Thursday, December 29, 2005
To all these people I wish the best in the New Year!
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
This interview with the daily La Prensa, published a little before he was officially announced to run as Evo’s VP, fills in some of the gaps about Linera’s actual perspectives on socialism, how to conduct the government and deal with leftist groups. These answers become even more relevant today, now that MAS has reached power.
My translation follows:
La Prensa (LP): You have been accused of armed uprising and some candidates say you are a terrorist. How do you plan to address this situation?
Álvaro García Linera (AGL): The candidates who are using that [claim], I see that they do it out of fear of debating. Any candidate who surfaces that out of memory gives me a reference point about his intellectual capacity. Because of that absence of ideas, proposals, projects, introspection and reason….that stigma, denigration and mud slinging surfaces. That a candidate uses that as an argument reflects a terrible poverty of ideas.
LP: Has García Linera been one of the ideologues of the EGTK?
AGL: I have been one of the men who have reflected about the EGTK, and that I have admitted in my [sworn] declarations. I have been a man compromised with the EGTK, and my crime, I publicly admit, has been to think, written and reflected. Thirteen years without a sentence, I hope prove the contrary, and justice cannot give a single step to prove the contrary.
LP: What is MAS’ position? Es it a radical left [party]?
AGL: The position is centre-left, and I have been characterizing it that way for the last two and a half years. Why do I say MAS is centre-left? Because we couldn’t qualify the project of changes MAS wants to take forward as communist or communitarian, it doesn’t have that dimension. An [example of the] radical left is COB  or maybe Quispe .
LP: Doesn’t MAS want a socialist government?
AGL: No, no way, because –on top of it- it’s not viable. It’s not viable because socialism can only be built on the base of a strong, organized proletarian presence. The socialist utopia is the extreme maturation of capitalism. In Bolivia there’s no capitalism. In Bolivia 70 percent of the urban workers work in the family economy, you don’t build socialism on the base of a family economy; you build it on the bases of industry, which there’s none of in Bolivia. You don’t build socialism on the basis of the 95 percent of rural population living on a traditional communitarian economy.
LP: What kind of system, then, does MAS want to build?
AGL: A type of Andean Capitalism.
LP: What is an Andean Capitalism?
AGL: It’s a capitalist regime where family, indigenous and peasant potentials are balanced and are articulated around a national development project and productive modernization. If you want to build the future, what is the model for Bolivia? A strong State and that is capitalism; the State is not socialism, it’s a strong State in hydrocarbons, foreign investment, local private investment, the family economy and small businesses and communitarian economy. It’s not even a mixed system.
LP: Why didn’t García Linera gain the support of Jaime Solares, of the COB or Felipe Quispe of MIP?
AGL: I proposed to myself to talk with all organizations, included those I had personal differences with. Because of respect to its historical trajectory we went to the COB, despite the behaviors of its directors in recent times. It’s clear that today’s COB is not the COB of the 80’s. The COB is just one more, a small, weak movement. In the other hand, I consider Felipe Quispe to be much more important and not having forged an alliance with Quispe is something that hurts me more, because he represents an indigenous force in the Aymara altiplano.
LP: But, Why haven’t you being able to forge that alliance?
AGL: We first approached COB because of this, because it wasn’t a decisive social movement, important yes, because of its historic relevance which we tried to pull, but it wasn’t accomplished. Why? I would say because of their leadership and the distribution of congressional seats.
LP: Did COB wanted a share of power?
AGL: Everybody wants shares of power.
LP: Did Jaime Solares want to lead the alliance with Evo Morales?
AGL: Solares wanted the COB to have a greater protagonism, to be the organization that summoned [everyone], and I believe that at this stage there’s no single social movement who can attribute itself that power, because there’s no national movements in Bolivia. All social movements are now regional of local. And wanting to assume that attitude of “I’m the one who did something and because of that I have national relevance” doesn’t work anymore; we are not dealing with the COB of the 70’s. Here there’s a sort of melancholy, of a force that doesn’t exist anymore.
