Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A personal note from Eduardo (Barrioflores)

Eduardo travelled to Bolivia a few weeks ago in order to get an internal insight of a political party's campaign. I would like to share a post of his with you, it is about the way that Morales and his party were perceived during and after the campaign, the clichés that were used against him, some misconceptions about him and especially, about personal commitment versus easy ranting. Because of the things he has seen, he has changed his perceptions and opinions. Thank you Eduardo for sharing such intimate thoughts with the rest of us. I keep looking forward to your next posts.

The promised post is here.

Monday, December 19, 2005

New blog

As if I had a lot of free time to blog like crazy (I don't), I opened a new blog called El púlpito del insomne. Its goal is to talk about programming languages and some of the research I do in my work. I decided to write it in Spanish. I reproduce the introductory post below:

Son altas horas de la noche en las que inauguro esta bitácora, o más apropiadamente, mi púlpito. Desde donde dirigiré incansables peroratas acerca de toda clase de tópicos relacionados con la programación. Trataré de aclarar la jerigonza de los artículos en el campo de la teoría de lenguajes de programación. Espero hacer este material atractivo y útil.

Este es un sitio de divulgación en el que quiero contagiar el interés por mi trabajo y los temas que se relacionan con este. Aunque aún no hay demasiadas batácoras de este tipo en inglés, quisiera hacerlo en español. Esto para no olvidar mi lengua materna y sobre todo para contribuir con una bitácora de calidad (a eso aspiramos) en nuestro idioma.

Quick elections post

The CNE seems to be confirming the projection numbers from Bolivian media. It has counted 33% of the votes, at this point MAS has 48.3% while PODEMOS has 34.7%. You can take a look by yourself here.

More detailed information on elections

The CNE is due to post some preliminary results today by noon, Bolivian time.
In the meantime, I am going to use the poll numbers provided by TV and radio networks.

This article from El deber reproduces some quotes that I missed from interviews to Tuto Quiroga and Samuel Doria Medina. They show that Tuto Quiroga, indeed, recognized the MAS victory, although in a vague noncommittal way. Samuel on the other hand stated that he would support the first majority.

Let's see how different regions of Bolivia have voted using an image from the article above. Evo Morales has a stronger support in the western part of Bolivia while he does not finish first in the eastern side. That is not a surprise, the policies that he wants to pursue have been repeatedly demanded only in the west. This asks for a close examination of the governor elections.

Previously, presidents would impose the governors for each region. This election was the first in which governors were elected by direct vote. From the preliminary results, it seems that most of the elected governors are not from Evo Morales' party. That will likely make harder to implement some policies for MAS. Especially tougher measures on gas companies. This will become a central-versus-regional debate. I think that the elected governors from Santa Cruz and Tarija will oppose the future gas policies on the grounds that it meddles with their autonomy.

The policies that the MAS wants to implement in the short term are: legalize coca leaf crops, impose additional obligations to gas companies, call a constituent assembly and implement employment protection laws.

A few weeks ago I didn't support the organization of a constituent assembly. Its advocates argued that they wanted to rewrite the constitution to change the current status of land tenure, economical model, etc. Actually they are not very specific on what areas they would like to change and in which way. That is one of the reasons that I didn't support this cause. Another reason for which I was skeptical was that it is possible to change the current constitution following the current established methods of change.

Thanks to a link by MABB, I could listen to a series of presentations about the Bolivian political situation. The speakers included both supporters and detractors of the constituent assembly process. The supporters were not articulate or specific enough to make their case against their detractors. They fail to mention what I think is a valid reason to make this assembly. Currently it is possible to change the constitution but it is slow and most importantly it requires a lot of political will which is usually absent, because congressmen in general were used to support the status quo. By agreeing in making the assembly, it is a fact that there is going a talk on highly thorny topics that would otherwise would be indirectly blocked.

I think the constituent assembly is about having the political will for change rather than a technical device. I now weakly support this assembly. I say weakly because I am not sure about the assembly specific aspects.

Finally, I was surprised to see in the graphic that I used in the post that there was a second round mentioned. The candidates didn't agree to go for a second round and Bolivia's electoral process doesn't include it. Did I miss something?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Unofficially, a landslide victory

As the TV and radio stations continued to count their poll results, the percentage of votes for Evo Morales continued to increase. In fact, the numbers from PAT and Unitel throw something like fifty percent. Thus, in the last hours there have been speeches from all major candidates.

  • Tuto Quiroga congratulated the MAS campaigners. But he didn't explicitly recognize his failure or Evo's victory. He just reassured his voters that he is staying in Bolivia to work for democracy and that he would take whatever job that destiny would land at his feet. Most commentators feel that he actually acknowledged Evo's victory. However, he was careful enough to leave the door open to an hypothetical presidency.
  • Samuel Doria Medina acknowledged the MAS victory. However, he said that he would make no alliances. Even if he said that he would support the first candidate if a difference of more than five points separates him from the second.
  • Evo Morales spoke for a long time in the place where he attained political notoriety, the cocalero's headquarters in Chapare. He emphasized the historical quality of these elections and talked about the change that Bolivia will undergo under his rule. He was rather aggressive against the Corte Nacional Electoral, or CNE, (more on that below) and not very conciliatory with people that didn't vote for him. His vice-president candidate had a more conciliatory speech, he avoided the election problems and, in my opinion, had a more hopeful tone.
There were many people who were not allowed to vote today. The body that takes care of elections logistics, CNE, did not consider people who didn't register for these elections, as they were required. However, there are accounts from people who fulfilled all the requirements but yet, they were not allowed to cast their vote. Technical problem or something more obscure? The MAS argues that the regions where this problem was most serious were the most supportive of MAS. Following this reasoning, Evo Morales demanded the resignation of the CNE's president.

