Friday, June 30, 2006

New Polls are in: ¿Bye Bye Centralismo?

(File under: Politics) CEDLA, the well know Latin American labor and agrarian research institute, has recently published a somewhat comprehensive poll of voting intentions in the urban and rural areas of Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, La Paz and Tarija. The technical details and final results are available at the institute’s website, from which I extract the following:

  • The “Yes to Autonomy” vote wins in all of the polled departments – even in urban and rural (!) La Paz. Days away from the referendum Autonomia is no longer a cruceño proposal, though the results of the poll do expose a major Bolivian mindset issue: 10.60 percent would vote for autonomy for some departments, 46.30 percent would favor autonomy for all departments but 42.50 percent would prefer the system to remain unchanged rather than have only some departments enjoy autonomy. (“O hay para todos o no hay para nadie” it seems, which could be worrisome).
  • The “Yes” vote triumphs even in rural areas, which tended to vote for MAS an Evo Morales in the last election. It’s worth noting that despite being the head of state –and supposedly neutral to the process- Evo has campaigned alongside MAS candidates, attacked the autonomy movement and its leaders and publicly announced he’ll vote “NO” encouraging his supporters to do the same. And despite all of these efforts, initial polling shows his supporters may vote the other way. In Santa Cruz and possibly Beni and Pando, autonomy will win by a landslide, Cochabamba urban and rural polling also show above 50 percent support for autonomy.

Exhibit 1: Voting intentions, key cities (Source: CEDLA):

  • It is surprising to see that reasonable expectations of what autonomy will mean for Bolivia do exist.[1] When asked to define autonomy; the majority answered “A new form to distribute the country’s resources” (33.4 percent) and “a new territorial organization” (22.70 percent) no magical panacea in anybody’s mind.
  • Not all is good though, with days left to the referendum the majority still believes La Paz will be somewhat damaged by the autonomic process.

I do not see it that way, just as any other department, La Paz, its citizens, businesses and other social actors can thrive under an autonomous form of government. Centralism, bureaucracy, political corruption and unjustified dominance on the other hand, has no place in the future we want to build. Save “executive intervention” in CNE’s procedures…autonomy will win.

[1] As opposed to what I call unreasonable expectations by the part of Evo’s voters on the last election –on what he would mean for Bolivia.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Half a Million Manifest in Support of Autonomy

The video to the right comes courtesy of Willy Andres. So far it looks like may "live-blog" (kinda hard to do from 3000 miles away, but I'll try to update hourly) the constituent assembly/autonomy referendum.

UPDATE: Marches also occured in Cochabamba and Tarija, recent polling shows autonomy is favored in all major departments.

(File under: Politics)

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Week That Was: Audiovisual Version

I won’t be posting videos every week but I thought the events of these past days disserved some special attention. The first video (from the upper left to right) is a brief run down of Evo’s speeches this week, in which he attacks the opposition, the church, autonomy movement, the television channel Unitel and the US. The second clip is about a Cuban dissident who’s been living in Bolivia for the past few years and has been very outspoken about the reality under Castro’s regime; in this clip he claims to know of at least six recently-arrived Cuban doctors in Bolivia who have already escaped to Brazil or are in hiding.

This week, president Morales accused the US of sending "covert agents" to Bolivia, and even published the names of some twenty American and european citizens in the official news agency website as “proof”, unfortunately for Evo most if not all of these people were academics or grad students and one can easily find their vitas or curriculums with a simple google search; they include University of Michigan's Carrie Landrum and Denver University Jennifer Hennessey among others. The ridiculousness of this claim did not stop the rapid diffusion of this news item internationally as some 70 US newspapers have reported on it. Perhaps we should add a new caveat for US tourists and visiting fullbrights in those Lonely Planet guidebooks: be ready to be accused of working for the CIA by none other than the Bolivian president!

Meanwhile, television channel ATB has been carefully following the issue of Venezuelan military presence in Bolivia and recently informed of a new group of Venezuelan pilots arriving to Bolivia, they presented a video of the troops and attempted to interview some of them. Finally, one big story was published by La Prensa and quickly addressed by the executive; it talks of a possible “split” of opinion and confidence between the president and the vice-president Alvaro García Linera.

A though set of news for only one week, and surely there's more to come.

(File under: Other) On a blog-related side-note, I’d like to thank Ciudadano K for his kind words about my blog in his website; he apparently likes my writing style. Also the folks at Medicina Cubana for having taken up and republished my article on their blog, though global voices confused authorship when citing it; Guccio’s also commented on the article and posted a related note; he clearly got what I was trying to say – which some people didn’t. I’m not attacking the Cuban doctors in Bolivia or their intentions, I’m questioning how their labor is being used to generate propagandistic announcements and further a confrontation with Bolivian health professionals. Finally, I should have mentioned Miguel’s commentary on my oil nationalization article a long time ago.

Ok, so after noting all those accolades, my turn to make a couple: do check Marketing SOS, finally…I’m no longer the only one blogging about Bolivian business-related topics... or maybe I was never the only one nor the first one: here’s to Finanzas Globales, which is registered in Bolivia, though my attempts to reach the author have been foiled so far.

