ECUADOR News: Opposition Leader Refuses to Disclose Finances/Correa Wants to Reorganize Ecuador into 9 Regions
Ecuador Constitutional Assembly Expels Opposition Leader Noboa
By Stephan Kueffner
Jan. 14 (Bloomberg) — Ecuador’s constitutional assembly expelled assemblyman and former presidential candidate Alvaro Noboa after he failed to provide a sworn disclosure of his wealth.
Out of 130 members of the assembly, only Noboa didn’t supply the documentation required by the body’s rules, assembly president Alberto Acosta said at a news conference in Quito.
“He alone has picked the option of removing himself from the assembly,” Acosta said today.
Noboa is the head of the opposition Prian party, which controls eight seats in the assembly, compared with 80 for President Rafael Correa’s Alianza Pais party. Noboa, who lost a runoff election to Correa in late 2006, will be stripped of his seat and replaced by an alternate from his own party.
“He is being politically persecuted by the government,” local newswire Ecuador Inmediato quoted his wife, Annabella Azin, as saying. Azin, a Prian assemblywoman, did submit the declaration.
The assembly plans to draft a new constitution by May 24, Acosta said. If voters ratify the text in a referendum, new general elections could take place in October, he added.
Noboa, Ecuador’s largest banana exporter and the owner of 110 companies according to his Web site, had campaigned for president promising to create jobs by promoting trade and foreign investment. He had used Correa’s ties with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to paint his opponent as a socialist puppet of Venezuela.
A call to Azin’s cell phone wasn’t answered. Nobody answered the telephone at Noboa’s Grupo Noboa Corp. offices in Guayaquil.
To contact the reporter on this story: Stephan Kueffner in Quito at firstname.lastname@example.org
Last Updated: January 14, 2008 17:15 EST
Correa Says He Wants to Reorganize Ecuador Into Nine Regions
By Stephan Kueffner
Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) — Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said he wants to decentralize the government by reorganizing the country into nine regions.
Seven of the regions will have their own cabinet minister, while the metropolitan areas of Guayaquil and Quito won’t, Correa said today in a speech on the first anniversary of the beginning of his four-year term. He said the move would help the country overcome regional inequalities.
During his election campaign, Correa championed a constitutional assembly as the cure for Ecuador’s political instability and poverty. Voters elected 130 members to the assembly, which sent congress into recess in late November. Correa’s Alianza Pais party won 80 of the seats.
Several opposition parties boycotted Correa’s speech, saying the constitution called for the president to hold his speech before congress, not an assembly.
To contact the reporter on this story: Stephan Kueffner in Quito at email@example.com
Last Updated: January 15, 2008 12:03 EST
Only thing to say is right on, right on.
Ecuador to sue Colombia for anti-coca herbicide pollution
http://www.chinaview.cn 2008-01-12 11:44:10
QUITO, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) — Ecuador would bring a lawsuit against Colombia at The Hague International Court of Justice as it suffers from the pollution of Colombia’s anti-coca herbicide sprayed over border area, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister said Friday.
Maria Isabel Salvador said bilateral negotiations on compensation for Ecuador’s victims of the chemicals have failed, so the Ecuadorian government has decided to bring the case to the international court.
Colombia had used aerial spray of the herbicide to eradicate coca in Ecuador-Colombia border areas since 2000, but was forced to stopped in 2007 due to Ecuador’s protest.
Ecuador complains that the spray have polluted its soil, water and plants, and harmed the health of many Ecuadorians.
Salvador said Ecuador would bring forward undisputable proof at the court to show the harms Ecuadorians are suffering.
Along the 180-km Ecuador-Colombia border, coca growing area in Colombia covers 162,000 hectares. The border area is also rife with anti-government militants and drug traffickers.
Editor: Sun Yunlong
Why Bolivia Matters
Laura Carlsen | January 7, 2008
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Americas Program, Center for International Policy (CIP)
Bolivia’s National Palace is a classic colonial building that sits on the pigeon-filled Plaza Murillo in downtown La Paz. It’s more often called the “Palacio Quemado” or “Burned Palace” because it’s been set on fire repeatedly by dissidents of one stripe or another over the centuries since Bolivia gained its fragile independence. Today, painted a cheery yellow, it stands as a reminder of a conflictive past and a fresh future.
