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BOLVIA: Fighting for the Right to Chew Coca

Fighting for the Right to Chew Coca

Monday, Mar. 17, 2008 By JEAN FRIEDMAN-RUDOVSKY/LA PAZ

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Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela have avoided war, but now two other Andean nations are gearing up for battle. This time the foe is the United Nations, and the cause is the right to chew coca, the raw material of cocaine. It may not sound as important as the diplomatic row that shook the region earlier this month. But the dispute is momentous for millions of people in Bolivia and Peru — where the coca leaf is sacred to indigenous culture and a tonic of modern life — and for anti-drug officials in the U.S. and other countries who are desperate to stem the relentless flow of cocaine. Says Silvia Rivera, a sociology professor at San Andres University in Bolivia’s capital, La Paz, “This is the most aggressive attack [Bolivians] have faced” since the U.N. designated coca a drug in 1961.

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The latest affront, they say, is a recommendation this month from the UN’s drug enforcement watchdog, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), that Bolivia and Peru criminalize the practice of chewing coca and drinking its tea. The move has provoked widespread anger and street protests in the two countries, especially among the majority indigenous populations. For them, coca has been a cultural cornerstone for 3,000 years, as much a part of daily life as coffee in the U.S. (La Paz is home to perhaps the world’s only coca museum.) From the countryside to swanky urban hotels, it is chewed or brewed to stave off hunger or exhaustion or to ease the often debilitating effects of high-altitude life in the Andes. It is also “used by healers and in ceremonial offerings to the gods,” says Ana Maria Chavez, a coca seller in La Paz, who refers to her product as “the sacred leaf.” Pope John Paul II even drank coca tea on a 1988 visit to Bolivia. It is, says Chavez, “part of who we are.”

The problem is, it’s also considered the building block of broken lives in the rest of the world, where cocaine consumption and addiction remain rampant in developed regions like North America and Europe. The U.S. has spent more than $5 billion this decade aiding Colombia’s largely failed efforts to eradicate coca cultivation. Meanwhile, Washington and the U.N. have tried to get Bolivia and Peru to reduce their coca crops to the bare minimum for traditional consumption. Peru and Bolivia are the region’s second and third largest coca producers, behind Colombia, with about more than 75,000 hectares (185,000 acres) under cultivation, or almost half of global supply.

The 1961 U.N. convention called for coca’s elimination by the late 1980s. A new accord struck in 1988 recognized the plant’s traditional attributes and allowed for limited local use, while anti-narcotics forces continued to work to wipe out coca’s drug-related cultivation, destroy the labs that process it into cocaine and intercept traffickers. But this month’s INCB report seeks to end that uneasy arrangement. A big reason is that despite the decades-long, multi-billion-dollar drug war in Latin America, cocaine production has remained stable at best. Criminalizing even traditional coca use may be the only means agencies like the INCB feel they have left to salvage the anti-drug mission. Consuming the raw, unprocessed leaf, says the INCB report, abets “the progression of drug dependence.”

Critics of the report call that conclusion an absurd stretch, especially since there is no published evidence that the coca leaf itself is toxic or addictive. Foremost among the detractors is left-wing Bolivian President Evo Morales, who remains head of one of the country’s largest coca-growing unions and was elected as Bolivia’s first indigenous head of state in 2005 in part because of his defense of the leaf. “This leaf,” Morales said at last year’s U.N. General Assembly, holding one up at the podium, “represents… the hope of our people.” Bolivia accounts for about 17% of worldwide coca supply and Morales gets much of the international blame for coca’s persistence. But while critics like the U.S may call him disingenuous for arguing that coca and cocaine are apples and oranges — analysts say that despite government efforts, much of the coca grown in Bolivia ends up in drug cartels’ hands — he has also helped lead what experts like Rivera call “a revaluation of the coca leaf.” “Many people,” says the sociologist, “have begun to rediscover its nutritional and medicinal benefits.”

Indeed, several international studies, including one published by Harvard University, say that raw coca is loaded with protein, calcium, iron and a range of vitamins. As a result, Morales has encouraged a local industry, with an eye to exporting, that is turning coca into everything from flour to toothpaste, shampoo and curative lotions. (Morales sent Fidel Castro a coca cake for his 80th birthday last year.) Even as the INCB was issuing its report, the Bolivian government was reaffirming its desire to increase Bolivia’s legal coca crop limit from 12,000 hectares (30,000 acres) to 20,000 hectares (49,000 acres). The Bush Administration has warned that the latter move would put Bolivia in violation of its international agreements — it is “not consistent with Bolivia’s obligations,” said the State Department — and risk tens of millions of dollars in U.S. aid.