That’s all, I may post something tomorrow, there is a lot I want to write about.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The opposition Speaks on the Issue of Venezuelan Military Aid

I recently opened a Youtube account; which I will use to post relevant news items or clips. I'm using this account in conjunction with another project of mine (FAB-EXTRAOFICIAL) so if you decide to browse the collection don't be surprised by the large number of military-related videos.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Según una entrevista al Embajador de Cuba Rafael Dausá, desde la llegada al país de 590 médicos [1] (o “técnicos en medicina” como son titulados ultimamente) cubanos hace tan solo tres meses y unos días a la actualidad, han sido atendidas por ellos cerca de 570 mil personas, “a miles de las cuales se les salvó la vida” y de las cuales 7,300 recuperaron la vista en nada fáciles operaciones oftalmológicas [2].

El número es en realidad sorprendente: 570,000 personas atendidas desde fines de Febrero -cuando se autorizó la entrada de este personal debido a la época de inundaciones [3]. En este lapso ha transcurrido 72 días hábiles, asumiendo que todos los médicos invitados trabajaron todos los días esto hace 7,917 atendidos por día (una tasa de 13.4 pacientes por médico), asumiendo que la totalidad de este personal esté aquí cumpliendo funciones puramente hipocráticas y no sembrando semillitas de otro tipo.

Más interesante aún, es que si estos 590 médicos continúan atendiendo a la impresionante cantidad de 7,917 pacientes al día, en lo que resta del año habrán curado a nada más y nada menos que 1, 179,633 personas adicionales, llegando a un sorprendente 1,7 millones de atendidos en tan solo diez meses y unos días. Ósea el 21 por ciento de la población boliviana. Sorprendentes cifras, sin duda.

Según el embajador cubano hay déficit de médicos en Bolivia, a pesar de que las universidades bolivianas gradúan cerca de 5,000 profesionales de salud al año, y cientos de ellos se encuentren desempleados o sub-empleados. Entonces, ¿Qué pasa si hacemos como el sugiere, e invitamos 10,000 de estos súper-médicos cubanos a visitar el país? Pues no mucho, ya que según estas cuentas en un día habrían atendido al 989% de la población boliviana.

Con estos súper-médicos cubanos no debería quedar enfermedad alguna en el mundo... o tal vez se trate simplemente de diferencias entre los hechos reales y la contabilidad castrista, que pena que los bolivianos nos estemos tragando el cuento.


[1] Las cifras varían, algunos citan hasta 700 “médicos” en el país, por los que cito a lo mencionado por el embajador Dausá. El status y calidad profesional de estos señores también es desconocido, ya que no existe ninguna verificación independiente., Junio 6, 2006, Marzo 10, 2006.
[2], Mayo 22, 2006.

[3] Nuevamente, estas son cifras distribuidas por el embajador cubano y repetidas por la prensa nacional, es interesante notar que estos señores fueron desplazados a algunas de las áreas de menor densidad poblacional del país, y aún así reportan más de medio millón de atendidos.

Lectura Recomendada:

- Medicina Cubana, Blog del Dr. Eloy Gonzalez (Cubano).

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Against all odds: Jindal Steel & Power is awarded El Mutún iron ore project

This was a nerve-racking bidding if there ever was one: plenty of controversy, politically motivated-stalling and intrigue, clashing of regional and political interests, mining industry nationalization scares and even a faux ministerial kidnapping.

What started as a highly competitive international bidding of five foreign companies including heavy hitters Mittal Steel Group and Shandong Luneng eventually became a one-player game as other companies deserted the process – or in the case of EBX were kicked out. But now porteños are celebrating, the Bolivian government has just announced the awarding of the project to the sole remaining competitor, Indian materials and energy conglomerate Jindal Steel and Power Ltd. (JNSP.BOM, Website).

The project is expected to generate some 2,000 direct jobs in the area, and important tax revenues to the local and national government. We should also note that natural gas rather than coal will be used in the smelting process.

According to, a popular Indian news site, “industry sources said the Indian company would have to invest $1.5 billion over the 40-year term of the contract. The El Mutun iron ore mines, located near the Bolivian-Brazilian border, have proven reserves of 40 billion tones… the deal will also benefit the Andean country. Its government estimates it can earn about $250 million in iron ore exports every year and employ almost 2,000 people. The operations can help produce up to five million tones of steel annually.”

JSPL is the latest among Indian conglomerates hunting abroad for raw materials. Last year, the country's largest private steel producer, Tata Steel bought a five per cent stake in an Australian coal mine.

El Deber (ED) published a brief interview with Mr. Vikrant Gujral (VG) Jindal’s vice-chairman and chief executive officer, my translation follows:

ED. - What was your first reaction when the government announced the green light for your proposal?

VG. - We’ve been working on this offer for two years, and put all efforts into it, I personally traveled to Bolivia ten times during the past years, to follow the project’s progress. That’s why we were glad and because there is a great sense of responsibility to it.

ED. - What’s the 60-day pause that Jindal asked for?

VG. - That lapse forms part of the proposal requirements.

ED. - What amount of investment is Jindal planning for this project?

VG. - About $2,300 million within eight years; direct and indirect employment generated by the project will reach the thousands, we don’t have a specific number.

ED. - When do you begin operating?

VG. - We are already working; obviously, there are some legal procedures have to complete before we start operating the project itself, for instance congressional approval and once we get that then we’ll begin operating. We are opening an office in Santa Cruz to monitor all contractual procedures and paperwork.

ED. - Is it true that other companies could also start working with Jindal in the iron ore extraction?

VG. - Maybe, we haven’t ruled out that possibility, even though this project will probably generate some start-up companies in the area.

We should be relieved that, while MAS may have hijacked the process from the previous administration (and now gloats over how a “popular, originary government has finally taking upon this project”) at least they were able to garner enough reason to go with it and complete a negotiation, we hope, in Bolivia’s best interest.

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