Wednesday, 25 June 2008

CUBA: The Socialist vs. Capitalist debate

In the past weeks and months people have been trying to work out how far exactly Raúl Castro has been willing to push through reforms. Since he officially took over from his older brother Fidel, certain parts of the economy have been relaxed as to allow Cubans to purchase a whole host of consumer goods along with other small economic liberalizing steps (see "More reforms in Cuba")

Anyway does all this account to the “death knell” of socialist Cuba as we know it and the emergence of a new capitalist state, or rather as rational steps to perfect Cuba’s statist economy. This is the debate that’s been played out in a number of opinion pieces I’ve stumbled across in the British Press of late.

Rory Carroll in his piece highlights the recent abandonment of Cuba’s egalitarian wage system - the idea that a taxi driver should in theory earn as much as say a doctor, or as Marx’s famous maxim goes, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” In the future pay rewards will be based on productivity and efficiency – from each according to his ability to each according to his work - thus curbing the inherent inertia of the Cuban economy. By emphasising continual poverty on the island seeing the Cuban economy as moribund he hints at the dire need of some form rejuvenation of the economy through liberalisation; something he likes to call “perestroikita” in reference to the liberalizing reforms undertaken by Gorbachev in the USSR

Dr. Helen Yeffe is quick to rebuke the perceived notion that Cuba is somehow on the long but inevitable path towards full-flung capitalism. The idea that everyone in Cuba has been paid the same is a myth, with pay rewards and wages dependent on your skills having been in place for decades. She then takes to task the idea that the Cuban economy is in some form of dire straits, showing off various statistics that highlight the impressive growth the Cuban economy has witnessed in the last few years. Of course this is then followed by the age-old pro-Castro argument that stresses the country’s impressive health, education and equality levels as to counteract the poverty levels in Cuba. The new salary incentives have little to with rejuvenating the economy but more as a means to reduce their vulnerability to the global food price crisis.

Finally the Financial Times comes with its own interpretation of recent reforms. All the reforms come under the banner of what is being coined perfeccionamiento empresarial – perfecting the state company system.

Perfeccionamiento empresarial is based on adopting modern management and accounting practices, often gleaned from the study of private corporations, for state-run companies. It grants management more authority over day-to-day decisions and imposes more discipline on workers while also increasing their participation in decisions and incentives for labour.

What this means in practice is hard to glean, but as far as the FT is concerned the debate as to whether Cuba is eschewing socialism in favour of capitalism has been decided.

A debate fostered by Raúl Castro has for now been settled in favour of those who want to improve one of the world’s most statist economies – not dismantle it.

And why should they abandon in a single sweep the foundations of modern day economy. Especially when the FT confirms that the Cuban economy is in such a healthy state.

Foreign exchange earnings are relatively strong due to the export of medical and other professional services – mainly to Venezuela – as well as tourism, high nickel prices and soft Chinese loans.

However we may wish to coin the policy directions of the Cuban economy, and trumpet them as evidence of socialism or capitalism surely this must be secondary to realizing that there never needs to be a one-size-fits-all solution to everything. In reality it is of little importance whether Cuba clings onto socialism, incorporates capitalism or finds some other middle way; as long as it works. I don't know to be quite honest, I just find it increasingly unproducutve for people to always to pigeon-hole things, be it socialism vs capitalism, left-wing vs. right-wing, or other such false dichtomies. Latin America has been awash with the by-products of this, be it Guatemala under Arbenz, Chile under Allende, and now the rise of the 'new Left' throughout much of Latin America. Why waste blood (literally), sweat and tears over labelling such governments one way or the other?

Is Brazil Part of Latin America?

There has never been any contestation that Brazil is somewhat unique amongst the assemblage of Latin American states:
  • It’s Portuguese heritage
  • It’s ability to remain united – rather than splinter into numerous squabbling territories, as happened with the Spanish empire
  • It’s sheer size – population, economy, territory is as large as that of all the other South American countries put together.
So the differences between Brazil and the rest of the Latin American nations are obvious. However, it would be impossible to see Brazil as anything else but an integral part of any study of Latin America? Well so we thought... Leslie Bethell of Oxford University gave a talk the other week at the Institute for the Study of the Americas entitled “Is Brazil part of Latin America?” Well he would say that given that he was director of the Centre for Brazilian Studies - when it is normally commonplace just to lump Brazil in under Latin America.

