Sunday, January 29, 2006

Snack tip of the day

Tortilla chips with ajvar and a cold beer.

Presidential ceremony coverage

A summary of the coverage in Bolivian blogs can be found in this post by Eduardo Avila.

La razon has two photo galleries about the event here and here. Just click on Ver Fotogalería in those pages to witness the party atmosphere that followed Evo Morales taking office.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Evo Morales in Tiwanaku

Bolivia's president pre-inauguration and inauguration news are surely going to echo in the whole Bolivian blogosphere. I will merely post interesting links (all in English! Click Away!):
The wiphala, an Inca symbol?
The BBC news page that depicts the wiphala flag, claims that this was the flag of the Inca empire. In this other page, Dra Zamudio describes the evidence that would back such an assertion, this symbol might even have been from older times.

However, Javier Escalante from the Dirección Nacional de Arqueología disagrees. According to him the wiphala flag and the famous solstice ceremonies are inventions that can be dated to twenty years ago. Such a claim cannot go unnoticed. Indeed some aymara authorities from other countries generously used unkind adjectives to describe the archeologist.

This wikipedia page gives us more detail on the wiphala flag. It makes sense to think that the design appearing in the wiphala follows an old pattern whilst its depiction in a flag is something very recent.

Unusual guests
It is also worth emphasizing the presence of some unusual guests. Evo Morales announced the return to a more strict hidrocarbons policy towards Chile. Yet, he invited the Chilean president, Ricardo Lagos, to the ceremony. Lagos accepted the invitation, his coming to Bolivia is a turning point in Bolivia-Chile relations. At least in a public relations sense.

Also, notice the presence of Slovene president, Janez Drnovsek, the only European president attending the ceremony. He has been very active internationally to promote awareness of the Darfur crisis in Sudan as pointed out in a comment to a previous post. In the same comments section Jonathan mentions the visit of president Mahamed Allbdelaziz from the Western Sahara Republic. He led the polisarian guerilas to free his country from Spanish rule in 1976. After the Spanish withdrawal, war ensued with neighboring countries Morocco and Mauritania. You can find more history in this wikipedia article. Although many countries do not recognize this young republic, Bolivia did in 1983. Somewhere I read that half of South American and Caribbean countries recognize this republic.

I read some accounts of Evo Morales' speech. He emphasized the diversity of Bolivia, dismissing revenge policies against K'aras (whities) and privileged groups that some people would want to pursue. He also announced the end of the colonial state. Indigenous peoples would have a new role in this new state. As more analyses of his speech appear in blogs, I will add links.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Missile report and presidents to come to Bolivia

The final report on the missile controversy is out! It explicitly states that no one gave an order for the missiles to go out of the country. The report also points out that some related procedures within the army were skipped.

A letter by captain Arancibia Mendoza gives the names of the military officers and two US embassy employees that transported the missiles to an unknown destination.

The president asked the Cancilleria to share with the US embassy his concern on the behavior of some of its personnel members on this matter. The embassy declined to comment on the issue.

General Antezana was removed from his position by the president. To many, this comes too late, as general Antezana gave personal statements many times, breaking the rules (unknown to me) that forbid such statements from military people.

This report confirms the official version on the obsolescence of the missiles. They claim to have tested one with terrible results. It swirled in the air for a bit before crashing and missing the target. It would be great it would have hit the target after swirling like mad! It would be invulnerable to anti-missile defense!

Countering the obsolescence claim will be hard, I suppose, since the missiles are gone.

On happier news, Miguel from MABB tells us that the presidents from Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Chili, Panama, Peru, Paraguay, Venezuela, Slovenia and the Republic of Western Sahara are coming for Evo Morales' inauguration.

Kudos to Metka for informing me first about the visit of the Slovene president. Initially I thought it was a joke :).


Meme of four

I noticed the meme of four which somehow is to a blog what a forward is to email. Finally I am the happy recipient of the awaited questionnaire via this post of Jonathan. The idea is to do a display of exhibitionism by answering to a series of personal questions with four answers.

Four jobs you've had in your life: Computer laboratory assistant at UMSS (student herder and computer guy), assistant at DICYT in UMSS (helped out with their webpage), lead developer of the comunidadesweb project at Virtualisimo (the first Bolivian dot-com company). PhD candidate at Utrecht University. Yes, I consider it a job.

Four movies you could watch over and over (Over and over? the same movie? Are you for real?): 12 Monkeys; 2001, A Space Odyssey (skipping the "drug induced" trip at the end); Amores Perros; 2046.

Four places you've lived: Oruro, Louvain-la-Neuve, Cochabamba, Utrecht.