During the colonial period the Spanish exploited the country’s mineral wealth without mercy, leading to the death of hundreds of thousands of indigenous mineworkers and uprisings that punctuated the nation’s history with blood and legends. Between forced labor, the war of independence, and European diseases, the new nation began its life as a republic rich in natural resources but with a decimated populace. In the words of an historian in 1831, Bolivia was like “a beggar seated on a throne of gold.”
In many ways, the nation’s predicament changed little over the two centuries of republican life. The indigenous population, if no longer enslaved, confronted permanent inequality in political institutions and economic opportunities. The constant flow of resource wealth to a criollo elite—allied with foreign interests—cut deep channels into Bolivian society. Those flows changed form but scarcely diminished with the advent of globalization.
The government of President Evo Morales came to power in January 2006 with bold plans to change all this. Its main promise to its indigenous and impoverished base of support was to reform the constitution to assure the indigenous majority the full exercise of its citizenship, and to redistribute national wealth in favor of the poor.
Despite winning an absolute majority in the 2005 presidential elections, the Morales administration has had considerable difficulty leveraging its political capital into an efficient reform process.
For the fledgling government of President Evo Morales, a new constitution is the cornerstone of lasting change. The goal is to create a new legal structure for Bolivian society that for the first time in the nation’s history respects and legally recognizes diversity in a “plurinational” country.
The Constituent Assembly arose as a demand by social movements in the 1990s and more specifically in the Water War of Cochabamba in 2000-2001. In recent years neoliberal governments made legal and constitutional changes to grant private investors near carte-blanche access to natural resources and basic services, exposing the poor nation to one of the most unequal and exploitive forms of globalization found in the hemisphere. These legal changes became the hallmark of their governments and the source of their downfall.
For instance, in 2003 President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada fled to the United States after his government fired into a crowd of protestors, killing dozens. He and former defense minister Sanchez Berzain currently face extradition demands and a lawsuit from the Center for Constitutional Rights for damages related to the murder of 67 women, men, and children in the September and October protests, nearly all from indigenous Aymara communities.
After taking office the Morales government moved rapidly to institute the Constituent Assembly. The unprecedented process required establishing new institutions and rules that have generated ambiguity at times and conflict throughout. Acrimonious negotiations, dualing mobilizations in the streets, and overheated media warnings of ungovernability held the nation in near permanent chaos from July of 2006 to the mandated deadline of Dec. 14, 2007. Much of that time the assembly was suspended.
The government has been criticized frequently by both the left and the right for errors of judgment and procedure, but it has attempted to keep dialogue open. The conservative opposition has taken a confrontational stance toward the Constituent Assembly—presided over by Quechua and women’s rights leader Silvia Lazarte —from the outset. The loosely coordinated opposition has zig-zagged between calls for greater adherence to the law and illegal acts of sabotage, including violence from civic committees and local neo-fascist groups. Finally, some but not all of the rightwing conservative parties launched a boycott of the institutional process.
The Assembly faced one obstacle after another. Debates over representation, regional autonomy, landholdings, and an old issue of where the nation’s capital should be physically located (Sucre or La Paz) tested the limits of a country facing entrenched interests and the uncertainties of moving from a historically unjust system to a new system yet to be defined.
Finally on December 9 the assembly approved the constitutional text with the required two-thirds vote, but with a boycott of the major political conservative party PODEMOS. The text now goes to a national referendum, but only after a separate referendum on the crucial issue of land reform.
In a recent interview with the CIP Americas Policy Program, Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera stated that the conflicts have their roots in Bolivia’s history and reflect a fundamentally healthy, if difficult, stage of democratic redefinition.
Following the boycotted assembly, four of the nine departmental governments declared autonomy, with some leaders going so far as to threaten secession. They have begun gathering signatures to call a referendum on a far more radical form of autonomy that would grant local governments broad control over resources found in their territories and erode central government authority and national cohesion. Since these departments concentrate much of the nation’s oil and gas and agricultural production, the move is a serious challenge to the Morales government, which has responded by declaring it divisive and illegal.