LP: Does this mean that you didn’t accept that COB be the one who summoned [the social movements, voters]?
AGL: I tried to reflect that that was impossible, that the possibility of an articulator COB was no longer feasible. That COB is just one more of the movements, and those words involved power quotas, leadership quotas, and definitions of whom would be president, vice president and congress representatives.
LP: And with MIP?
AGL: The same, the same.
LP: So power quotas influenced the process…
AGL: No, not power quotas, because power quotas sound ugly. But electoral power structure; I mean distribution of congressional seats. The important topic was who went first, Felipe or Evo Morales? President Felipe and Evo Morales second? Evo Morales did not accept that because he has more of a national leadership; Felipe has a more regional leadership.
LP: Are the social sectors who have managed to place around MAS sufficient?
AGL: Not everyone, not all [social sectors] went. But it’s not because we had to place actors around MAS, but because the idea I proposed myself was to form a project of united social movements.
LP: But, is the project actually marching?
AGL: I believe there have been plenty of advances. I can point out some sectors, national and departmental. FEJUVE in El Alto, we still need the signature, which depends a little bit of the debate, but FEJUVE has already made its position made.
LP: Is there an issue of distribution of congressional seats and leadership, there as well?
AGL: It has to do with electoral power, but we have advanced a lot.
 EGTK or Ejército Guerrillero Tupac Katari is one of the few Bolivian sub-national groups to be classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. Government. Its last documented attacks ended in the mid nineties.
 COB or Central Obrera Boliviana is the main worker’s (originally miner’s) union of Bolivia, however its power and influence has decreased steadily for the last decades, as it has turned more and more radical. It’s currently presided by trostsky-ite Jaime Solares.
 Felipe Quispe, the leader of MIP or Movimiento Indígena Pachacuti, and indigenist/separatist party, Quispe was also a leader of EGTK.
Source: Buitrago, Jaime E. García Linera desnuda los intereses de la COB y el MIP. La Prensa, Agosto 30 2005.
Cited in this post [external links]: Álvaro García Linera (MAS biography), COB, MIP, EGTK
UPDATE: BBC interview with Evo Morales and another one with Alvaro García Linera. A new freakishly titled blog about Morales and another note from Dan the missionary man talking about Linera .... And I can’t resist the temptation of noting that prank call… the second I found out about it (by reading a post in indymedia, go figure) my memory flashbacked to a TV character of my childhood, and his trademark phrase: “Se aprovechan de mi nobleza!” For a second, I stood in awe.
"El MAS posterga el Mutún; decretan paro en la frontera" Nuevo Dia, 21 de diciembre 2005.
A process that begun months before election dates where even selected, and has for decades being in awaited by both cruceños and bolivianosm, has being halted by MAS pressures. MAS wants this “little” project to be executed during their government, and as such have decided to delay the opening of envelopes (2nd step in the bidding process) for 60 days. Let’s just hope none of the international companies involved withdraw their proposals.
See story, see prior post about this topic.
Bolivia's "Big Oil's" First Public Comments
“Bolivia's Morales to revise Repsol YPF contracts, denies expropriation of assets” Interactive Investor.
A lot of hype has been rising about Repsol’s stock performance in the Madrid markets, about the fears of expropriation and future of contracts. I’ll try to keep you posted on official press releases flowing out of this company; this is the first note in that respect.
“Bolivia's victor worries BG”, Telegraph (UK) By Malcolm Moore (Filed: 21/12/2005)
“BG Group, the oil and gas explorer, yesterday threatened that future investment in Bolivia, where it is one of the largest foreign operators, may be cancelled because of the country's new president…. During his campaign, President Morales questioned the legality of 70 oil and gas contracts. He is expected to revoke the ownership of gas by foreign companies once it has been pumped above ground and to tinker with the length of some deals. He did not intend to confiscate or expropriate drilling rights.”