Four TV shows: I don't watch much TV but I enjoyed Coupling. I'd rather answer with podcasts :). Here it goes: BBC Documentary Archive, The Naked scientists, Radio Open Source.

Four places you've been on vacation: Copacabana, Bolivia; Tuscany, Italy; Greece; Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Four websites you visit daily: La Razon, BBC News, tons of blogs via the amazing Vienna.

Four of your favorite foods: Papalisa soup,picante de lengua, oysters, ceviche.

Four places you'd rather be: Traveling in Bolivia or South America in general. For living, Cochabamba, a mediterranean city or some Asian place.

Four albums you can't live without: Antologia - Madre Deus, O Melher De Dois - Caetano Veloso, Dance Mania - Tito Puente, Give Up - The postal service.

I would like to forward this meme of four to jpcik! and Alfonso.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Missiles controversy

The highest commander of the Bolivian army, general Antezana, has been in the center of a growing controversy lately.

This whole affair started when Evo Morales denounced that 29 land-air missiles were irregularly handed from the Bolivian army to the United States. Due to the importance of this missiles in Bolivia's defense, he threatened to start a responsibilities process to president Rodriguez and the defense minister.

General Antezana declared that these missiles were obsolete and had to be demolished. He also affirmed that foreign personnel participated in the demolition and furthermore he takes full responsibility of the decision. But that was only the first of many other statements, each of them changing his role in the whole affair.

First he starts regretting that the missiles went out of the country, "...maybe they should have never left, we should have brought the technicians here." However, he still shows confidence in his choice.

Two weeks later he denies that he gave any authorization for the shipment of the missiles. He tells the press to ask the defense minister to for details.

Then, a few days ago he completely drops the idea that the missiles were obsolete. He points that the outgoing government was pressured to hand over the missiles because of the almost certain victory of Evo Morales. According to him, the US didn't want these missiles in the hands of a socialist government. Later in the afternoon he talks again to the press after an undoubtedly not too friendly talk with president Rodriguez. It turns out that he might have exaggerated previously, the final facts are going to be in a forthcoming report. Let there be no doubt about the government's integrity and sovereignty.

To find what? That today Antezana talks again. He accuses the government and politicians to have signed an agreement to hand over the missiles to the US. Furthermore, he claims to have proofs, and he challenges the government to present the details of this agreement within 48 hours.

Let's forget the obvious fact that general Antezana badly needs attention. The important question here is whether these missiles were really obsolete and if the demolition of the missiles is justified.

There seems to be a final report on the matter already. According to what I read in La Prensa it should go public shortly. While we wait for that document take a look at this statement from Juan Ignacio Siles, ex-canciller during the government of Mesa. He says that they were also kindly asked to give up the missiles, but they refused. In the same article, some military sources contest that the missiles are obsolete. What is more, Bolivia is still paying for them!

Also, more information on the site of FAB extraoficial.


Sunday evening, everything ready for sleeping. Alarm? Check. Lights off? Check. Book? Check. No, even better, we don't read at all and just sleep early for once.

I cover myself very carefully to avoid the cold from waking me up later. It is not that bad, I have good heating in my room. This reminds of my life in Oruro, a very long time ago. You had to put on something like seven or more blankets to avoid the freezing cold. It was so heavy that it was an actual effort turning in bed to achieve a more comfortable sleeping position. The waking time was always feared. You could be cosily warm in bed but as soon as you would get any arm or leg out, the cold would remind you that you don't have the thick skin of a polar bear. And don't remind me of the morning wash! That freezing water!

Anyway, the point is that I had all these preparations to be ready to sleep and what? Insomnia again. So I decided to write a short post while I prepare something for a meeting at work tomorrow.

Everything prepared, I will try another shot at sleeping.


That was yesterday, Blogger was busy that I could not post it. Today it is even worse. I got a flu. No, not the bird one.

Monday, January 09, 2006

On coca policy

I want to highlight some fragments about coca policy from this interview to the future vice-president of Bolivia, Alvaro García Linera. García Linera maintains that the government will honour the 1008 law while a market study for the coca leaf proceeds. This law states the amount of coca plantations that must be removed. As soon as the study finishes, the amount of allowed coca plantations will change accordingly.

Note that this is more moderate than what the future president announced. Previously, Morales announced that this law would be ditched and coca plantations would be legal as soon as he would take office. Now, it seems that the status quo will remain until the study is concluded.

I heard proposals for this study but I had no idea that someone was carrying it out. Who is it? When will it conclude?

On a second reading, it seems that the study does not exist. García Linera is proposing it.

There are many more interesting things in this interview. I am emphasizing this part just because it seems to be low on Bolivian blogger radars.