The text of the proposed constitution begins by declaring that Bolivia is “a unitary, plurinational, communitarian, free, independent, sovereign, democratic, social decentralized state, with territorial autonomies” that is founded on “plurality and political, economic, judicial, cultural, and linguistic pluralism.”
The sheer quantity of adjectives reveals the complexity of the political project underfoot. The declaration of principles reflects the recent history of Bolivia’s grassroots struggles for political representation for the indigenous majority and similar efforts in other Latin American nations with sizable indigenous populations.
It also addresses the age-old issue of the balance of power between federal, state, and local government by recognizing four types of autonomy: departmental, regional, municipal, and indigenous. The practical overlap here will be a challenge.
A detailed analysis of the 411 proposed articles now becomes the task at hand of Bolivian society as the constitution goes up for a popular referendum. But the other key element worth mentioning is the constitution’s overall concept of building a state that controls and regulates natural-resource use for the public good. This is a political sea change from the era when it was assumed that what was best for the private sector was best for the nation.
Why Bolivia Matters
To outsiders, Bolivia’s upheaval may seem like merely the latest in a seemingly endless series of conflicts in a tiny nation known for political instability.
The corporate-controlled media in the United States have carefully crafted an image of a relatively ignorant and violent populace running rampant over hopelessly weak institutions. These distorted images persist even though the deep changes proposed by the government have been conducted largely through legal channels and it has been the conservative opposition that has sought to undermine those processes.
The indigenous character of Evo Morales’s leadership and popular support plays like a subtle but palpably racist sub-theme in the international press, with the Wall Street Journal taking the lead in Evo-bashing. An Indian president, Morales is persistently portrayed as a pawn of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and his deep ties to traditional coca growers are recast as nefarious drug lord activities. Numerous press reports portray indigenous organizations as mindless mobs intent on dismantling the remains of Bolivia’s dubious democratic institutions.
The viciousness of these attacks on the Morales government best reveal the potential global impact of what it’s trying to do. Bolivia matters, to everyone seeking more just and stable societies, for two reasons that Vice President Garcia Linera describes as the “two conquests of equality”—political justice and economic justice.
The government’s attempt to establish conditions for the full exercise of citizenship for indigenous peoples goes beyond equal access to limited forms of representative democracy. Recognizing the rights for the 36 peoples mentioned in the new constitution implies devising concrete mechanisms to harmonize communitarian and liberal forms of justice and government that have very different logics. Every nation in the Western Hemisphere where indigenous peoples have survived the genocidal campaigns of the past five centuries faces this challenge.
The second challenge, the effort to harness the sustainable use of natural resources for the public good, tests the limits to change imposed by the global neoliberal system. Can a country climb from poverty to equitable development through constitutional reform?
The answer will depend in large part on the dynamics of Bolivian politics and the ability of the political leadership. But it will also depend on the extent of external limitations. In assessing those limitations, Mexican political analyst Adolfo Gilly points out “the inelastic limits that those who govern run into, whether it be the ferocious resistance of the classes that have been displaced from power, and their political and economic representatives, foreign as well as domestic; or the steel cage in which the new global neoliberal order encloses possibilities of action, along with the imminent presence of its powerful material base—the Pentagon, the military force of the United States; or the material limits of scarcity, national isolation, and poverty.”
The Morales administration has so far sought to break the ties that bind in various ways. It announced withdrawal from the U.S.-run School of the Americas—now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) but still often referred to by the less cumbersome name it carried prior to a 2001 revamping. SOA/WHINSEC is a military training facility in Georgia that has produced a long line of dictators and torturers throughout the hemisphere.
With respect to the global economy, the Bolivian government decided to withdraw from the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes of the World Bank, a trade arbitration system characterized by its supranational powers, lack of transparency, and bias toward investors.
Bolivia has sought renegotiation of its Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Mexico as well as opposing an FTA with the United States, while signing a People’s Trade Agreement with Venezuela and Cuba. In March of 2006 the government stated it would not seek to renew its standby agreement with the IMF, which was responsible for imposing neoliberal policies that hurt the national economy and its most vulnerable sectors.