Seemingly undeterred, Bolivia said this month it was also set to invest another $300,000 for developing new, legal coca markets. Not surprisingly, the Bolivian delegation was the first to issue what it called an “energetic protest” against the INCB’s recommendations during the agency’s annual meeting this week in Vienna. It also put forward a proposal to remove coca from the U.N.’s narcotics list. That’s not likely to happen. The big question is whether the U.N. will adopt the INCB proposal — which would essentially leave Bolivia and Peru in breach of international law if they continue to allow coca’s non-narcotic use and commercialization. That in turn could result in the U.N. calling for commercial or other embargoes against them.

Many Bolivians say they don’t care. “My grandfather and my grandmother sold coca and I’ve been doing it for 48 years,” says Josefina Rojas, another La Paz coca seller. “We aren’t going to let them take coca away from us no matter what.” Such is the latest Andean conundrum. One that might be harder to solve than a potential war.

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1722893,00.html

March 26, 2008 Posted by | Bolivia, Imperialism, Morales | , | Leave a comment

BOLIVIA: US Tax Dollars Foment Unrest in Bolivia

Bush Spending U.S. Tax Dollars to Foment Unrest in Bolivia
By Benjamin Dangl, The Progressive
Posted on March 10, 2008, Printed on March 10, 2008
http://www.alternet.org/story/77572/

A thick fence, surveillance cameras, and armed guards protect the U.S. Embassy in La Paz. The embassy is a tall, white building with narrow slits of windows that make it look like a military bunker. After passing through a security checkpoint, I sit down with U.S. Embassy spokesman Eric Watnik and ask if the embassy is working against the socialist government of Evo Morales. “Our cooperation in Bolivia is apolitical, transparent, and given directly to assist in the development of the country,” Watnik tells me. “It is given to benefit those who need it most.”

From the Bush Administration’s perspective, that turns out to mean Morales’s opponents. Declassified documents and interviews on the ground in Bolivia prove that the Bush Administration is using U.S. taxpayers’ money to undermine the Morales government and coopt the country’s dynamic social movements–just as it has tried to do recently in Venezuela and traditionally throughout Latin America.

Much of that money is going through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). In July 2002, a declassified message from the U.S. embassy in Bolivia to Washington included the following message: “A planned USAID political party reform project aims at implementing an existing Bolivian law that would . . . over the long run, help build moderate, pro-democracy political parties that can serve as a counterweight to the radical MAS or its successors.” MAS refers to Morales’s party, which, in English, stands for Movement Toward Socialism.

Morales won the presidency in December 2005 with 54 percent of the vote, but five regional governments went to rightwing politicians. After Morales’s victory, USAID, through its Office of Transition Initiatives, decided “to provide support to fledgling regional governments,” USAID documents reveal.

Throughout 2006, four of these five resource-rich lowland departments pushed for greater autonomy from the Morales-led central government, often threatening to secede from the nation. U.S. funds have emboldened them, with the Office of Transition Initiatives funneling “116 grants for $4,451,249 to help departmental governments operate more strategically,” the documents state.

“USAID helps with the process of decentralization,” says Jose Carvallo, a press spokesperson for the main rightwing opposition political party, Democratic and Social Power. “They help with improving democracy in Bolivia through seminars and courses to discuss issues of autonomy.”

“The U.S. Embassy is helping this opposition,” agrees Raul Prada, who works for Morales’s party. Prada is sitting down in a crowded La Paz cafe and eating ice cream. His upper lip is black and blue from a beating he received at the hands of Morales’s opponents while Prada was working on the new constitutional assembly. “The ice cream is to lessen the swelling,” he explains. The Morales government organized this constitutional assembly to redistribute wealth from natural resources and guarantee broader access to education, land, water, gas, electricity, and health care for the country’s poor majority. I had seen Prada in the early days of the Morales administration. He was wearing an indigenous wiphala flag pin and happily chewing coca leaves in his government office. This time, he wasn’t as hopeful. He took another scoop of ice cream and continued: “USAID is in Santa Cruz and other departments to help fund and strengthen the infrastructure of the rightwing governors.”