Sovereign Debt (Fitch) Ratings Remain Unchanged
“Fitch: Bolivia's Ratings Unchanged After Elections” Fitch Ratings (Press Release) 21/12/2005
Some excerpts of this press release, I’m particularly concerned about sovereign debt issues, given that negative ratings will affect interest rates/margins on future issues of debt. Higlights are mine:
“Fitch Ratings today commented on the Republic of Bolivia's general elections held on Dec. 18, 2005. Fitch rates Bolivia's foreign and local currency issuer default ratings 'B-' with a Negative Outlook…While Fitch is concerned about the politician's campaign rhetoric, which challenged the liberal economic policies followed by recent governments and the regional policies of the U.S. that advocate the eradication of coca cultivation, the Morales victory should give his government a greater degree of legitimacy than that enjoyed by recent predecessors, and could lead to improvements in governability.
Furthermore, the carrot of the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative, which could lead to 100% debt relief from the IMF and the World Bank as early as next year, may provide sufficient incentive to maintain important aspects of Bolivia's macroeconomic framework and to respect property rights. The targeted 100% debt relief of IMF and World Bank Debt outstanding as of Dec. 31, 2004, would cut Bolivia's public sector debt by approximately US$2.1 billion, potentially reducing the sovereign's debt/GDP ratio to 54% by the end of 2006 from a forecasted 75% at the end of this year. (…)
In spite of a prolonged period of social unrest and political uncertainty, Bolivia's president-elect inherits a growing and stable economy due to a benign international environment and the government's efforts to tighten fiscal policy. Real GDP growth is likely to reach almost 4.0% this year, underpinned by exports of hydrocarbons and minerals. High international commodity prices and record export volumes also benefited Bolivia's external accounts, with export growth reaching 23% for the first 10 months of 2005, compared with the same period in 2004. International reserves have grown to US$1.7 billion, or almost six months of imports of goods and services, the highest level in Bolivia's history. For the first three quarters of 2005, the combined public sector balance reverted to a slight surplus from a deficit of 5.5% of GDP in 2004 (including grants). Fiscal consolidation and growth have been contributing to an improvement in Bolivia's debt ratios, while inflation remains in single digits. Nevertheless, private investment, particularly foreign direct investment, has declined significantly in recent years.
See Complete Press Release
UPDATE: International Monetary Fund Extends 100 Percernt Debt Relief to Bolivian
The executive board of the International Monetary Fund Wednesday made good on its promise to cancel about $3 billion of debt it is owed by 19 of the world's poorest countries. IMF Managing Director Rodrigo de Rato said this is an historic moment that allows recipient countries to reduce poverty. Debt cancellation has long been championed by anti-poverty advocates. And now 19 of the world's higly indebted countries, one of which is Bolivia have been condoned of their public debt to this institution.
See Press Release
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Now seriously, tomorrow, president-elect Morales will be meeting with the upper echelons of the MAS party, the heads of the “social movements”, and other party’s representatives in the city of Cochabamba, with the objective of distributing all major government posts and offices. As it has always been the case, (with traditional parties as well) this is about the time when “pegas” are distributed.
I can’t resist the temptation of naming a few people who are sure to play an important part in the next cabinet, so be on the lookout for them:
- Iván Iporre. - He’s Evo’s Karl Rove, so you get the picture.
- Carlos Villegas Quiroga. - An economist, mostly known for his work as a director of San Andrés University doctoral program on development and his punditry in the gas export issue. As a matter of fact I spent the last half hour downloading papers he’s written on the subject. He’s set to occupy the Ministry of Economic Development post, which will determine a lot gas/oil policy.
- Juan Ramón Quintana. - A former army officer turned think-tanker, Quintana directs the Observatorio de Seguridad y Democracia (ODyS), and is your foreign press friendly go-to guy for military and police issues. He’s expected to be appointed Minister of Government.
