Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bolivia: An Election Post-Mortem

I am always amazed at how people who don’t actually live in Bolivia produce such rapid and certain analyses of events here and what they mean. Official election results for Sunday haven’t even been announced yet by the Corte Electoral and already the Web is full of articles declaring with great confidence what the Evo vote meant and why.

In many cases these analyses are based on a simple formula:

View events – sprinkle briskly with pre-established ideology – come to conclusion that supports that ideology.

Sometimes the ideology involved is right wing: Evo’s victory is a dangerous win for Chavez-style social manipulation of the ignorant.

Sometimes the ideology is left wing: Evo’s victory signals the continuation of the hunger of Latin America’s poor for genuine socialism.

Do certain people abroad really believe that Bolivia is inhabited by women with long braids carrying Noam Chomsky under their arm?

After ten years here I have come to one relatively certain conclusion. Bolivians are like most people everywhere. When they think about politics they don’t really come at it ideologically. They come at it very practically. Their chief consideration is: what do they think will make their lives better, especially given how tough life can be here for so many.

Bechtel didn’t get kicked out because people wanted to fight corporate power (though the leaders of the Water Revolt did). It is because the Bozos running the corporation thought that they could raise water rates by more than 50% overnight and get away with it. In economics the technical term for this is called stupidity.

So, based on a different ideology, one called “Bolivians are smart and know how to look out for their interests,” here is my own analysis of Sunday’s vote – and it ain’t rocket science.

First, the “Age of Evo” was inevitable in Bolivia.

Most Bolivians live so close to the economic cliff that they worry day-to-day just about the basics – feeding their families, keeping a roof overhead, affording the 1.50 Bs. fare for the bus. Their obvious “class interest” is not ideological; it is in people’s faces hour by hour. There are certainly many people in Bolivia who do not need to worry about such things but they are not the majority, or even close to it.

For years the real political question in Bolivia was: Why hasn’t some politician or political party come along and figured out how to represent that majority and win its electoral support? Sooner or later it was inevitable that one would, and one did, Evo. It could have been someone else besides Evo and MAS, but it was Evo and MAS that set out to do so, while other left leaders focused on other things. And none of the others who tried the election route, like Felipe Quispe, had anywhere near the long-term commitment or savvy to pull it off. Evo and MAS did make it their work and they were aided greatly by the incompetence and ruthlessness by some of those who preceded Evo in the Presidency, adding to Evo’s base of support.

I know lots of people who went to the polls Sunday and voted for Evo and their reasoning is pretty simple. In Evo they see a President on their side and in the opposition they see a lot of leaders who look and sound and just like those who have ignored them. Every time Ruben Costas (the Governor) rants in Santa Cruz it only makes Evo stronger. Any hesitations they might have about competence or combativeness by Evo are really much less on their minds than the simple fact that in Evo they see themselves. And that is something very, very new for them in Bolivian politics.

Second, Evo’s Adversaries on the right are louder than their numbers.

The numbers from Sunday speak for themselves. Two thirds of Bolivians want Evo to be President, a third does not. You don’t get more lopsided than that in politics.

Look at it by region. According to the latest results, Evo will win majorities in seven of Bolivia’s nine departments, and majorities of greater than two-thirds in four of them, including two of the largest, La Paz and Cochabamba.

Where is the opposition? Well, it isn’t an overwhelming force in Chuquisaca the way those Sucre leaders would like to portray things. Evo is winning 54% in the department where “capatilia” is king. Opponents can certainly claim Beni, where 58% of those who went to Sunday’s polls voted to oust Morales. But with 100,000 voters out of 8 million Bolivians that puts it in a league roughly akin to Quillacollo, a smallish city down the road here where Evo won handily.

And then there is Santa Cruz, the only region of any size in Bolivia where Evo lost, 60/40. The real result of Sunday’s vote maybe the political isolation of Bolivia’s most vocal department and in particular its vocal leadership. Before Sunday one could speak of the Media Luna, a coalition of anti-Evo departments with Manfred Reyes Villa trying hard to add Cochabamba and make it five. After Sunday what you have is Ruben Costas and the usual gang of Santa Cruz civic leaders screaming for coups and autonomy and tossing out racial insults while they watch the rest of the country slip away.

How is it that the position of Evo’s hardcore opponents got so inflated?