The response of the Bush administration to the Morales government has been hostile but guarded. U.S. Agency for International Development has moved to directly fund projects in opposition regions to strengthen resistance to the policies of Morales’ party, the Movement for Socialism (MAS), as part of its “democracy-building” program.
The U.S. ambassador in Bolivia, Phillip Goldberg has had frequent run-ins with the Bolivian government over accusations of politically targeted aid. The ambassador recently stated that the relationship between the two countries was “complicated” and emphasized that cooperation would be focused on reducing coca cultivation. This formulation is ominous given the wide differences between the Morales government’s policy of promoting traditional coca growing while cracking down on cocaine production, and the U.S. drug war model centered on militarization and fumigation programs.
On the other hand, several Latin American nations have stepped up to support Bolivia following the termination of the Constituent Assembly. Brazil’s President Lula made a state visit and announced a $1 billion investment by the country’s state-owned petroleum company in oil and gas. The announcement was particularly significant since Brazil’s semi-public gas giant Petrobras initially protested the Morales government’s nationalization of control of its operations in the country and suspended further investment. Chilean president Michelle Bachelet also gave explicit support to the beleaguered government by promising to finish the Inter-Oceanic highway system.
Perhaps the most important determining factor in the success of the Morales program will be its relationship with progressive social movements of indigenous peoples, workers, miners, women, and others that created the revolutionary conditions that brought the MAS to power. Not only is this the government’s base of support, but it is the true source of national sovereignty and impetus for democratic change. Although the Evo Morales administration defines itself as “a government of social movements,” historians Forrest Hylton and Sinclair Thompson rightly point out that the relationship is far from simple and that it will be crucial that the independence and political space of those movements not be subsumed in the logic of the state.
Bolivia today is an open laboratory. It might seem an unlikely stage for such an ambitious experiment: a landlocked nation of scarcely nine million with strong vestiges of colonial rule and the continent’s highest poverty rate. Yet the effort to use the state to retake and redistribute resources ceded to private economic interests under globalization, to enfranchise indigenous populations, to narrow the appalling gap between the haves and have-nots of our era deserves a chance and will no doubt provide lessons for the rest of the world.
Laura Carlsen (lcarlsen(a)ciponline.org) is director of the Americas Policy Program (www.americaspolicy.org) at the Center for International Policy in Mexico City, where she has been a writer and political analyst for two decades.
CHECK OUT A TERRIFIC NEW BLOG FROM PAN-AFRICAN ROOTS!
Pan-African Roots’ new blog, paroots.org Blog, is a great new resource on the web that will be of invaluable assistance to progressive and revolutionary activists across the globe. Please see the announcement of the new blog by its co-directors, Bob Brown and Banbose Shango. Then, check out the blog yourself!
“We are sending you this email to wish you and your family a Happy New Year, and to introduce you to paroots.org Blog, a new kid on the web. It is still under construction! Please excuse our rough edges. There is much, much, much more to come.
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Check us out at www.paroots.org. If you like what you see, subscribe, link your blog, webpage or website to ours, and make a contribution via our secure, online donation page.
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Bob Brown and Banbose Shango, co-directors
Canadian Workers in Support of Bolivia and Morales
In recent months, the process of democratic renewal and indigenous
liberation in Bolivia, headed by president Evo Morales, has come under
violent assault from rightist forces aligned with the U.S. government.
Physical disruption of Bolivia’s Constituent Assembly prevented it from
meeting for several months. Now that the Assembly has presented its
proposed new constitution for referendum, the rightists are threatening a
breakaway by Bolivia’s eastern provinces.
In response to these threats, the Canadian Labour Congress has expressed
“its solidarity with the democratically elected government and its support
for the constitutional reforms demanded by the majority of Bolivians.” We
reproduce this important letter, signed by CLC President Ken Georgetti,
As the proposed constitution proceeds toward a vote, support is urgently
needed for Bolivia’s independence, integrity, and democratic institutions.