- Gral. (r) César López. – A retired general, López has been a link between Evo and the corps; some point him out as the strategist behind our “missile crisis”, which was a huge propaganda boost for Evo. Old timer nationalist, with some leftist views, I don’t know much about what he plans in terms of rearmament and strategy.
Evo Quote of the Day [Protection With Exceptions]:
“El MAS protegerá la propiedad privada, excepto esas tierras ociosas e improductivas que tienen que revertirse en favor de quienes quieran trabajarla".
(translation) “MAS will protect private property, except those idle and unproductive lands, which have to be reverted in favor of those who what to work them”Evo Morales 
 Ministros de Evo deben contar con el aval de las Federaciones Jornada, December 20, 2005
Cited in this Post [External Links]: ODyS
Tag: Bolivia,Evo Morales
Monday, December 19, 2005
I have to correct myself from yesterday, not most but ALL prefectures are non-MAS. Matter of fact six out of nine are held by PODEMOS candidates, this fact, added to the almost-equal split of seats in Congress and Senate give PODEMOS the power of becoming a uniting force of the Bolivian centre-right and the anyboddy-but-MAS sector. Hopefully Tuto Quiroga will see this and not let his party disolve in dispair.
I have to correct this once again:
Tags: Bolivia Tags: Bolivian Elections Tags: Evo Morales
Many more MASistas saw personal benefit and a “peguita” in different levels of government. And now that meritocracy –be it academic, professional or otherwise- is practically abolished, I have no hopes MAS will distribute positions in accordance to capacity. Let’s just wait for the roster of senators, congress representatives and ministers to flow out of MAS, and we’ll dissect those biographies.
I’ll leave the data and percentages for tomorrow, but for now, in broad strokes: Most Prefectures are non-MAS, the Media-Luna (
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Just a short post to begin the day’s democratic festivities and point out some good sources of information to keep the reader informed:
- You can visit a time-delayed broadcast of ATB mid and evening news by visiting this website. I’m not clear on whether they will live-cast today’s elections.
- You can also see a live stream from
’s COTAS by using this feed. Santa Cruz
- Radio Pan Americana and other stations will be broadcasting live as well.
- Finally, for foreign press articles in one site check the Inside Bolivia Aggregator.
As always, I recommend the fine Bolivian blogs listed in the Blogs of Note section, where I have added a couple more recently. Pay special attention to Eduardo’s Barrio Flores, he’s been participating in an “anonymous” candidacy campaign for the last weeks and blogging on the process. He may be chanting victory tonight...
As far as this blog is concerned, I just got out of Tally this morning and am now staying in much warmer quarters; internet access may be limited though.
Friday, December 16, 2005
Much of the international coverage has focused in the candidacy of the “savior of the left” Evo Morales (if “the left” is in need of salvation is a matter of debate). Morales, who is seen as the agent of the poor, the indigenous and the “disenfranchised”, has consistently lead the polls and has so far, managed an excellent campaign. By refusing to debate his opponents, by appearing in equal step with the current leaders of the South American left and by courting the military and other strategic segments of the population; Morales has so far being very successful in his strategy.
However, one thing is campaigning or blockading effectively and a completely different one is governing effectively. If elected Morales will face a number of difficult issues:
- Governance. - Will Morales manage to create a sustainable alliance, and be able to govern without the traditional “neo-liberal” sectors? Should his victory occur, will he have effective control of the house and senate, or the newly empowered departmental (prefectural) governments? As head of the executive power Morales will face the situation he helped to create for the last decade: completely undermined authority of the executive power.
- “Nationalization” of oil and gas resources, production, refining and industrialization. - Which Mr. Morales has promised to his supporters, a complex issue given that they seem to understand nationalization as expropriation, that is, a takeover without compensation. This proposal is fundamentally flawed, given that in terms of ownership and control the oil and natural gas industry is already a “national” industry. Then we have the issue of how to compensate foreign firms, if indeed, the “intelligent nationalization” Morales proposes occurs, and after such depletion of funds takes place, how to enable industrialization and export of gas reserves. Please note, the moment nationalization is executed Foreign Direct Investment from traditional sources (read Europe and the United States) dries up.