In August 2007, Morales told a diplomatic gathering in La Paz, “I cannot understand how some ambassadors dedicate themselves to politics, and not diplomacy, in our country. . . . That is not called cooperation. That is called conspiracy.” Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera said that the U.S. Embassy was funding the government’s political opponents in an effort to develop “ideological and political resistance.” One example is USAID’s financing of Juan Carlos Urenda, an adviser to the rightwing Civic Committee, and author of the Autonomy Statute, a plan for Santa Cruz’s secession from Bolivia.

“There is absolutely no truth to any allegation that the U.S. is using its aid funds to try and influence the political process or in any way undermine the government,” says State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey. USAID officials point out that this support has gone to all Bolivian governors, not just those in the opposition. Despite Casey’s assertion, this funding has been controversial. On October 10, Bolivia’s supreme court approved a decree that prohibits international funding of activities in Bolivia without state regulation. One article in the law explains that Bolivia will not accept money with political or ideological strings attached.

In Bolivia, where much of the political muscle is in the streets with social organizations and unions, it’s not enough for Washington to work only at levels of high political power. They have to reach the grassroots as well. One USAID official told me by e-mail that the Office of Transition Initiatives “launched its Bolivia program to help reduce tensions in areas prone to social conflict (in particular El Alto) and to assist the country in preparing for upcoming electoral events.”

To find out how this played out on the ground, I meet with El Alto-based journalist Julio Mamani in the Regional Workers’ Center in his city, which neighbors La Paz.

“There was a lot of rebellious ideology and organizational power in El Alto in 2003,” Mamani explains, referring to the populist uprising that overthrew President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada. “So USAID strengthened its presence in El Alto, and focused their funding and programs on developing youth leadership. Their style of leadership was not based on the radical demands of the city or the horizontal leadership styles of the unions. They wanted to push these new leaders away from the city’s unions and into hierarchical government positions.”

The USAID programs demobilized the youth. “USAID always took advantage of the poverty of the people,” Mamani says. “They even put up USAID flags in areas alongside the Bolivian flag and the wiphala.”

It was not hard to find other stories of what the U.S. government had been doing to influence economics and politics in Bolivia. Luis Gonzalez, an economics student at the University of San Simon in Cochabamba, describes a panel he went to in 2006 that was organized by the Millennium Foundation. That year, this foundation received $155,738 from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) through the Center for International Private Enterprise, a nonprofit affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Gonzalez, in glasses and a dark ponytail, described a panel that focused on criticizing state control of the gas industry (a major demand of social movements). “The panelists said that foreign investment and production in Bolivia will diminish if the gas remains under partial state control,” says Gonzalez. “They advocated privatization, corporate control, and pushed neoliberal policies.”

That same year, the NED funded another $110,134 to groups in Bolivia through the Center for International Private Enterprise to, according to NED documents, “provide information about the effects of proposed economic reforms to decision-makers involved in the Constituent Assembly.” According to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by muckraker Jeremy Bigwood, the NED also funded programs that brought thirteen young “emerging leaders” from Bolivia to Washington between 2002 and 2004 to strengthen their rightwing political parties. The MAS, and other leftist parties, were not invited to these meetings.

The U.S. Embassy even appears to be using Fulbright scholars in its effort to undermine the Bolivian government. One Fulbright scholar in Bolivia, who wished to remain anonymous, explained that during recent orientation meetings at the embassy in La Paz, “a member of the U.S. Embassy’s security apparatus requested reports back to the embassy with detailed information if we should encounter any Venezuelans or Cubans in the field.” Both Venezuela and Cuba provide funding, doctors, and expertise to support their socialist ally Morales. The student adds that the embassy’s request “contradicts the Fulbright program’s guidelines, which prohibit us from interfering in politics or doing anything that would offend the host country.”

After finding out about the negative work the U.S. government was doing in Bolivia, I was curious to see one of the positive projects USAID officials touted so often. It took more than two weeks for them to get back to me–plenty of time, I thought, to choose the picture perfect example of their “apolitical” and development work organized “to benefit those who need it most.”