Simon Bolivar was supposed to be the great instigator for Latin American unity, However his grand vision had nothing to do with Latin American unity as we know it, but rather of a confederación hispanoamericana – a Hispanic confederation that excluded Brazil. Brazil was not Hispanic and seen as intrinsically different from the rest of the Americas:
  • It wasn’t a republic, but a monarchy
  • It still permitted slavery
  • It has closer ties with Europe, something the new Hispanic American republics were at pains to distance themselves from.
Not that Brazil really cared about not being part of this Hispanic American club. It’s Portuguese heritage meant that it was naturally imbued with a hostile attitude towards anything related to Spain. This along with a sense of superiority meant that Brazilians were quite happy to be excluded.

In the late 19th century, with the dreams of a unified Hispanic Americas long gone, the notion of Latin America did grow as an idea, especially amongst Latin American intellectuals. They sought to focus on the similarities across the Latin American continent as a counterweight to the increasing dominance and interventionism of the US and its of ides of American (North + South) unity through the a US-led Panamericansim.

However well up into the 20th century Brazil was still seen as a non-integral part of Latin America. In an era of fervent anti-Americanism in Latin America, Brazil persistently remained less critical of the US and was of the US’s more reliable allies. Furthermore Brazil continued to perceive itself unique and indeed superior from the rest of Latin America.

Arguably Leslie Bethall had indeed made a persuasive historical argument as to how Brazil had differentiated itself from the rest of Latin America. However he continued to argue that still today Brazil is markedly different from the rest of Latin America, is still perceived so by Brazilians themselves and that it ultimately deserves to be studied as a completely different entity in exclusion from Latin America. I think this was the point at which most people in the audience would have started to take issue with him.

The interconnectedness of Latin American countries – Brazil included – is plain to see. Brazil borders almost all South American nations, and in today’s world can’t not be influenced, culturally, economically, politically by the rest of Latin America and vice versa. Aside from a difference in language, there is no doubt in my mind, that Brazil is an integral part of Latin America. Yes there are many things which are unique to Brazil, and yes Brazilians will no doubt from time to time see themselves as unique and superior to the rest of the neighbours. But you need just to take a trip over the river Plate to realize that the Argentineans are just as capable, if not more so, in espousing a sense of difference and a superiority with the rest of the continent. Brazil’s leadership in MERCOSUR and the recently unveiled Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) only highlights its attempt to place itself, if not at the centre of Latin America, then at least South America – Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean already seem locked into the US sphere of dominance.

Critics may well turn around and say – and Leslie Bethall would be one of them – that Brazilian leadership is not much wanted amongst South American nations, who view these attempts of regional unity with Brazil at their helm as merely a means to help Brazil to propel itself onto the world stage…

This has been quote a long post…thank you if you’ve managed to get this far. I’ll finish with a few comments by former Brazilian President on this very issue - “Brazil: A Latin American Nation?” - that seem to underscore my point of view as well.

Despite differing colonial histories, languages and state institutions, Brazil does indeed share a relation with Latin America. […] Along with some cultural, geographical, and ideological traits, Brazil and other Latin American nations share a position on the “periphery” of the modern globalized world. […] We belong to Latin America […] We feel at ease in Latin America. (The Washington Institute for International Studies, 14/03/2007)

Friday, 20 June 2008

South American World Cup Qualification - 6th Round

Whilst Brazil's former coach was getting knocked out of Euro 2008 with Portugal, his former side weren't making much progress back in South America. Brazil played out a dreary 0-0 draw against arch-rivals Argentina in the so-called clásico. A result that now leaves them in 5th place in the South American qualification table for the 2010 World Cup. Of course the Brazilian press were quick to pile the criticism on Brazil's coach Dunga

The Brazilian media were in no doubt as to who was responsible for the Canarinha's unsatisfactory showing. The harshest criticism came from Lance!, which ran with a cover featuring Dunga's head inside a noose and topped by the headline "Hung". "Brazil draw with Argentina as the fans vent their fury on coach - Zico now the popular choice," fumed the sports daily.O'Globo also registered its displeasure on its website. "Dunga gets the donkey treatment as off-key Brazil draw 0-0 with Argentina," ran the merciless headline. Publishing a photo of Ronaldinho in the stands at the Estadio Mineirao, the website added that the Barcelona man and Kaka were sorely missed, stating that "without them the future looks bleak". With Brazil's other stars having another off day, O'Globo also remarked on the warm applause Lionel Messi received when he was substituted.Running with a front page photo of a closely marked Adriano trapping the ball on his chest, Jornal do Brasil opted for a short but no less powerful headline: "270 minutes without a goal". The online version of the paper was just as critical: "Even with the Mineirao right behind them, Brazil were incapable of beating Argentina. To cap it all, the fans chanted 'Dunga out' as he made his way off the pitch. All in all, a sad goodbye for a coach who had stakedeverything on this game."Joining in the chorus of disapproval was Folha de Sao Paulo. "What a miserable clásico", it complained before highlighting the fans' displeasure: "The crowd whistled the team and demanded Dunga's sacking." (source:

Otherwise results of note included group leaders Paraguay losing 4-2 to Bolivia. Bottom spot in the group now belongs to Peru after being 6-0 thumping by Uruguay. And Chile have now displaced Brazil from the important 4th place spot - the top 4 teams qualify for the World Cup -with an exciting 3-2 away win to Venezuela.

  • Brazil vs Argentina: 0-0
  • Venezuela vs Chile: 2-3
  • Ecuador vs Colombia: 0-0
  • Uruguay vs Peru: 6-0
  • Bolivia vs Paraguay 4-2


  1. Paraguay.....13 pts
  2. Argentina....11 pts
  3. Colombia.....10 pts
  4. Chile.............10 pts
  5. Brazil.............9 pts
  6. Uruguay........8 pts
  7. Venezuela.....7 pts
  8. Ecuador.........5 pts
  9. Bolivia............4 pts
  10. Peru...............3 pts

Here is a good youtube video with all the highligts from this weeks' games. Disfrutenlo!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Latin America Pays for the Price for Fuel Subsidy

Before sitting down in the library, to get on with my dissertation reading, I quickly paged through the Financial Times – one of the few, if only, British newspapers that tends to print interesting Latin American politics/economic articles. Today there was an interesting analysis piece about how Latin American governments are facing increasing pressures to cut fuel subsidies in the face of the ever-increasing oil prices. “Latin America pays the Price for Fuel Subsidy.”

Here in the U.K. a day doesn’t go by without further doom and gloom reports about the negative effects oil price increases are having on the average Brit, especially as they go to fill-up at the petrol station. A news story that is being played out across much of the world.

However in Latin America - as had been the case, up until recently, in Asia – governments have been subsidising petrol prices to tune of some ridiculously large billion-dollar sum. In this way Latin American motorists can still enjoy petrol prices a little as 5p a litre, whilst the rest of the world’s motorists have to dig deeper and deeper into their pockets to fill up their cars.

source: The Financial Times 17/06/2008

Why are they doing this? Perhaps Latin American governments are aware of the vital importance access to cheap petrol is for so many of their citizens. Any sudden increase in prices will surely effect these nations in more ominous ways than we in the West would be effected by such price changes. The FT rarely does economics with a ‘human face’ so these issues don’t get much of a mention in the FT piece. However what they do focus on are the possible consequences a sudden increase in petrol prices may have on inflation.

The reason for the lack of reform is pretty clear. Of all regions in the world, Latin America has most reason to fear the effects of inflation. During the 1970s, 80s and early 90s the pace and scale of price rises corroded the social fabric of many countries. Inflation rates of 100 per cent a year were commonplace, wrecking the ability of governments and businesses to plan for the future. As Guillermo Ortiz, the governor of the Mexican Central Bank, said: “Latin America has gone through high inflation for so long. Lowering the rate has been a cherished achievement.” In Chile, which imports almost all of its fuel needs and where annual inflation was running at 8.9 per cent in May – three times the central bank’s target – the new price subsidies will cut that rate by 0.3 percentage points, according to Angel Cabrera, a local consultant.

An interesting point.

However as the price for oil rises, the subsidies have to increase, and are subsequentlybecoming a conseiderable fiscal burden, which in itself may well curtail government spending in other important areas. The question is whether this outweighs the threat of higher inflation and the problems that would arise from that?

The FT ends by highlighting how cheap access to petrol does little to motivate a lower use of petrol in the long-run, something which mus be a desirable end in itself - be it to combat climate change, to free up some of Latin America’s clogged up innercity roads etc.

More seriously, the subsidies are distorting incentives. While higher oil prices have stimulated many developed countries to save energy and make more efficient use of resources, there has been no sign yet of this happening in Latin America. In Venezuela, for example, domestic petrol consumption is estimated to have doubled over the last five years to around 600,000 barrels a day. The low cost also creates incentives for smugglers, who sell petrol across the border in Colombia, where fuel is much more expensive.