- Departmental Autonomies. - This comes back to the issue of governance, given that following this election a “meso” level of governance will effectively be created  (creating a middle layer between national and municipal levels). The Santa Cruz and Tarija departments are sure to be carried -by a landslide- by autonomist parties. And given that Santa Cruz is the new entrepreneurial and productive axis of Bolivia, and Tarija the repository of the nations largest natural gas reserves, autonomist governments there will have significant say in enabling any of Mr. Morales plans.
- The Constituent Assembly. - Or as many have called it Asamblea del Pueblo V.2.0, where our Constitution is supposed to be redrawn. Issues of participation, effects and viability of this experiment are certain to shock any government that assumes its functions next week.
- Coca and cocaine production. - This issue wouldn’t be as important as the prior four if it weren’t because it has traditionally being a driving force for Morales and his Movement Toward Socialism (MAS). Every Bolivian citizen understands the negative effects of cocaine production and narco-trafficking and since the end of military rule every government has taken a firm stance in combating the drug trade. But Morales’s traditional supporters are precisely cocaleros, producers of the coca leaf and raw material providers to the drug trade. An agency problem, if there ever was one.
These are the nominal issues a Morales presidency would face, other than that we could ask how he plans to attract new foreign investment to a discredited country, avoid or stop violation of property rights (seizure of lands), handle foreign pressures, service debt and control the opposition. Will the Morales presidency become just another transitory government?
It all depends on how he handles the situation; the issues cited above and what variables enter into play. It’s easy to imagine a worst case scenario: a slippery slope into chaos: stimulated by broken promises and the action of fringe groups, which culminates sooner or later into a situation similar to “Octubre Rojo” only worsened by ethnic, economic and regional factors. That is the kind of scenario that officially inducts Bolivia to the “failed state” club – and invites in the blue helmets. Of course, that is the scenario we have to avoid at any cost.
Now, I'm not a pessimist, so I believe that another scenario is possible. An scenario in which -before the elections, or at least before Congress determines who will be president- the main parties sign a public agreement to enable governability. In which Morales promises to let go of his sindicalist past of authoritarian decision making and ruling by intimidation, and he promises not to "take 'the people' to the streets" when he doesn't have his way. And conversely, the other candidates promise not to excersise whatever power they have within their circles, or reasonably facillitate the passage of legislation. This second scenario is one that imagines cooperation and inclusion, of course, all antidemocratic acts that have plagued us in the past (ex. blockades or seizure of lands and property) and allows for system efficiencies (of our mixed economy) to take place.
 See Barrios Suvelza, El Estado Triterritorial (La Paz: Plural Editores)
Tags: Bolivia Tags: Bolivian Elections Tags: Evo Morales
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Yesterday, the Bolivian financial sector was rattled by a major movement among its members: One of Bolivia’s largest private banks, (Banco BISA, a unit of Grupo BISA) acquired the majority stake -96.33 percent- of Banco Santa Cruz (BBV: BSC). Banco Santa Cruz, was controlled by Spanish Group Santander Central Hispano (Madrid: SAN, NYSE: STD) since 1998, the Group is one of the largest European financial entities.
The takeover bid reached € 31.7 million ($US 37.7 million), with this move, Santander Central Hispano continues its strategy of pulling out of most south American markets (it once operated in 12 American countries) and narrowing down its operations to countries such as Chile, Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela.
Financially speaking, Banco Santa Cruz (BSC) represents a 9.4 percent stake of total national banking system while, BISA represents 14.1 percent. BSC has 20 national offices and an agency in Miami, it’s geared towards consumer banking and has an outstanding account of $US 240 in credits and $US 433 million in deposits.