They put me in touch with Wilma Rocha, the boss at a clothing factory in El Alto called Club de Madres Nueva Esperanza (Mothers’ Club of New Hope). A USAID consultant worked in the factory in 2005-2006, offering advice on management issues and facilitating the export of the business’s clothing to U.S. markets. In a city of well-organized, working class radicals, Rocha is one of the few rightwingers. She is a fierce critic of the Morales administration and the El Alto unions and neighborhood councils.

Ten female employees are knitting at a table in the corner of a vast pink factory room full of dozens of empty sewing machines. “For three months we’ve barely had any work at all,” one of the women explains while Rocha waits at a distance. “When we do get paychecks, the pay is horrible.” I ask for her name, but she says she can’t give it to me. “If the boss finds out we are being critical, she’ll beat us.”

Benjamin Dangl is the author of “The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia” (AK Press, March 2007). For more information on his book and current book reading tour, visit www.boliviabook.com
© 2008 The Progressive All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/77572/

March 10, 2008 Posted by | Bolivia, Constitution, Destabilization by US, Morales, United States | , , , | Leave a comment

BOLIVIA: Morales Puts Military on Alert after US Meddling

http://www.granma.cu/ingles/index.html

GRANMA
February 12, 2008

Evo Morales Puts Military on Alert of US Meddling

COCHABAMBA, Bolivia, February 11.— President Evo Morales called Monday on
the Bolivian Armed Forces to remain alert to confront internal and external
enemies, after the disclosure of new cases of US meddling in the Andean
nation, reported Prensa Latina.

The president highlighted the commitment of the military with the process of
democratic changes taking place in the country, which requires that the
soldiers receive further education.

During the opening of the school year at the Sergeants School of Cochabamba,
Morales rejected any effort to undermine unity and the nation’s prestige.

Morales ratified his confidence in the military to defend the constitution
and the integrity of Bolivian territory.

As a result of the recently revealed espionage plot organized by the US
Embassy in Bolivia, Morales declared US embassy security officer Vincent
Cooper as a “persona non grata.”

Evo Morales explained that Cooper violated Bolivia’s legal norms by asking
US students and Peace Corps workers to spy on Cuban and Venezuelan
collaborators in Bolivia.

Both the US Embassy and the State Department officially admitted to the
espionage campaign for which Ambassador Philip Goldberg should be held
responsible.

The US Embassy will also need to explain its financial support for the
Police Policy Studies Council, a parallel intelligence service dedicated to
inciting destabilization campaigns.

February 12, 2008 Posted by | Bolivia, Destabilization by US, Morales | , | Leave a comment

BOLIVIA: The Dignity Pension – Life Pensions to Seniors

Two articles about the progress of Bolivia’s social revolution with the distribution of lifetime pensions to nearly 700,000 elderly Bolivians. Finally, the riches of the country, stolen for hundreds of years is being returned to the people of Bolivia.

It is refreshing to hear the following from the Bolivian Army Chief of the Second Division of Oruro, Bolivia, Commander Vladivostock Menacho:

“The government is changing from an economic vision to a humanist one, and
even more a Bolivian vision, looking more within,” Menacho told Prensa
Latina shortly after the first payment in Oruro.

He reiterated that the Army remains at the service of the people and of the
constitutionally elected government, and he considered any military activity
not aimed at defending the Constitution insurrectionary.

BRAVO BOLIVIA!!

Bolivia Pension, Social Revolution

Cochabamba, Bolivia, Feb 1 (Prensa Latina) Bolivian President Evo Morales
announced on Friday a real social revolution has begun with a lifetime
pension benefiting almost 700,000 elderly Bolivians.

The president headed the ceremony of payment of the so called Dignity Rent
at about 25 dollars monthly.

Morales pointed out the nationalization of hydrocarbons and other natural
resources now allows to accomplish that social measure, a historic demand by
a sector ignored by previous governments.

Regarding that, he called on the mayors of the so called Crescent not to be
ungrateful with the elderly, and no longer oppose the source funding the
pension, which results from energy resources and the Direct Tax on
Hydrocarbons.

Morales recalled that the previous benefit called Solidarity Bond (Bonosol)
depended on utilities of private companies, which provided no guarantee.