We still have to wait for the official vote numbers. Yet, the most likely outcome is that Evo Morales is going to be the next president of Bolivia with a strong congress backing.

Waiting for news

I am currently listening to news of Bolivian elections. You can tune in (if you understand Spanish) connecting to the stream with winamp, iTunes or something else. The elections are over by now, most of the votes should be counted in the next hours.

Update. TV and radio networks have projected the election results using the answers given by interviewed voters at polling stations:
  • ATB gives: MAS (41.2%), PODEMOS (36.3%), UN (12.1%), MNR(6.9%).
  • Usted elige network gives: MAS (44.5%), PODEMOS (34.3%), UN (8.7%), MNR (7.2%)
  • Unitel gives: MAS (45%), PODEMOS (33%), UN (10%), MNR (7%).
I got this numbers from the radio link I just provided above.

Van wie is Bolivia

Which in English translates as "To whom belongs Bolivia?". This dutch documentary, by Mariëtte Heres, was filmed during the june riots in La Paz that ousted Carlos Mesa from the presidency. It is mainly based on interviews made to very different social actors, the first an indigenous woman market seller and the other a fairly wealthy white occupying the position of hydrocarbons overseer (Superintendente de hidrocarburos).

Our market seller raises three children by herself in a room deprived from electricity due to lack of money. On the other hand our man has a quite enormous house, a SUV car, healthy children and much material comfort. Heres contrasts their different living conditions and especially their differing opinions on the management of Bolivia's most precious natural resource: gas.

Our market seller supports nationalization, in fact, she actively participated in the turmoil I already mentioned above. She motivates her choices, saying that the multinational corporations are plundering Bolivia together with the white elite. She sincerely believes that she is fighting for the best future possible of her children. On the other hand the man thinks (also sincerely, I presume) that the nationalization is a mistake. He offers the usual reasoning: capital, international agreements, etc.

The movie offers more interviews to the social movements leaders, some presidential candidates such as Evo Morales and Samuel Doria Medina and some other persons.

From the film I gather that Heres supports the market seller's view, that market economies are evil and multinational corporations too. I could not follow the debate after the screening very well (it was in dutch), but I believe it confirms my impressions.

I don't claim the issues don't exist. They do and they are serious. However, the film simplifies them and it doesn't offer anything new.

However, we can interpret the film in a way that Heres did not intend. Forget for a minute the merits and demerits of our market seller and our government official for a second. Instead, note that the film might well be about mistrust in Bolivian society. Our market seller thinks that the government official is under hire by multinational corporations, while this one believes that she does not have a say in this matters because she is not well-informed on them.

This lack of trust can be seen in many places in Bolivian society, even more so in the presidential elections: Indigenous leaders and leaders of social movements would doubt Tuto Quiroga's will to govern for the benefit of the majority of bolivian society. Now consider the other side, medium and high class persons might doubt Evo Morales' statesmanship.

The political actors may be doing (some of them at least) what they sincerely think is the best action. But they don't trust the actions of the others. It is important to address the sources of mistrust, make political actors acknowledge the gripes of each other and work towards a common solution that minimally satisfies their needs. Without this understanding and acknowledgment of these issues, more conflicts are inevitable, whoever becomes elected.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Bolivian elections in one week

Dario caught me off-guard yesterday when he asked me when were Bolivan elections going to take place. I realized it is going to be pretty soon: next week. The news have not changed much later. Evo Morales is still leading the polls over Tuto Quiroga by some points. No debate between them has taken place, more surprisingly, I found out that most people (at least people online) support the non-debating stance of Evo Morales. I found it in this poll in La Razon. As of now, 54.24% of people consider that Evo should not debate against Tuto Quiroga or Samuel Doria Medina.

Read some articles at Barrio Flores for an insiders look at parties campaigning for elections. Eduardo is following a some party staff to get a good idea on how campaigning for an uninominal candidate works.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Blenders, parties, visits and guerilla movies

A blender is a glass container where at the bottom sit small metal knives assembled around an axe. You are supposed to fill it with some sort of nutricious substances, adding some liquid in case the mixture is too dry. Next, you put the glass container with the content on a small box featuring an electric motor inside. As you push a button on the box, a deafening noise clearly suggests that the stuff in the container is being sliced and mixed. My favorite use of this electromechanical device is reducing boiled vegetables to liquid in order to make thick soups. Another favorite is to do the same with fruits and milk, it is great to have milkshakes as breakfast.

Metka's visit - 10

Recently I used this implement to mix cocktails for a party we threw in honor of the birthday of Metka, who came to pay us a visit. The party was, in all honesty, quite a success. Drinks were flowing for the thirsty guests and everybody was in the mood to have fun. This was not the only party in this period. I attended one in the old student building I used to live. It was a very good party with live music. Besides that, you also attend and make dinners for your friends.

Metka's visit - 26

A few weeks ago I went to the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam with friends. From all the films I saw, the one that attracted the most attention was Guerilla Girl. It was actually the world premiere. The Danish director wanted to, as he puts it, turn the cliché of terrorism upside down. They filmed the three months course (yes, you have to follow a course) of a group of young colombians preparing to be active FARC members. The movie showed a rather idyllic view of the life of a guerrillero. I was surprised that the FARC instructors listened to the opinions of the new members, even if their opinions were not positive for the guerilla. The movie gave you the feeling of a boy scout camp with an open atmosphere and relaxed discipline. I have my doubts that this is how things are in reality.