Across Bolivia, the people who you see on the television each night (I do sneak a peak on other people’s TVs from time to time) or who you read about in the press, are not people like my rural neighbors who voted across Bolivia in droves for Evo. Who you see and hear from is a small minority of Bolivians who make an effort daily to be in the news.

As it turns out, the faces you see in the news sections of the paper are no more representative of Bolivia than all those smiling faces at the quincineras of the wealthy that you see on the society pages.

There is the bluster factor. The old Bolivian right wing, which it seems is really going extinct by way of the dinosaur, is making a lot of noise as it goes, imitating with hunger strikes and road blockades the attention-grabbing tactics long used by the left. There is no question, as I have written before, that civic leaders in Santa Cruz and Sucre have been able to turn their agenda into an appeal to regional interest with good success. But those pockets are getting smaller and more isolated, which may explains why Costas’ rhetoric is getting more extreme. Evo picked up seven points in Santa Cruz over his vote there in 2005.

Third, Can Evo Use the Moment?

Morales was skillful Sunday night, going back to looking and acting Presidential and leaving it to his adversaries to act like school bullies looking for a fight. When the votes are analyzed I think it will become clear that his support in the cities and among the middle class remains as weak as his support among the rural and the impoverished is strong. But he needs the cities and the middle class to govern. Acting Presidential is a good start.

But then he has a choice to make. Will he lead with initiatives that aim directly at people’s daily lives – like his programs offering payments to school children and the elderly? Or will he use his renewed political capital to push the agenda aimed more at making the shift in political power more permanent, by pushing forward with a vote on MAS’ proposed constitution?

While this current “Age of Evo” was inevitable (even if led by someone else) it is not forged in stone. There is one political force in Bolivia far more powerful than indigenous identity, class interest, or even regional interest. And that is public dissatisfaction. If people see in Evo a government that is incapable of lifting up their lives (even if they think he is trying) someone else will come along and capture that wind.

Morales and MAS have proven themselves very adept at politics. Very adept. But they have yet to demonstrate a similar adeptness at actually governing. If I were them I’d lend my attention now to that.

Photo: Los Angeles Times

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52 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Evo has the same problem that most golfers do: the follow thru.

He's "nationalized" what he said he would, but other than handing out money, he hasn't really done anything to energize the Bolivian economy. The circus (speeches, accusations, "trade agreements," referendums and what not) will not sufice if inflation, food, and fuel shortages continue. Worse still, the commodities boon is showing signs of turning into a bubble which would put us right back into 1982.

Agree with most of the post, but I would add that in Bolivia there was never a true "right/conservative" party (or for that effect a "left/progressive.") Political parties have always been a collection of bastard interests groupped in marriages of convenience for the sake of being in power (to steal) rather than political agglomerations for the sake of promoting an ideology or vision of a country.

On that MAS should get props they have a vision: install a Cuba-style regime in Bolivia. We might not agree with that vision, but at least it is a known quantity, they know where they want to go. On the other hand, the opposition has nothing...and one should not confuse them for capitalists, free market advocates, fiscal conservatives, or even social conservatives. They are their own little animal.

2:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is the evidence that he wants a "Cuba-style" regime? So far, it seems far-right, undemocratic media outlets are still operating - doesn't sound like a "Cuba-style" regime to me.

2:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

May be you missed the bit about private property having to serve a "public function." Or the bit about banning private media from operating radios in rural areas. There's plenty of little nuggets like that in the CPE.

The jury's still out on the Yacuiba incident, but plenty of complaints have been filed by the press union, specially agains that one dude (Cerrudo? Cerruto?) who still has not been aprehended by the police. Attacks on Unitel, PAT, Cadena A, Gigavision, etc. are so common that they don't even make the news anymore.

Should we talk about the MAS take over of TVB Canal 7? How about the recent installment of the cement company (whose only goal is to bankrupt Doria Medina's company)? Or how about Evo's speech a few days ago saying that surveys show Bolivians want to accelarte the "socialiszation" of the economy.

2:58 PM  
Blogger mcentellas said...

I agree that too many people have a romanticized or ideologically driven view of events in Bolivia (both on the right and the left). Evo's Bolivia is hardly a totalitarian (or even an authoritarian) regime. If it were, one wouldn't have seen free & fair elections in which opponents win (as in Chuquisaca recently).

