sacrifice that comes from having a leadership that has survived war and hell on earth.

This time around, the Obama administration, after receiving thousands of phone calls – thanks to the solidarity movement that stems from the 1980s – issued a statement of neutrality on the Friday before the election. The administration appears divided on El Salvador as with the rest of Latin America’s left: at least one of Obama’s highest-level advisors on Latin America favoured the right-wing ruling party. But the statement of neutrality was a clear break from the Bush administration.

El Salvador’s new president, Mauricio Funes – a popular former TV journalist – will face many challenges, especially on the economic front. The country exports 10% of its GDP to the United States, and receives another 18% in remittances from Salvadorans living there. Along with sizeable private investment flows, this makes El Salvador very vulnerable to the deep US recession. El Salvador has also adopted the US dollar as its national currency. This means that it cannot use exchange rate policy and is severely limited in monetary policy to counteract the recession. On top of this, it has recently signed an agreement with the International Monetary Fund that commits the government to not pursuing a fiscal stimulus for this year. And the FMLN will not have a majority in the Congress.

But the majority of Salvadorans, who are poor or near-poor, decided that the left would be more likely than the right to look out for them in hard times. That’s a reasonable conclusion, and one that is shared by most of the hemisphere.

Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), in Washington, DC. His column is distributed to newspapers by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 235 other followers