Monday, 16 June 2008

South American World Cup Qualification - 5th Round

So whilst the major European soccer power (minus England, I guess) slug it out for the European championship this summer, South American nations took another step in their long and arduous qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup. Up until now, after 4 games, the story had been of Paraguay leading the way with 10 points, and I guess of Brazil still not having started to fire on all cylinders, with only 2 wins from 4 games.

Well yesterday’s 5th round of qualifying matches emphasised those points with Paraguay stunning the Brazilians with a 2-0 victory in Asuncion. With plenty of games still to go and the first 4 teams guaranteed qualification there is no need to push the Brazilian panic button quite yet, but still…

Otherwise it’s a case of ‘as you were’ with all 3 of the ties ending in draws and Bolivia predictably losing to their age-old enemies Chile in La Paz – so much for the advantage of altitude. And also of note is Venezuela's progress. They're normally the team cemented to the bottom, given how Baseball probably overrides football as their national sport.

Bolivia vs. Chile 0-2
Argentina vs. Ecuador 1-1
Peru vs. Colombia 1-1
Uruguay vs. Venezuela 1-1
Paraguay vs. Brazil 2-0
The table now looks a bit like this:
1. Paraguay 13 pts
2. Argentina 10 pts
3. Colombia 9 pts
4. Brazil 8 pts
5. Venzuela 7 pts
6. Chile 7 pts
7. Uruguay 5 pts
8. Ecuador 4 pts
9. Peru 3 pts
10. Bolivia 1 pt
Below are a few youtube video highligths of the differetn games. The quailty isn't great but the audio commentary is as outrageously South American as one could hope for. Enjoy...
Paraguay vs. Brazil: 2-0

Argentina vs. Ecuador: 1-1

Bolivia vs. Chile: 0-2

Peru vs. Colombia: 1-1

Uruguay vs. Venezuela: 1-1

The next round of games take place later this week with the obvious highlight being the battle of the titans- Brazil vs Argentina. Paraguay should also be looking to consolidate thier lead at the top of the table with a relatively easy game against the Bolivians. But I'll make sure to let you all know how they got on.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Hugo Chavez and the 'U-Turn'

So there I was in my previous post - "Good News, Bad News; from the Havana-Caracas Axis" -trying to paint Hugo Chavez into a less than agreeable corner. Well this weekend the news coming out of Caracas is that Chavez has made significant, positive U-turns on two contentious policy issues.

First off he has called upon FARC to end their struggle and release all their hostages. Quite a turn around from a few months ago when he was trying to get the rest of the international community to see FARC, not as terrorist organisation but as a legitimate army. This, of course, did little to help Venezuelan – Colombian relations.

Mr Chavez, whom Colombia has accused of financing the Farc, said they were "out of step" and their war was "history". In his weekly television and radio programme on Sunday, Mr Chavez urged the Farc's new leader, Alfonso Cano, to "let all these people go". "There are old folk, women, sick people, soldiers who have been prisoners in the mountain for 10 years," he added. The Venezuelan president said ending the rebellion could lead to a peace process between the rebels and the Colombian government. "The guerrilla war is history," he said. "At this moment in Latin America, an armed guerrilla movement is out of place." ('End Struggle, Chavez urges FARC', BBC News 09/06/2008)

Secondly Chavez has agreed to change the so-called ‘spy law’ that had proven so controversial.

He acknowledged "errors" in the newly enacted Law on Intelligence and Counterintelligence and will fix them to assure it fully complies with Venezuela's Constitution. He gave examples and cited Article 16 that cites the possibility of prison terms for persons not cooperating with intelligence services. It's a "mistake," said Chavez and "not a small (one)." The new intelligence services won't oblige anyone to inform on others. Doing so is "overstepping," and "I assume responsibility" for the error and will fix it. He continued: "Where we make mistakes, we must accept this and not defend the indefensible....I guarantee to the country, in Venezuela (this law will assault) no one! And no one will be obliged to say more than they want to say....(We) will never attack the freedom of Venezuelans, independently of their political positions. one of the slogans of our socialism." ("Chavez Revising, Not Revoking Venezuela's New Intelligence Law" - Baltimore Chronicle & Sentinel 09/06/2008)

This is all very well, but what I think is most worrying about Chavez’s running of Venezuela has more to do with his mismanagement of the Venezuelan economy. An economy which should be booming given the state of record-high oil prices. He may wish to redistribute wealth and create as much social justice as he want, but this is no good without the sound management of an economy that ist as inflation-hit and unattractive to investment as is the case right now.