But focusing on Evo too much can have some downside. For example: Yes, Evo picked up support in Santa Cruz. That suggests that his appeal has grown. But one must also acknowledge that Costas picked up support as well. In fact, both Costas and Evo *both* have more than two thirds support.

Most people assume politics is (or, worse, should be) a winner-take-all affair. If one side wins, the other must lose. The recent referendum shows that it's possible for *both* sides to win.

4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Most people assume politics is (or, worse, should be) a winner-take-all affair. If one side wins, the other must lose. The recent referendum shows that it's possible for *both* sides to win."

Centellas,

This 'double win' is not that simple. The Costas rethoric of change is turning into a diguised sanctioning of violence. This past Sunday, a group of Media Luna "freedom fighters" (AKA the UJC.) brutally attacked Cuban doctors volunteering their services to the poor of Bolivia.

"Unionistas secuestran, golpean y amenazan de muerte a médicos cubanos"

http://www.erbol.com.bo/noticia.php?identificador=214748391083&id=1

5:35 PM  
Anonymous Aureliano B. Diaz said...

Both sides did win, however I find your analysis slightly misleading, Professor Centellas. We cannot equate Evo achieving 66% nationally, with Costas vote in Santa Cruz which was also impressive, but not on the same order (because it is only one out of 9 Departments).

My opinion is that Evo has a clear national mandate to continue with his program AND negotiate. Many of his votes came from the rural areas surrounding the "autonomist" capital cities.

I agree they must negotiate and give in to some of the "autonomist" demands. Nobody is really against decentralization.

But Costas should acknowledge that his greatest support is in the city of Santa Cruz, and he like the other Prefects should acknowledge that they don't dominate the whole geographic region of "their" Departments, just mainly the capital cities again of Tarija, Sucre, Santa Cruz, Trinidad and Cobija.

They must acknowledge that the gas revenue and haciendas they defend, are from rural lands where the MAS largely won the vote, not in their urban strongholds.

So hopefully, when they stoop to negotiate with the "indio" who is managed by a "foreign monkey", Costas and his friends will try to use the hand they actually have, not that one which has been amplified by their connections in the private media.

5:51 PM  
Blogger mcentellas said...

I'm not suggesting that when people win elections they are good guys. Nor am I suggesting that I like Costas. I'm only pointing out that while Evo won 2/3 of the vote, Costas did, too (actually, closer to 70%).

For the record: I dislike FSB, the UJC, and racist groups (that also goes for Ponchos Rojos, of course).

5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As far as "attacks" on media outlets go, it depends if you consider the domination of the ideas of a nation by these media outlets to be legitimate.

While anarcho-syndicalists would be happy to support simple employee democracy in most companies, simple employee democracy (and of course dictatorships) in media companies is more dangerous, because they have a direct affect on the ideas being discussed in the nation and are in a unique position to promote their own rule.

In order to preserve democracy in that nation, the media must be answerable to the general population. This means if 30% of the population want stories about A, 45% want stories about B, and 25% want stories about C, then 30% of the stories should be about A, 45% about B, and 25% about C.

5:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 2:58: Most countries, including the US, have laws which balance private property rights versus the greater social good. In the US we have eminent domain where governments can take over and redistribute land if it is deemed to be in the public's interest. There are also "squatter's rights" where un or under-utilized land can be seized by individuals who occupy work lands in a productive manner. The social economic function requirements for land, ie private property, that your comments infer are a novel to the new CPE have existed under Bolivia's agrarian reform laws for some time and are the basis of the ongoing saneamiento of large landholding. While Evo clearly favor social rights over private property rights of priveleged individuals that is far from a Cuban-style ban on private property altogether. Political economic theorist, going back to the grandfather of US democracy Joh Locke, have often argued for a governmental role in preserving socially beneficial uses of land, as land is inherently valuable, limited and important to any society. Many prosperous and successful democratic countries (with strong central governments) have adopted socialist policies, including Germany, France, Spain, England, Norway, etc. Evo's legislative history appears to follow those models more closely than Cuba's, so really the red-scare rhetoric thrown against to MAS is tired, inaccurate and frankly silly.

Please cite the articles in the new CPE that ban private entities from operating radios in rural areas, as I think you are wrong on that one.