Solidarity activity is being coordinated through the Bolivia Action
Solidarity Network (http://www.grupoapoyo.org/basn or write
firstname.lastname@example.org). We print below their founding statement.
**********************************************************************December 19, 2007The Right Honourable Stephen Harper Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
80 Wellington Street
By fax: 613-941-6900Dear Prime Minister:
On behalf of the 3.2 million working Canadian men and women affiliated to
the Canadian Labour Congress, I am writing to encourage you to extend
Canada’s support for the people and government of Bolivia, in the face of
conflict surrounding the new Bolivian constitution. This action would be in
line with the governments of nine Latin American countries (Argentina,
Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, Paraguay, Uruguay and
Venezuela). It would be in line with a statement from the Organization of
American States (OAS) and would also be in keeping with Canada’s expressed
interest in renewing and strengthening relations with our “neighbourhood”
of the Americas.
President Evo Morales was elected in December 2005, with a clear mandate,
as the first Indigenous president of Bolivia representing a large
Indigenous majority. President Morales fulfilled his promise to convene a
Constituent Assembly, with the mandate to fully integrate the indigenous
majorities in the political sphere and improve their situation after
centuries of social injustice. The Constituent Assembly was to submit the
constitutional text for approval by means of a referendum.
The opposition governors of five of the nine Bolivian departments
(Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni and Pando) said Monday that they
would not recognize the new constitution which is supported by President
Evo Morales and had been approved on Sunday. They confirmed that four of
them will apply their regional autonomy regardless of the constitution.
This is clearly an attempt to destabilize the democratic process in Bolivia
and should be rejected.
While the minority opposition has every right to have its voice heard in
the constitutional process, their systematic interruption of the
Constituent Assembly’s sittings, as well as recent violent protests, calls
for civil disobedience and ugly racist declarations are impeding the
exercise of a democratic process.
The Canadian Labour Congress expresses its solidarity with the
democratically elected government and its support for the constitutional
reforms demanded by the majority of Bolivians.
We condemn the calls to violence and secession, these which are
anti-democratic attempts to destabilize the country and deny the oppressed
majority their right to reshape Bolivia on a more equitable basis and in
recognition of its First Nations.
We have confidence that President Evo Morales will manage the current
situation, with respect for democratic principles, and will ensure that
Bolivian political forces maintain a climate of dialogue and understanding,
rejecting all attempts that endanger the stability of the country’s
institutions and the democratically elected government.
Kenneth V. Georgetti
CLC Officers and Executive Assistants
CLC Executive Committee
The Honourable Maxime Bernier, Minister of Foreign Affairs;
The Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of Labour;
The Honourable Jack Layton, New Democratic Party of Canada;
The Honourable Stephane Dion, Liberal Party of Canada;
Mr. Gilles Duceppe, Bloc Quebecois;
Ms. Elizabeth May, Green Party of Canada;
Embassy of Bolivia in Ottawa
Now this is a tax plan to get behind! But, it won’t be long before the opposition and the US begin a frontal attack.
New Tax Act in 2008 in Ecuador
Quito, Dec 29 (Prensa Latina) A new tax act aimed at improving wealth distribution, guaranteeing more equity and reactivating national production will come into force in 2008 in Ecuador.
It is the first law approved by the Constituent Assembly since it was established on November 29 by 130 members, including 80 from the Alianza Pais movement.
The Tax Equity Act was approved by 90 assembly members from Alianza Pais and other minority groups that back the process of reform in Ecuador.
The 23 votes against the act were cast by the opposition Social-Christian Party, Institutional Renovating Party, UNO and Patriotic Society.
The act will come into force on January 1, 2008, after being published in the Official Record this weekend.
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa confirmed that the new law, which exempts 85 percent of the population from taxes, would minimize tax evasion, promote employment and production, and regulate an economy that was in chaos.
The Tax Equity Act, which was criticized by the opposition, toughens the sentences for tax evasion, including prison.