BISA is controlled by the Bolivian Grupo León Prado, an enterprise group invested in mining, oil and construction projects throughout South America. For the purpose of this particular acquisition the services of a financial group based in Panama -Angulo Abierto Internacional S.A were contracted. Banco BISA counts with the financial support of the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, the Andean Development Corporation (CAF), the Nederland’s Development Finance Company (FMO) and Germany’s Investment and Development Company.
BISA, a bank traditionally geared towards corporate finance, insurance, and mutual fund administration has eight operating units, a patrimony -as of this writing- of $US 122 million, and assets of $US 813 million. BISA’s maverick President and CEO, Julio León Prado, seeks to consolidate BISA as the largest private bank in Bolivia. Mr. Prado’s prior activities include investments in Europe and the United States. In Bolivia, he is the founder of Banco Sol, a small-business lending institution; he was a pioneer in agribusiness and a promoter of free-trade zones and rural electrification.
Cited in this Post [external links]: Grupo BISA, Banco Santa Cruz, Grupo Santander Central Hispano, WB, IFC, CAF, FMO, DEG, Julio León Prado.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Download the attachment by clicking HERE (right click "Save As")
In non-related news, please support Miguel A. Buitrago (MABB), Bolivian finalist of The 2005 Weblog Awards.
Descargue la Matríz Comparativa de Propuestas electorales, preparada por la CEPB (Confederación de Empresarios Privados de Bolivia) Es un archivo PDF de 35 páginas que contrasta las propuestas, principalmente en el área económica, de los principales candidatos para estas elecciones (MAS, PODEMOS, UN).
Descargue el archivo pulsando AQUÍ (Pulsar el Mouse derecho “Guardar Como”)
En noticias no-relacionadas, por favor apoye al "blogger" boliviano Miguel A. Buitrago (MABB) en las finales de los premios Weblog Awards 2005.
Saturday, December 03, 2005
The Mutun Reserve is located near the border with Brazil
The companies mentioned were:
- Mittal Steel Group. - Mittal, a firm based in Rotterdam is the largest steel company in the planet, a market cap in the 20B and operations in every continent.
- Shandong Luneng Mining Group. – This Chinese LLC has raised a lot of interest in the Bolivian public, traditionally not used to receiving investment from Chinese firms.
- Jindall Steel & Power.- Also a major player in its local region, this Indian company has been seen with much interest as a non-traditional investor. It’s the latest to be added to the bidding
- EBX Siderúrgica Bolivia. - (Still looking for website) EBX is a Brazilian company (or perhaps “Sociedad Accidental”) apparently set up for the express purpose of this bidding.
- The Techint Group -SIDERAR.- Which is another society formed for this biding its composed by Argentina’s largest smelter and global engineering, construction firm Techint.
The Project is basically a Joint Venture lasting forty years, which will cover development, refining, industrialization and export of iron ore. The value of the project is estimated within $US 1.100 million and $US 5.300 by the Vice ministry. Participation of the state will be represented by the Empresa Sidregúrgica Mutún. The support structure for the project is also starting to be reinforced, recently the government of Korea announced it would finance a $US25.3 million project (financed by the Eximbank, and to be executed by the Korean contractor Sambu) for the construction of a bridge over Río Grande and Port of Pailas, - an essential railway crossing, necessary for the transport of refined ore products. Natural gas provisions for the project are also existent; however connection to the site itself will have to be built from the GTB Bolivia-Brazil pipeline.
The Mutún project represents a long-awaited project for development in Bolivia and the Santa Cruz Department; it’s expected to generate over 10,000 direct and indirect jobs during the length of the project. The site holds some of the continent’s largest iron ore reserves (at an estimated 40 billion metric tons of iron ore base, according to Jan 05, USGS survey) and will begin production at an impressive 1.5 million tons, and generate a tax base of $US 50 million yearly.
The bidding process will take place this month, and it’s scheduled to finalize December 22. The official text for the bidding can be found by visiting this link.