In regard to Canal 7, it is a government television station. Every time there is a new government in Bolivia there is a new wave of propoganda imposed on the station. While individual attacks on journalists in the past were worrisome, you fail to mention the dozens of television stations and newspapers that are competely biased against MAS and yet continue to function unimpeded. Those examples don't fit your commie-pinko paranoia so you chose to ignore them?

In regard to the cement company, if MAS wants to start a cement company there is no legal form them not do it. Since Medina is a capitalist, he must realize that there is such a thing as competition. May the best company win.

mcentellas: I too think it is hard to simply say that Morales and Costas are both winner. Morales gained a tremendous popularity boost on a national level. Costas support is basically limited to a city. I think that the only win-win will be some sort of compromise. Unfortunately, Costas and company continue to refuse to meet with Morales and continue to implement their autonomy provision, despite its complete incompatability with the Constitution and other national laws. It seems that elite-led minority movement only seek to benefit their own position, without any acknowledgement of their responsibilities to Bolivian society as a whole.

Miguel de los Shanqueros

6:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Centellas:
Are you trying to sound objective by saying you don't like either FSB or the ponchos rojos?

You have no ides of who the ponchos rojos are or their philosophy.

Is like comparing the KKK with the green party.
OCAR

7:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was a big surprise, since the media made it look that there was a large opposition. The thing that wasn't mentioned is that the vote is ethnically marked. It almost matches the last 2001 census on the question of ethnic group. The famous percentage of 64% of Bolivians identifying as indigenous matches closely the vote on the last referendum, which is around 63-65. When we talk about La Paz the percentage is 84 and it also matches the referendum give or take 1 or 2 % It repeats itself in other departamentos and Santa Cruz.
Evo might be the token indian president of the mestizo/whites leftist/opportunist MAS government,but in the minds of rural and urban indians, he is like them "Jiwasanakama" translated from Aymara: "He is like us" they would say

The second reason is pure Economics, 70% of Bolivians work in the informal economy. No government has ever created a significant number of jobs in the formal sector, much less the MAS or the private sector. So for the large majority of Bolivians who sell anything on the streets or bring things from Chile or smuggle to Peru, the Bono Dignidad or Universal Retirement, it is just a free bonus, since they don't tax or contribute for retirement. So if you are in the formal economy and you don't identify with indigenous people, you voted No. Unless you work in some way for the government or an NGO's that depends on the govenment.
Aymaran Bloggers

7:37 PM  
Blogger El Grindio said...

mcentellas: "I'm only pointing out that while Evo won 2/3 of the vote, Costas did, too (actually, closer to 70%)."

Oh... so if they both have about two thirds support then weigh their authority equally.

Not. mcentellas is comparing apples to a lemon. When one compares their strength on a national level, Costas' political power pales at the purported 5% he garners nationwide as a presidential candidate, according to a Gallup poll.

Further, mcentellas does not get it as to a key point Jim made: Costas' racist bluster (in a country that is predominately indigenous in ethnic derivation) has marginalized himself to the point of himself and his power base being isolated with insignificant Beni.

8:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jim,
Can you explain why Evo's proposed constitution is out of step with making a difference the daily lives of Bolivians? Have you read it? Or do you just swallow the racist press dribble that says it will resurrect the Inca empire or some other nonsense?

8:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 7.26

I agree that Centellas equation of the FSB and UJC to the Pochos Rojos is wrong but you picked the wrong analogy. The Ponchos Rojos are no Green Party but a militant "radical" group, however it is wrong to call them racists, as Centellas.

A better analogy for the Ponchos would be the Black Panther party. Like the Ponchos they were armed for self defense and advocated a racial discourse of community empowerment.

However Black or Indian Power is hardly comparable to the racist, supremicist, aggressive violence we see coming from the UJC and FSB who are not trying to empower anyone but rather keep "indios de mierda" down.

8:55 PM  
Blogger sacksomophone said...

On Negotiation

This is by all reports, the time for Evo to “negotiate”. Of course it’s a difficult thing to negotiate with Costas, but I don’t think Evo should ever address him and his oligarchy. Evo needs to simply speak to the rural and middle-class Cambas. With them he should negotiate as they seem to be the only legitimate base of support for the autonomy agenda. Evo seems to not ever have done this and I doubt he ever will. Aureliano said above that no one really opposes decentralization. I believe that Evo actually does. He can’t bare the thought of national power being less concentrated in the presidency which he fought so long to occupy. He also can’t bear to see MAS have to compete with another left or indigenous party in congress or in any public arena (no matter how small) in Bolivia. This is why he made it difficult for small social movements to run their own candidates in the Constituyente. Had the vote been more varied instead of MAS or the Rightwing, the Left/indigenous parties would have won more votes. Perhaps Evo would realize this now. But negotiating would mean some form of decentralization, probably provincial and/or regional- not departmental, but he still can’t do it.