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In 2003, a good friend and I attended a speech at American University by just-thrown-out-of-his-country Gonzalo Sanchez de Losada, who days earlier was forced to resign as president of Bolivia. We had been watching the news from Bolivia the previous few weeks and witnessed the hundreds of thousands of largely indigenous citizens of Bolivia who were determined not to let him export Bolivia’s vast gas reserves. We thought it would be good to attend his speech and demonstrate a little solidarity with the people of Bolivia — the ones back in Bolivia, that is.
When Sanchez de Losada became president for the second time in 2002 (first term was 1993-1997) he received a great deal of help from the United States. In an article by Jane Hamsher that I found on Fire Dog Lake, we learn that Sanchez de Losada was given a boost in his campaign by a bank of Democratic campaign strategists that included high rollers such as James Carville and Bob Shrum. A documentary film was made of this “collaboration” called “Our Brand is Crisis” and you can see a trailer of it.
“Goni,” as he is known, was born in 1930 and spent virtually all of his school years in the U.S. in exile with his father. He returned to Bolivia in 1951 armed with an American education and American accented Spanish. In later years, he earned his street name in Bolivia, “El Gringo.”
Even though the Carville/Shrum team helped Goni attain his second term as president, they were unsuccessful in getting him off of shaky ground – he won the election with a bit over 20 percent of the vote and the privatizations he shepherded through during his last administration were still a fresh. But, when he announced the intention to export natural gas, all hell broke loose. All opposition parties fell into a swift coalition against Goni, including Evo Morales’ MAS or Movement to Socialism.
Goni resisted the will of the people over several months. First, with a proposal to impose an onerous income tax in early 2003 and then the gas export decision later in the year. Yet, it was his ordering the Bolivian military to use deadly force against largely unarmed demonstrators which tipped the scales. Before it was all over, well over 80 people were killed and 500 people injured (definite numbers of killed and injured are still unavailable). Below are two videos, Parts 1 and 2, showing the confrontations between the troops and the unarmed demonstrators which took place in 2003. In mid-October 2003, when hundreds of thousands of Bolivians came down from the Altiplano to La Paz to demand the president’s resignation, Goni was a goner. Sanchez de Losada was later indicted on crimes of genocide. Of course, since he fled here to the US, the government has not been willing to cooperate with the current Bolivian government to have him extradited to Bolivia to face criminal charges.
Oh, and the night in October 2003 when my friend and I went to hear Goni speak at American University, I lost my nerve, but she didn’t — she interrupted his speech twice and called him a murderer and a thief.
Here are a few references you might want to check out:
VIDEOS OF 2003 BOLIVIAN MILITARY ATTACKS ON DEMONSTRATORS
Residents of northern Bolivia surround a Venezuelan Air Force C-130 Hercules, responding to a call from the state governor to not allow Venezuelan planes land at their region’s airports, moments after it landed in Riberalta, Beni state, December 6, 2007. Dozens of residents threw stones at the plane in protest over Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s influence in Bolivian internal affairs, forcing the plane to take off hurriedly to search for safe haven across the border in the Brazilian city of Rio Branco.(REUTERS/David Bernal)
Bolivian Mob Attacks Venezuelan Military Plane With Rocks
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, LA PAZ, BOLIVIA
An angry mob of Bolivian civilians threw rocks at a Venezuelan military plane refueling at an airport in northeastern Bolivia, forcing the unwelcome aircraft to fly out of town, according to a Dec. 6 report. The leader of a local civic group opposed to President Evo Morales, who is a top ally of leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, said no Venezuelan military planes would be allowed to land in Riberalta, especially if they are carrying weapons. “We have to defend our people,” Riberalta Civic Committee President Marcos Jauregui was quoted as saying by the Catholic news agency Erbol. “Why wasn’t there a press conference to disclose what they are bringing to the country? We must be vigilant because we will not allow Venezuelan planes to come,” he said. A Bolivian aviation source, who requested anonymity, confirmed that the plane was a Hercules airplane belonging to the Venezuelan air force. The source said the plane landed in Riberalta after it was not allowed to refuel at its original destination, the Brazilian city of Rio Branco, for unknown reasons. Up to 200 people with signs saying “Enough interference!” threw stones at the plane, which left to an unknown destination amid rumors it was carrying weapons.