Consuming media

The recent holidays prompted a massive consumption of media on my part. On the most part I read books and then I watched some movies on DVDs and cinema. I read yet another comical book by Terry Pratchett, Small Gods. This one I read in French, a rather strange choice for an English book. I just could not resist all those cheap pocket books that they sell in FNAC (Brussels). I also bought the first novel of Michel Houellebecq (I will never learn how to spell his name without google). A great book that I received as a gift was Alamut by Vladimir Bartol. A story that takes place in eleventh century Iran. You got to love those kind of books.

On films I can recommend "María llena de gracia", a Colombian movie about "mulas", persons that traffic cocaine in their stomachs. I remember especially the scene where María swallows the "films". Expect unusually tense moments in that film.

Recently, I started listening to two podcasts. One is Radio Open Source with the slogan "A public radio show with Christopher Lydon". As far as I can tell they tackle sociological, economic and politic issues from around the world. Every program features a guest with expertise in a specific topic who also happens to be a blogger. I already pointed out the show that discussed the increasingly left-leaning Latin American governments. Topics such as Iraq and global warming are also discussed. There is even a program on cookbooks it seems. I will take a look at it!

The other podcast is called The Naked Scientists with the aim of promoting science to the general public. They do it with humor and quick-paced programs. Today I was listening to the special on social insects and biting bugs. I learned why the bites of horse flies are so painful. It was particularly interesting to me since I suffered the bites of this bastards in the island of Mljet. Thanks to Metka for suggesting this podcast.

I also recommend listening to the Documentary Archive from BBC Radio. You can find the podcast feed in this page.

Finally, following links in Barrio Flores I found a blog called I will teach you to be rich. I am not particularly interested in being rich or in becoming rich overnight. Well, It must not be completely true since I read the posts :). The ones that I liked are those that help me improving my self-management skills. So here you have a post about work and the guilt of not doing it and another on the myth of the great idea.

Food talk

During these holidays in Belgium I got a recipe to prepare a delicious mint tea from a Moroccan restaurant. I rather like it. Sometimes too much. In fact it can cause severe episodes of insomnia if you drink over a liter of it. It was useful while I was still working during the evening. The problem started when I decided to go to bed only to stare at the ceiling. I had to blog a bit to let the sleepiness come back. Not too bad since my other blog's name has something to do with insomnia. Ha!

Have you heard about Picana? It is a traditional Bolivian dish that you eat in Christmas. It is sort of simple, at least simpler than many fancy dishes that people in other countries eat for christmas. I could not avoid thinking about it now that I saw some pictures that my brother sent me. One of those features my two cousins eating a steamy, freshly served picana. I decided not to post this picture because my cousins were not told they were going to be seen by all Internet. You know how women are with pictures :).

Oh, unfortunately I can't find pictures of picana on the web. Not the one that my family does but a rather complicated variant called picana de navidad (christmas picana), a picture here. It does not look as yummy as ours.

Some years ago a Bolivian deputy wrote a newspaper article "Diatriba contra la picana". I was very angry at him. How dared he complain about such a delicious dish? Maybe he complained about the christmas one and not about the one true picana. If I see him once, I should invite him to eat by my aunt Carmen. I bet you a beer that he would convert instantly.

All this talk about food might have made your digestive juices flow, my dear reader. Go get something to eat, you have deserved it. I am waiting to eat the dish that my flatmate cooked today. Tomorrow it is my turn, I am going to kick ass with ratatouille and cous cous.

Off topic, the marketing department of this blog has decided to write a post on food from time to time. Serious studies showed that a large part of the visiting readership get into this blog when looking for food talk.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

First 2006 post

After periods of febrile blogging activity (such as the elections week) I tend to be rather quiet on my blog. I was even quieter because of holidays as I was not using internet all that much.

For Christmas I went to visit my mother and Jean Michel. Following Belgian tradition we had very good food and very large amounts of it. I did a bit of shopping at FNAC with my mother, I love how many cheap pocket books you can find there. I bought a few for the coming trips. I also had time to visit Belgian friends and practice a bit of Belgian slang and Belgian beer drinking :).

For New Year, we met with Bolivian friends in Ghent. All of them are doing PhDs, just as me, so we talked a lot about funny aspects of research, also also about the not so funny ones. Surprisingly we didn't talk very much about politics. That is rather strange, because if you put two or three Bolivians together they will start talking politics and geopolitics, even if a lot of non-sense comes out. Never mind, we talked more about the future, our future that is. We had the traditional oven-prepared pork in the oven with salads. Unfortunately, we forgot to buy apple puree!

I lied a bit when I said we didn't talk politics, we talked about the elections. All Bolivians at this time are following very closely all things related to elections. This reminds me that there was a radio show hosting Jeffrey Sachs, Miguel Centellas and Jim Shultz. You can access it here, I will try to comment later on it.