Evo must publically admit that here is true and genuine discontent among many in the lowlands. Some of these people are Evo’s potential supporters. In fact most Bolivians are his potential supporters, but voting for him and supporting his agenda needs to be more clearly in their best interest.

With a history of at least perceived centralism in La Paz and no real show that this has changed since Evo’s 2005 election, people in the lowlands and really all over the country have a reason to be weary about him and a reason to be attracted to the admittedly brilliant rhetoric of the Civicos, which tries to build solidarity for the hatred of La Paz. In fact, as many know, the centralism has been with Santa Cruz and the other lowland capitals hogging regalias and other federal funds, and with La Paz’s previous leaders funneling money to the lowlands for big business at the expense of big national debt (this has been the case since the 1930s).

He must alter this history, which would then make it very hard for Costas to claim centralism.

9:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, Costas opted out of the meeting in La Paz due to illness and signed a "law" calling for the election of sub-governors in the "autonomous" department of Santa Cruz. Nice to know he is taking this dialogue seriously.

12:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would not negotiate if Linera was involved. After all, the last time they offered "dialogue," they were simply duped into walking out of congress so the MAS could win a vote on the floor. The government has to show good faith. At least they sent the airplane and not a Superpuma...that would have been something.

12:30 AM  
Anonymous I Crause said...

Testament to your excellent article, Jim, are the overwhelmingly intelligent and informed nature of the majority of the responses.
One point, though.A few paragraphs in you write that Costas and his ilk are tossing out racial insults while watching the rest of the country slip away.It struck me about the Cambistas - stronger than anything else, in fact - that they do not appear to care in the slightest about the resy of Bolivia and all their energy is concentrated on separating Santa Cruz and sundry other adjoining regions from Bolivia.I suspect they only even bother to talk to the likes of Cossio as they need him to widen their message.
This is the problem.The Camba project is not actually about Bolivia, and if they do things like make moves to set up an illegal armed police force, which I have no doubt they will as an excellent means of provocation, then the obvious is bound to follow.
As for the person remarking on stations like ATB and Unitel being attacked: I lost count of the times I saw footage of violent attacks on MAS members and civil servant s in Santa Cruz, including the time they caought a Camba with a flak jacket planting an amateurish IED outside TV Boliviana in Santa cruz. None of these bastions of speech you named saw fit to mention it.
When MAS envoy to the constituyente, Saul Avalos had a molotov cocktail thrown (by error) into his neighbour's house, Unitel edited his shocked response down to the phrase 'People think I'm a traitor'.
When the media take a clear side, even, as I've posted here before, inventing anti-government stories, then I'm afraid to say they cease to be a news reporting organisation and must take the responsibility that comes with being a propaganda agency.

2:08 AM  
Blogger mcentellas said...

So the mayor of Boston is less legitimate than the president of the US because the one was voted in by smaller constituency than the former. Got it.

8:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So only certain groups "those that speak the truth" can enjoy freedom of speech? And violence justifies violence?

By that logic, I guess comedians and science fiction guys are on notice, and Evo supporters deserve to be beaten up since they started it long time ago with roadblocks and cazabobos.


That is about the most ridiculous thing I've ever read on this blog. A strong democracy goes out of its way to protect the minorities, specially those minorities that oppose them. May be the US Marine that posts here can help me out with that saying...how does it go? I don't agree with you, but I'll fight to the death for your right to express yourself....something like that.

ps. Bolivia is not an authoritarian regime right at this moment, but there is a clear indication that Evo wants to go that way...and please do review the CPE, I posted it here a while ago. There are several articles that are also in direct violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (I've also posted details on this)....but since it's the rights of a "oligarch minority" we are talking about, nobody cares.

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Less legitimate if Massachusetts were attempting to secede from the Union.

Miguel de los Shanqueros

10:58 AM  
Blogger mcentellas said...