With the country's most recent statistics showing consumer price rises of 29.1% in the 12 months to the end of March - the highest rate of increase in Latin America - now might not be the best time for inflation-busting pay deals. But on 1 May, Mr Chavez gave public sector workers an across-the-board salary increase of 30%. [...] GDP grew at a rate of 10.3% in both 2005 and 2006, but this slowed to 8.4% in 2007, while the respected survey organisation Consensus Economics forecasts that it will grow by just 5.6% in 2008. [...] Instead of investing in PDVSA to increase production, the government has used the firm as a cash cow, milking its funds to finance social programmes. [...] There is strong evidence that Mr Chavez's nationalisation programme, which has also extended to electricity, telecoms and the cement industry, is frightening off foreign investors. None of this appears to be doing ordinary Venezuelans any good. The lack of investment has left industry unable to keep up with growing consumer demand, while price controls imposed by Mr Chavez on about 400 basic goods have led to food shortages. ("Chavez in pre-election cash spree" BBC News 26/05/2008)

As the age-old saying goes, "it's about the economy stupid!" So whilst we can argue back and forth about his democratic credentials, his ability to do the right thing with regard to terrorist groups in neighbouring countries, his ability to maximize Venezuelan growth as a means to enhance sustainable development is what really mattes. And on that front he does seem to be someway off the mark for now.
For more on the issues I've mentioned, check out this piece in the International Herald Tribune, "Timely reversals show Chávez's political instincts"

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Good News, Bad News - from the ‘Havana-Caracas Axis’

Not long after Bush, Rumfelds et. al., creation of the so-called ‘Axis of Evil’ it became commonplace to come up with a whole host of other minor axes that were concocting various threats to US power. The ‘Havana – Caracas’ Axis is a case in point. An axis that joined the scheming socialist plans of Castro and Chavez, into some form of simmering Caribbean cocktail of menace. For more on this do read this paper, The Cuba-Venezuela Alliance: “Emancipatory neo-Bolivarismo or Totalitarian Expansion?

However, things aren’t as simplistic as this. Instead of a single narrative that highlights the increasing reality of this ‘Havana-Caracas Axis’ it seems that in recent months two slightly diverging narratives are taking place. One that exemplifies that spate of positive reforms undertaken by Raul Castro in Cuba. The other where Hugo Chavez remains demonized as the leader-in-chief of the ‘Bad Left’ taking the continent down a dark and well-trodden path towards inevitable failure. Read Obama’s recent view on Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela

No wonder, then, that demagogues like Hugo Chavez have stepped into this vacuum. His predictable yet perilous mix of anti-American rhetoric, authoritarian government, and checkbook diplomacy offers the same false promise as the tried and failed ideologies of the past. But the United States is so alienated from the rest of the Americas that this stale vision has gone unchallenged, and has even made inroads from Bolivia to Nicaragua (Remarks of Senator Obama: Renewing U.S. leadership in the Americas 23/05/08)

Every week now it seems as if yet another piece of Chavez legislation is branded about by the world press to exemplify his anti-democratic, anti-freedom credentials and entrench the ‘Bad Left’ narrative that Chavez personifies. This week for example it was all about,

a new intelligence law brought in by Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez has caused concern among rights groups who say it threatens civil liberties (BBC News 07/06/2008)

On the flip side, a week doesn’t seem to go by without a tale ofet more Cuban reforms that vary from allowing ordinary Cubans access to mobile phones to the implementation of gradual free-market policies. This week, news coming out of Havana highlights the change in attitude toward gay rights,

with reforms that could give Cuba the most liberal gay rights in Latin America, says the BBC's Michael Voss in Havana (BBC News 07/06/2008)

This cobbled together with the reaching out of Presidential hopeful, Obama, towards the Cuban regime, indicates a narrative that emphasizes how Fidel’s little brother Raul is far more likely to bring Cuba back into the international fold, and how bit by bit he is transforming the country for the better.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Castles in the Sand: A prediction of more economic turmoil in Argentina

Here is a news article from the The Development Executive Group that popped into my inbox this morning. Unfortunately it predicts more economic turmoil for turmoil-ridden country. Headlines shouting out “Farming Crisis” have been staring me in the face from the Financial Times and The Economist alike, the last few weeks. Yet it’s with trepidation that I even begin to embark on understanding the complexities and , for some, the irrationality that seemingly forever embeds Argentine macroeconomic policies. But it has to be done…

But anyway here's a nice easy analogy for Argentine economics to get us going.

"Argentina is like a kid who makes a really good sand castle at the beach, takes
a lot of care in building it just right, then steps on it himself. Things have
been good recently. Now we have to put a question mark on everything."