“Bolivia is economically reliable now, and I can assure you that
privatization and plundering of our natural resources have ended with the
Dignity Pension,” he remarked.

ef dig ga mf

PL-15

Bolivia Pays Life Pensions to Seniors

Oruro, Bolivia, Feb 1 (Prensa Latina) Beginning Friday, the Bolivian Armed
Forces will pay life pensions to people over 60 years of age, considering
this a moral and humanist obligation.

Chief of Oruro Second Division, Comdr. Vladivostok Menacho ratified the
commitment of the military institutions with the process boosted by Bolivian
President Evo Morales.

“The government is changing from an economic vision to a humanist one, and
even more a Bolivian vision, looking more within,” Menacho told Prensa
Latina shortly after the first payment in Oruro.

He reiterated that the Army remains at the service of the people and of the
constitutionally elected government, and he considered any military activity
not aimed at defending the Constitution insurrectionary.

A long line of senior citizens began waiting outside the Oruro regiment
early this morning, to begin receiving the monthly benefit of 200 Bolivians
(about 25 dollars).

For the first time a government recognizes the work of those who don’t live
on investment income, although in 1948 a supreme decree established 10
favorable principles in favor of the elderly, but until now, rights were
never recognized.

Education Minister Magdalena Cajias emphasized that in this way the work of
the people who “already fulfilled their role with their children, families
and their homeland is recognized, and now they have the right to be taken
care of by the State”.

hr/ccs/gdb/cmv

PL-41

February 2, 2008 Posted by | Bolivia, Imperialism, Morales, United States | | Leave a comment

ECUADOR: Correa Warns of “Threats and Danger”

ECUADOR
Correa warns of “threats and danger”

BY LIDICE VALENZUELA —Special for Granma International—

ECUADORIAN President Rafael Correa has condemned agreements signed by right-wing forces in his country and those of Bolivia in an attempt to maintain neoliberal structures and traditional policies in these nations – and including the possibility of an assassination attempt on his person – and left-wing parties, social and indigenous movements who are fighting for a new constitution are remaining on the alert.

The current situation in Ecuador is highly tense in terms of the structural reform plans that are being promoted by Correa, a 43-year old economist with an anti-neoliberal position, in tune with the formulas of the progressive currents that are beginning to establish themselves in Latin America: regional integration and the elimination of poverty.

The organization of the reforms, discussions, and preliminary agreements already adopted by the Constituent Assembly, which should conclude its work by next May 24 and the results of which will be subjected to a popular referendum possibly two months later, have accelerated the launch of anti-government plans, the primary public expression being an opposition march that was overwhelmed by thousands of followers of the Alianza País Party of the renovating administration.

As is already known, the traditional parties were crushed by the leftist Alianza País coalition, led by Correa, which won the presidential elections and then in the referendum for the installation of the Constituent Assembly, meaning that the first year of the young economist’s government passed in relative tranquility with respect to his plans, despite knowing that at any given moment the discredited opposition would begin to show its talons.

The movement against the transformations planned by the Quito administration is being led by the Social Christian mayor of Guayaquil, Jaime Nebot who, during the mid-January demonstration, promised the launch of national actions against the new constitution so that the “No” vote will prevail at the ballot boxes when the referendum takes place.

Nebot, who has lost the presidential elections on two occasions and remained in the shadows in 2007, has a strong political base in Guayaquil where powerful oligarchs are located.

Taking part in his regular Saturday radio show, 48 hours before the opposition march, the president pointed out that “the oligarchy is going to make it impossible for everything to stay the same and return to Congress, in order to defeat the laws passed by the Assembly, and to continue with privatized oil.”

On January, the first anniversary of his mandate, Correa condemned right-wing opposition groups in Ecuador and Bolivia, commenting that “agreements have been signed between the oligarchy in Guayaquil and Santa Cruz (Bolivia) to transform these regions (the ones with the greatest economic potential) into autonomies which, in real terms, is separatism.”

“They (he said, referring to oligarchic groups in the two countries) are using the separatist projects to torpedo government plans and destabilize us. Behind the discontent of the most prosperous cities in the two countries “there is a regional strategy to prevent the progressive governments from making changes.” The right-wing movements of the two nations are very similar: they speak Spanish but they think in English and have dominated the economy and politics for a long time. They are extremely opulent, semi-ignorant and elitist, and they are mocking the socialism of the 21st century,” he affirmed.