Shanqueros: Good point. But in a conflict between Bush & the mayor of Boston (or the governor of Massachusetts), over public policy in Boston, who should be more "legitimate"? Or take California. Gay marriage is now legal there, but not in other states. But ... other states are required (by the US constitution) to recognize marriages in one state ... so did California just make national law unilaterally? And by a referendum, no less!

Comparing support for Costas & Evo at the national level is comparing apples and oranges. No doubt Costas is less popular (nationally) than Evo. But Costas wasn't running to keep his seat in a national constituency, but in a regional one. Both Costas and Evo are equally legitimate in their respective constituencies.

I also caution against focusing on the term "secession" too much (or drawing parallels only w/ the US experience in that matter). The term "autonomy" is more appropriate. And we can look to similar examples in Spain (Catalonia & Basque country), Belgium (Flanders & Wallonia), Italy (the Lombard League), or Great Britain (Scotland & Wales). The Spanish example is the most relevant, and one carefully studied by regionalist leaders in Santa Cruz and Tarija. Most regionalists in Santa Cruz don't want secession, they want autonomy. In other words (keeping the analogy), it's not that Massachusetts wants to secede, but that it wants to retain a federal structure.

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"A strong democracy goes out of its way to protect the minorities, specially those minorities that oppose them."

Unless you have an entire nation of identical twins with identical beliefs, then everyone is a minority in some way. However, from the rest of your post, I gather what you are really saying is that the minorities in this case are the wealthy and that the wealthy should be protected from the poor majority, so you would advocate keeping the wealthy in their positions of power.

That is clearly a failure of logic. If the wealthy have more power than the poor, it is the poor that need to be protected from the wealthy, not the other way around.

3:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If the wealthy have more power than the poor, it is the poor that need to be protected from the wealthy, not the other way around."

To put it another way, if 1% of the population are slave-owners and 99% are slaves, would you advocate protecting the slave-owners? How much protection are you willing to give them?

3:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"To put it another way, if 1% of the population are slave-owners and 99% are slaves, would you advocate protecting the slave-owners? How much protection are you willing to give them?"

Nice try...better would have been: Only 1% of the population are pedophiles, so what protection are you willing to give them?

If the wealthy obtained their wealth LEGALLY, then of course we should protect them. Protecting their rights does not mean violating the rights of the poor. Protecting rights is not a zero sum game. Being poor should not translate into more or fewer rights.

You can look at it from the perspective of we have a 99.5% catholic country, don't you think the 0.5% of muslims should be protected?


BTW I did not reffer explicitely to any particular group. However, if you are a long time observer, you should be aware of Evo's "if not with me you're against me" philosophy so by that definition the minority I was refering to is the ~35% that rejected him.

If it makes it easier for you to sleep at night, sure go ahead and tell me they all are wealthy crota oligarchs with summer homes in Miami, the fact still remains that as long as they didn't break the law, they have the same rights as anyone else and the State MUST protect them.

-----------------


Majority rule is a means for organizing government and deciding public issues; it is not another road to oppression. Just as no self-appointed group has the right to oppress others, so no majority, even in a democracy, should take away the basic rights and freedoms of a minority group or individual.


Minorities -- whether as a result of ethnic background, religious belief, geographic location, income level, or simply as the losers in elections or political debate -- enjoy guaranteed basic human rights that no government, and no majority, elected or not, should remove.


Minorities need to trust that the government will protect their rights and self-identity. Once this is accomplished, such groups can participate in, and contribute to their country's democratic institutions.


Democracies understand that protecting the rights of minorities to uphold cultural identity, social practices, individual consciences, and religious activities is one of their primary tasks.


Acceptance of ethnic and cultural groups that seem strange if not alien to the majority can represent one of the greatest challenges that any democratic government can face. But democracies recognize that diversity can be an enormous asset. They treat these differences in identity, culture, and values as a challenge that can strengthen and enrich them, not as a threat.


There can be no single answer to how minority-group differences in views and values are resolved -- only the sure knowledge that only through the democratic process of tolerance, debate, and willingness to compromise can free societies reach agreements that embrace the twin pillars of majority rule and minority rights.

3:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon3:15
All those Croats and germans did not work or gain legally any of their wealth.

