Thursday, 21 August 2008

Bolivia Election: Post-Mortem

It's been almost two weeks since the recall referendum took place in Bolivia. I have been wanting to comment on it for a while now, but a mixture of being stuck with my dissertation, transfixed to the TV watching the Olympics, working 9-5 as in intern with, and last but not least, without Internet connection has meant that I've been somewhat incapable of posting anything of relevance of late.

So anyway it was meant to be ‘make or break’ time for President Evo Morales. I for one harboured doubts as to whether he would be able to win over the electorate given that Bolivia seems to be on the brink of internal collapse.
Opposition leaders in Santa Cruz et.el (or the "Media Luna" as the best known by) have been relentless in their critique of Evo Morales, and the international media has been quick to catch onto images of protests, blockades and violent skirmishes.
However, the fact that Morales won a resounding 67% of the vote and even encroaching upon the popularity of the “Media Luna” regional leaders (whose leadership was also up for re-election), shows that underneath the surface, the Bolivian majority still believe in giving Morales and his indigenous/socialist/resource-nationalist experiment a chance.

Anyway for a far better analysis of where the recall referendum leaves Bolivia, there is no one better than Jim Shultz (head of the NGO 'The Democracy Centre') and his “Blog from Bolivia” and his post, "Bolivia Election: Post Mortem"

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Violent Outbreaks in Santa Cruz

The Bolivian government seeks to charge opposition prefect Ruben Costas for stirring up violence over the weekend in Santa Cruz as rifts between the government and the “media luna” department heighten.

Santa Cruz’s chief of police, Wilge Obleas, has been forced to stand down on medical grounds, after having suffered injuries in the violent attacks that marred Santa Cruz this weekend. In the wake of the police forcefully removing protestors from a YPFB installation, disturbances broke out between the police force and radical autonomists, including the Unión Juvenil Cruceñista (UJC), resulting in more than 20 people being wounded. The government has since accused Rúben Costas and president of the civic committee Branco Marincovik for the subsequent attacks on the police headquarters in Santa Cruz, in what it sees as calculated attempt to provoke increasing levels of violence in the opposition-led department and undermine the national police force. Santa Cruz prefect Rubén Costas, however, lays the blame at the government’s feet and is now demanding that any future police chief be accountable to him and not the national governemt. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen how any judicial proceedings will brought against the Costas and Marincovik given the legal vacuum at the top of Bolivia’s judiciary due to vacancies in key judicial institutions, or whether this is an conscious attempt by the government to isolate Rúben Costas after “media luna’s” disappointing results in the recall referendum.

In the aftermath of last week’s recall referendum, which resulted in Evo Morles having secured more than 67% of the vote, there has been a move by the Bolivian government to increase the dialogue with the “media luna” departments. The fact that Evo Morales was able to increase his vote in all four of the opposition-held departments, with a majority of Bolivians supporting him in previously hostile departments of Tarija and Pando, has weakened the mandate of the “media luna” in their bid for increased autonomy.

The rift between the central government and the “media luna” is set to deepen with opposition leaders in the 5 departments planning general strikes for next Tuesday. The regional opposition leaders are demanding that the government retract the move to redirect the IDH revenues that previously went to the regions themselves. The government uses this additional tax revenue to fund a nation-wide pension plan. The gas rich department, on the hand, believe that the loss of revenue will limit their ability to carry out important regional projects.

Monday, 4 August 2008

History Repeating Itself?

Here are a few exercts from an article I found in the International Herald Tribune. Of course there is nothing to worry about, but isn't this all so reminsicent of the early 1960s and the run-up to the Cuban Missile Crisis?

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is calling for Russia to regain its influence with Cuba, a former Cold War ally of the Soviet Union, Russian news reports said Monday.

The statement was made amid persistent speculation about whether Russia was seeking a military presence in a country just 150 kilometers, or 90 miles, from the United States in response to U.S. plans to place parts of a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. It is not a secret that the West is creating a 'buffer zone' around Russia, involving countries in central Europe, the Caucasus, the Baltic states and Ukraine," the agency quoted Leonid Ivashov, the head of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, as saying. "In response, we may expand our military presence abroad, including in Cuba."Russia opposes U.S. plans to put missile-defense elements in eastern Europe, saying the facilities are aimed at undermining Russia's missile potential. Russia has threatened an unspecified "military technical" response if the plans go through.

Last month, the Defense Ministry denied a major Russian newspaper's report that the country was considering placing nuclear-capable bombers in Cuba - a move that would have echoed the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.