In the case of Ecuador, according to the president, the right-wing plan is aimed at ensuring that the government loses the referendum in which the people will give the green light to the new constitution drawn up by the Constituent Assembly, which has a government majority and is installed in the city of Monticristi.

What has emerged in Ecuador (as well as in Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua) is the ideological struggle between two political views with respect to the future of the region: the first of which has declared the new socialism of the 21st century with its national characteristics; and the other which, despite its failure, still continues to defend neoliberalism and representative democracy.

On a number of occasions, the president has exposed the existence of plans to assassinate him. “I have received death threats,” for which reason he urged the people to remain united in order to defeat those he described as “anti-patriotic”. In the work that is underway, “there are threats and dangers” and for this reason, he warned about the latest actions against him.

While Nebot has refused Correa’s invitation to stand in the next presidential elections that might well take place after the referendum on the new national constitution, on January 26 the Ecuadorian government warned foreign oil companies that if they refuse to modify their current contracts, their investments will be returned and the state will assume control of the oil fields they are currently exploiting. “We are not tricking anyone; we will return their millions and they can go away smiling,” said the president, who is enjoying the popular support of more than 75% of the Ecuadorian population, one of the poorest in Latin America. Analysts and political scientists agree that 2008 looks set to be a difficult year for the government of Ecuador.

http://www.granma.cu/ingles/2008/enero/juev31/05Ecuador.html

February 1, 2008 Posted by | Bolivia, Correa, Destabilization by US, Ecuador, Imperialism, Morales, United States | Leave a comment

BOLIVIA: A Third, Defining Year

Havana. January 31, 2008

BOLIVIA
A third, defining year

BY NIDIA DIAZ —Special for Granma International

EVO Morales and his party, the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), have just breached the threshold that places them in their third year of government, a crucial, defining moment, during which the revolutionary process for the re-founding of Bolivia is in play.

In the past 25 years, no Bolivian president has ever reached the Quemado Palace the way Evo Morales did, with the support of 57% of the electorate, a figure that rose to more than 80% when, on May 1, 2006, he announced the nationalization of hydrocarbons and the recuperation of national sovereignty over the country’s natural resources. At this point in its administration, the MAS government is facing the unavoidable challenge of winning the wrestling match with the opposition oligarchy as the only way to move forward with the country’s much-needed transformation.

Morales and his movement also need to demonstrate the obvious: that the struggle in Bolivia is not on racial lines, as the corporate media insists, but is rather a class struggle; in other words, a battle between the rich and the poor, between the bourgeoisie and its political representatives, sidelined from power, and the people, who are demanding social justice and inclusion as citizens of the nation.

It is true that this battle cannot ignore the racist positions – so nakedly exposed on the Bolivian political scene – of those who believe themselves superior and the heirs to the old colonial regime, whose mission for centuries was the subjugation and exploitation of the indigenous population, of which president Morales is a part. Such travesties do not conform to the reality that the MAS government, an expression of the popular will, is moving the country forward and has resolved in just two years some of the most important demands of the last 30 years.

First was the nationalization of hydrocarbons. At that time, the oligarchy proclaimed that the transnational oil companies operating in the country would never accept the renegotiation of their contracts on the terms set out by the government. They were sure that the president would have to postpone the renegotiations and that the foreign oil companies were sure to pull out of Bolivia.

That didn’t happen, neither the one nor the other. The new contracts were accepted, at the last minute, right before their expiration. Bolivia recovered the profits that neoliberal governments had allowed to escape for years for social programs. Since then, the hydrocarbon income has grown from $200 million to nearly $2 billion.

Also recovered by the state were four hugely important enterprises: Bolivian Oil and Gas (YPFB), the Vinto metallurgical company, the Huanuni mining company and the Illimani Waters enterprise.nstitute, Bolivian foreign trade has grown to its highest level in history, “thus increasing its coefficient of trade openness to an unprecedented level of 80%.”

Bolivian exports have reached a new record at close to $4.3 billion, thanks to natural gas and minerals.

The government has paid special attention to the provision of credits for small businesses with the goal of promoting production in sectors such as food, metallurgy, precious metal working, plastic, leather and forestry, among others. And, looking to continued progress, the government this year has planned to allocate nearly $3 billion to public and private investment, as a result of which a 5.7% increase in the gross domestic product is expected.

