Bolivia’s Gas Crisis: one year later

New Statesman – Hands off our gas!

The battle is not really over gas, but over who calls the shots in Bolivia. And remarkably, it is the mass-based organisations, representing indigenous and peasant populations, which are setting the political agenda. Next year a constituent assembly will draw up a new constitution to incorporate them in Bolivia’s political institutions. This is revolutionary change, yet it remains, so far, constitutional, dem-ocratic and largely non-violent.

The fact that indigenous organizations are leading such change must be making the elite in power quite nervous. However, I wouldn’t be so quick to rush to the conclusion that this is really solely a popular and democratic revolution. There are many indigenous leaders who can manipulate the masses for their own personal gain as well.

Bolivian Government using website for upcoming referendum

I’m, not sure how useful this will be in a country where most people may not have a phone, much less an internet connection. I hope the government is using other media channels to reach rural and poor consituencies as well. From the excellent analysis found at Now It’s Your Turn

The Bolivian government, through the Minsitry of the Presidency, has launched an interactive website pertaining to all issues of the upcoming gas Referendum, which takes place on July 18. The website and information campaign called “Te Toca A Ti’, reflects President Carlos Mesa’s journalism and media backgroud.

Coca eradication es futile

Three NGO’s argue that the United States sponsored coca eradication programs in Colomiba and the rest of the Andes do not work. Coca is compartively much easier to grow than alternative cash crops – requiring much less labor. Because it is more lucrative as well, it doesn’t make sense for a poor Andean farmer to pass it up for another crop.

In a 54-page report entitled “Going to Extremes: The U.S.-Funded Aerial Eradication Program in Colombia,” LAWG argues that the fumigation policy has failed to make even moderate headway toward achieving its stated goal of reducing the availability of cocaine in the United States. According to the latest national data, including Walters’ own office, the report says, the price, availability, and purity of cocaine sold in the U.S. have remained virtually unchanged since fumigation operations began.

From Reuters:

Fragile Bolivia Unites, for Now, on Chile Sea Spat

For 120 years, Bolivia has demanded neighboring Chile give back coastline seized in a 1879-1883 war, saying that this landlocked Andean nation needs access to the sea, and therefore an easier route to world markets, to escape centuries of poverty.

The issue historically resurfaces in Bolivia during times of crisis, and was a main rallying cry during street protests in October that killed dozens and forced the resignation of Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada.

I wasn’t aware that Bolivia was “teetering on the edge of chaos.” I do remember that some TV stations in Bolivia still sign off each night by showing footage of Pacific beaches.

Bolivian coalition falls apart

Hopefully it won’t get worse before it gets better. I’ll give my dad and aunt another call this weekend to get their perspective on the situation.

Sanchez de Lozada, a 73-year-old U.S.-educated businessman and one of the wealthiest people in the country, is disliked by millions of Bolivians who see him as a "gringo" out of touch with the needs of South America’s poorest country.
A U.S.-led effort to eradicate coca, the raw material for cocaine, and an unpopular plan to export natural gas sparked the unrest in the landlocked nation of 8 million mainly indigenous people.

Bolivia Gov’t Coalition Falls Apart, Protests Rage

Unrest lingering in Bolivia

Marches and protests continue in La Paz and look to be spreading to other cities in Bolivia.

Elsewhere in the capital, long lines formed outside grocery stores over worries of food shortages as demonstrators continued to block roads, choking off the city from the rest of the country.

We talked to my Dad and Aunt this evening. The situation is very tense. They haven’t left my aunt’s house since at least yesterday. He’s supposed to return on Monday but flights out of La Paz are still suspended.

Unrest in Bolivia

Looks like my dad picked a bad time to visit the motherland:

Thousands took to the streets in the capital, chanting anti-government slogans and demanding the president resign despite his announcement Monday that he will shelve controversial plans for natural gas exports.

The plans to sell gas to the United States and Mexico had already provoked massive protests in recent days in which at least 16 people have been killed.

It’s sad to think that people are protesting to stop natural gas exports, which are estimated would have brought in $1.5 BILLION dollars a year to our country. However, the union leaders are probably right in that the benefits would not reach them. Instead, the income would finds its way into the pockets of the Bolivian upperclass businessmen and foreign companies that would oversee the project.

A good summary of the situation is here at

Coca != Cocaine ?

Interesting article forwarded to me by my cousin from the WSJ on Coca Eradication failing in Bolivia. Unfortunately you need a subscription to view it online but you can get a lot of info from Google News too.

And from Erythroxylum: The Coca Plant

The Andean culture and the coca plant have thrived for centuries. It is ironic that this same plant that is used as a cure in its homeland is the source for so much abuse and misunderstanding in other parts of the world.