-- Taxi driver Jose Luis Baldini, 60, voicing a bleak notion that has become conventional wisdom for many in Argentina here: Good times never seem to last. Today's Argentina is not gripped by crisis but rather by the fear of crisis, the Washington Post reports. Several strikes by farmers, furious over government policies, have sparked concerns about lasting damage to the economy. Many Argentines have been exchanging their pesos for dollars, forcing the government to dip into its surplus to keep the currency stable. Consumers, told that their government faces a shortage of natural gas, are bracing for blackouts. As recently as February, the government had been buying up vast quantities of dollars to keep the peso's value artificially low -- a strategy designed to boost exports and domestic investment. But after the farm conflict began, Argentines traded millions of pesos for dollars and forced the government to flip its strategy: It's now dipping into its USD 50 billion reserve fund to prop up the value of the peso, the Post reports. "The government right now is fighting the people who bring the dollars into this country, namely the farmers," said Alejandro Marino, 49, a lawyer in Buenos Aires. "Despite what the government is saying, there are clear signs that there will be a shortage of dollars here one day."

Global Development Briefing - Castles in the Sand

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Me and My 'Mate'

The first thing any Argentine ex-pat most do upon arrival in the new foreign homeland is seek out their nearest yerba mate supplier. Having spent the best part of year out in the Argentine hinterland, I couldn’t not bring back with me my own mate set along with a 4 kilos of the yerba. With great diligence and extreme rationing this was able to get me going through my first year away from the Argentina. However for the past many months, with my supply depleted, my mate has found itself lost & lonely in some forgotten corner of a kitchen shelf.

Admittedly my search for mate in London hasn’t been as earnest as it could have been. Surely there is a large enough Argentine ex-pat community in London to warrant some form of mate outlet? Well luck had it that whilst wandering the cobbled streets of Oxford, I was able to stumble upon a specialist tea & coffee store that sold yerba, albeit of the Brazilian variety.

So I probably paid an extortionate price - £2.75 for a small bag of 250g – but now I can feel that yerba caffeine kick which has gotten me through countless last-minute essay writing situations in the past. Coffee just doesn’t quite do it.

But if anyone does know of where to get cheap yerba in London, do drop me a line…

Photos - courtesy of Mikko Takkunen

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Racism in Bolivia

Anti-indigenous racism has become an increasingly evident subtext to the political divide that is gradually pulling Bolivia apart.

Last week in Sucre this boiled over on the night before Evo Morales’ visit to the city. Organized groups, antagonistic to Evo Morales and the MAS party started to provoke disturbances and challenge the police and the army. With Morales’ visit cancelled, the army and police forced off the streets and the organised gangs were able to vent their anger towards the groups of indigenous peasants who had travelled to Sucre to welcome the President.

For a full explanation of how the disturbances unfold it is worth reading this article: Bolivian Racism Runs Amok in Bolivia.

Or you can take a look at this video footage, though you have to fast forward ca. 1 min into the video before anything appears

Monday, 2 June 2008

Two More Bolivian Regions 'Back Autonomy'

News Update from Bolivia.

This Sunday, the inevitable march towards heightened regional divide in Bolivia was cemented with yet two more regions in Bolivia – Beni and Pando – voting overwhelmingly to declare further autonomy from the central government.

Whilst local citizens took the streets in celebration, the central government tried - as in the Santa Cruz province a couple of weeks back – to call the election illegal and unconstitutional and somehow draw some grain of solace from the ‘high’ levels of absenteeism. As one government minister Alfredo Rada optimistically tried to put it, "en el departamento de Pando, podemos decir con toda claridad que este intento ilegal e inconstitucional de imponer estatutos ha sido firmemente rechazado por el pueblo pandino". And added, "el pueblo dijo autonomía SÍ pero estatutos NO".

In a few weeks it’ll be the turn of the Tarija department (the last of the so-called ‘Media Luna’ group) to go down this predictable electoral path in their own autonomy vote.

How in the world will Evo Morales and the central government ever be able to reconcile the yawning geographic divide that is driving this country apart? If you think the problems are bad now, I’m sure they could get a whole lot more conflictive if Evo Morales survives the recall referendum on his presidency (penciled in for August) and then pushes for the public referendum on his draft constitution. A constitution that was approved last year by his MAS party, but conveniently boycotted by the opposition politicians who are now behind this regional autonomy move.

Unfortunately along with this geographic divide, a more serious anti-indigenous racial divide continues to be unleashed. But more on this later…