Within the social arena, the Juancito Pinto school subsidy has been introduced to guarantee children’s attendance and also approved was the Dignity bonus, which provides a retirement pension to all Bolivians over the age of 60. The latter being a conquest that partially repays the tremendous social and moral debt owed to those who have been exploited and ignored despite their contribution to society.

Thanks to the solidarity of the Cuban revolution and the Venezuelan Bolivarian government, 109 municipalities in the country have been declared free of illiteracy. As of last month, Operation Miracle had restored the sight of some 187,000 Bolivians and 900 medical clinics had been established, 30 of them mobile, in order to serve remote rural areas. Not to mention the 20 hospitals already opened with the help of Cuba, whose doctors and health professionals have reached locations where health care services have never before been made available.

The establishment of the Constituent Assembly and the approval of the new proposed constitution, despite hostile media campaigns and sabotage attacks, which left a number of dead, has been one of the revolution’s major conquests in Bolivia. The constitution crafted by the assembly will be submitted to a popular vote this year.

The tangible accomplishments of the Evo Morales government are innumerable and it is precisely because of these achievements that the oligarchy cannot forgive him and is maintaining its strong opposition on the national political scene, obstructing every step forward taken to benefit the people.

The national talks convened by Morales are currently at a standstill.

He has decided to submit his presidency and the mandates of department governors to a popular recall referendum so that it is the sovereign will of the people that settles this struggle in which a minority refuses to give up its privileges in the face of the vast majority who, for the first time, can discern a ray of hope in the future. One more reason to follow closely each and every event that takes place during this defining third year of the Evo Morales MAS government.

http://www.granma.cu/ingles/2008/enero/juev31/05Bolivia.html

February 1, 2008 Posted by | Bolivia, Destabilization by US, Imperialism, Morales, United States | Leave a comment

BOLIVIA SCRUB US BANKROLLED SPIES

Same US games – different country.

La Paz, Jan 31 (Prensa Latina) Bolivian Government Minister Alfredo
Rada on Thursday ratified the dissolution of two irregular units
functioning parallel to the Intelligence Direction, subordinated to
the National Police.

The top official announced that the closing of the Organism for the
Development of Police Studies (ODEP), previously known as Special
Operations Command (COPES), is in line with supreme decrees.

Rada also accused the US embassy in Bolivia for funding COPES, which
carried out possibly unconstitutional activities.

The minister explained that the organization received technology and
professional training to respond to private interests, and not in
function of the State.

The official also announced that the Task Group for Special Crime
Investigations (GTIDE) was dissolved, and will be now subordinated to
the National Intelligence Direction.

That entity was created to coordinate investigation actions, and
fight crimes of higher social impact.

President Evo Morales stated on Wednesday his government would close
US-funded intelligence police services.

January 31, 2008 Posted by | Bolivia, Imperialism, Morales, United States | Leave a comment

BOLIVIA: State in Control of Its Hydrocarbons

GRANMA INTERNATIONAL
Havana. January21, 2008

State control of hydrocarbons in Bolivia
By Mario Hubert Garrido

LA PAZ, January 21 (PL).—The Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) government
today noted that, in two years of power, President Evo Morales has recovered
state control of Bolivians’ principal natural resource: hydrocarbons.

César Navarro, MAS leader in the Chamber of Deputies, explained to Prensa
Latina that since May 1, 2006, when nationalization of the sector was
decreed, it has not been up to the transnationals to decide on the future of
the country’s energy.

According to Navarro, under previous governments the state was merely the
receptor of handouts from those foreign companies.

At the same time, he noted that by recovering control of its natural
resources, Bolivia has been able to negotiate better prices for the gas it
sells to Argentina and Brazil.

Since January 2006, when Morales was installed in Quemado Palace, the
principle of “we want partners, not bosses,” has been adhered to with
foreign companies, he stated.

Navarro also welcomed the fact that the nationalization of hydrocarbons has
allowed for the redistribution of profits to the prefectures, municipalities
and universities, profits that were previously taken out of the country by
the transnationals.

Navarro said the re-founding of the state oil company YBFB is to be
consolidated in 2008, implying greater participation in the entire
productive chain.

Morales is celebrating two years as the first indigenous president of
Bolivia, immersed in a national dialogue with an opposition that is active
against the social changes set in motion by his government.

On May 1, 2006 he fulfilled the central proposal of his program, the
nationalization of hydrocarbons.

Translated by Granma International

January 23, 2008 Posted by | Bolivia, Morales | , | Leave a comment

ECUADOR: Decentralizes and Reorganizes

Ecuador Decentralizes and Reorganizes

Quito, Jan 18 (Prensa Latina) The new state administrative structure that establishes Ecuador’s division into seven regions to guarantee better distribution of resources, is attracting the attention of the citizenry Friday.

The proposal of territorial decentralization, regionalization, and reorganization was presented to the national media by the chief of SENPLADES (National Planning and Development Office) Fander Falconi.

He explained that the plan is to group several provinces in an administrative region, considering their demographic, social, fiscal, risk, and infrastructure components.

This reform is part of President Rafael Correa’s project to change the State, and should be included in the Constitution that the Constituent Assembly is elaborating.

The initiative is an attempt to end social and regional inequality and move toward a decentralization process of competence and resources.

Falconi said this would favor a progressive transference of attributions and functions from the central Executive to the local and intermediate governments of each region.

According to the proposal, there would be seven administrative regions and the cities of Quito, the capital, and Guayaquil, which has more than two million inhabitants, would be metropolitan districts.

The Galapagos Islands, due to its specific characteristics, will have a special administration.

Provincial and municipal governments fear losing their autonomies under the project, but Falconi said the new administrative division would not negatively affect the territories at all; rather it will benefit them, because greater assistance to the populations will be possible.

January 19, 2008 Posted by | Ecuador, Imperialism | Leave a comment

BOLIVIA: Demand for World Bank Prez to Respect Bolivia’s Withdrawal from Arbitration Court

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 16, 2008
1:10 PM
CONTACT: Institute for Policy Studies
Sarah Anderson, Institute for Policy Studies:
202 234 9382 x 227,
saraha@igc.org

863 Citizen Groups Call on World Bank President to Respect Bolivia’s Withdrawal From Arbitration Court

European Telecom International case against Bolivia should be blocked
Independent review needed on investor-state arbitration, human rights, and global poverty

WASHINGTON, DC – January 16 – More than 800 citizens groups from 59 countries on every continent presented a petition on Tuesday, January 15 to World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick, expressing concerns about the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), whose Administrative Council Mr. Zoellick chairs.

Last May, the government of Bolivia became the first country in the world to withdraw from ICSID, citing the court’s record of favoring narrow corporate interests over the public good. That court is now refusing to respect the Bolivian government’s actions and allowing a case brought by a European telecommunications company to proceed.

The global petition reflects growing concerns around the world about a system of investor rights that undermines democracy and human rights. Many of the signatory groups first became aware of these problems through the notorious Bechtel v Bolivia case. In 2001, a subsidiary of Bechtel sued South America’s poorest country over a failed water privatization project. After five years of intense public pressure, the company dropped the case in 2006.

As noted in the petition, Bolivia is just one of several governments that are challenging the excessive investor protections in free trade agreements and bilateral investment treaties. ICSID is the most widely used mechanism for enforcing these rules.

Although the Bolivian government followed proper procedures in withdrawing from ICSID, a tribunal is scheduled to be formed soon to hear a case brought by Euro Telecom International (ETI), a company incorporated in the Netherlands whose owners include Telecom Italia and the Spanish Telefónica. ETI owns 50% of ENTEL, which provides more than 60% of Bolivia’s telephone services.

The petitioners include 863 labor, environmental, religious, consumer, small farmer, human rights, women’s, development, and peace organizations from five continents. The Institute for Policy Studies, a Washington, DC-based research organization, was the initial drafter of the petition. Among the other nearly 50 U.S. groups that endorsed the petition are: Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, National Lawyers Guild, Food and Water Watch and Jubilee USA.

For complete copies of the citizen’s petition in:
English: ips-dc.org/reports/080115-boliviapetition-en.pdf
Español: ips-dc.org/reports/080115-boliviapetition-es.pdf
Italiano: ips-dc.org/reports/080115-boliviapetition-it.pdf
Portugues: ips-dc.org/reports/080115-boliviapetition-po.pdf
Français: ips-dc.org/reports/080115-boliviapetition-fr.pdf

For a detailed background report on the investor-state dispute system, see the IPS report Challenging Corporate Investor Rule

January 17, 2008 Posted by | Bolivia, Imperialism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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