All the land and money from foreign loans was given to them as freebies, courstesy of the Banzer regime to start and it continued with all the neo corrupted governments of Tuto, Goni, Paz Zamora, and so on....

They are a minority that should be in jail after they are investigated.

4:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If the wealthy obtained their wealth LEGALLY, then of course we should protect them."

If the majority passes laws that say the minority can LEGALLY be drawn and quartered, does that make it right?

If the minority passes laws that say the majority can LEGALLY be drawn and quartered, does that make it right?

You are basically saying that because the laws were on the side of the wealthy in the past (because the wealthy controlled the government in the past), the laws cannot be changed to be on the side of the poor in the future. What kind of logic is that?

4:39 PM  
Blogger mcentellas said...

We're getting away from ourselves w/ the argument of whether wealth was or wasn't generated legally, morally, or ethically. The fundamental question is whether minorities (even minorities we might despite) deserve some basic legal protections. If minorities don't receive such protections, they may see resistance (and even violence) as justified. If so, then political stability (and social justice) become illusive or impossible. But if minorities receive sufficient protections, they become less willing to revert to extremes. It would be nice if the world operated on the basis of one's own person abstract ideals, but it doesn't. Modern democracy is not about creating the perfect system, it's about a series of (sometimes distasteful) compromises that help us avoid cutting of our nose to spite our face.

4:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is an anarchist concept known as decentralized democracy. That means the more someone is affected by a decision, the more say he has in that decision. If a decision barely affects 99% of the people, then none of them get to vote. The decision to kill someone affects the victim more than anyone else, so the victim should have more say in the decision than everyone else. The decision over what you eat for lunch barely affects anybody else, so obviously you don't have the entire society voting on what you have for lunch. In cases like these, it becomes a democracy of one - thus anarchy.

Supporters of decentralized democracy would use their own power to protect the right of others to make the decisions that most affect them. For example, this includes protecting other peoples' lives, whether it's from government or non-government forces.

6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

we are getting far from the original point I was trying to make: MAS' drive for a single party state, which I equate with totalitarism.

Sure there are "minorities" that we dont' sympatize with. Regarding the corrupt, I say let's have the death penalty and hang'em high, but Bolivians don't think that way. In fact I'm very dissappointed that Evo has gone after the small, defenseless, two-bit players, but is on friendly terms with the big fishes, specifically those types that somehow always manage to be with the party on power. (Some should look up the frustrated fight the MAS appointee had when trying to reform the San Pedro prission, a true believer who had 0 support from the MAS leadership.)

However, the bigger point is that Evo and MAS believe that they should have total and unquestionable hold on power. You say this on how they ran the AC, ran session of congress, public statements, selection of judges, etc. etc. I am not advocating for special rights or protections for groups. I'm simply saying that if Evo and the MAS are committed to democracy, the voices and opinions of the minority (defined not as the "oligarchs" but as the ~40% who don't support his "proceso de cambio") must, not only be hear, but incorporated in all decisions they make...after all, even in the US the best economic times are not when a republican or democrat is in power, but when power is split among them among the branches of gv't.

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Centellas do you really think that Marinkovich and other Santa Cruz elites do not enjoy "basic legal protections" under the current system. Really? Do you believe that NEW CPE would not afford them basic legal protections. You completely disregard concerns about ill gotten gains, and make vagu and inaccurate statements about an oppressed minority.
Please provide concrete examples of this current oppression? Just because the central government does not want departments to do whatever they please does not mean that they are oppressed or do not enjoy basic legal protections. The autonomy movement is about preserving privleged status for an elite minority, it is not a liberation movement. Please provide concrete examples of how the new CPE would not provide "basic legal protections" to non-indgenous people. I would
really like to see your answers, otherwise your post seem to be shallow rhetoric lifted from the pages of El Deber.

Miguel de los Shanqueros

11:38 AM  
Blogger mcentellas said...

Shanqueros: I think you're confusing me w/ some of the characters who spew vitriol on this site. I won't make the mistake of confusing you w/ those who've commented here that the Santa Cruz leaders should be placed in concentration camps. Let repeat yet again: Evo is not a tyrant, nor is Bolivia a totalitarian or even an authoritarian state. The point about minority legal protections was not a plea to protect unprotected peoples, but merely to state what I hope is obvious: liberal/progressive ideologies require that we recognize the right of minorities (even those we find utterly distatasteful) to exist. For example, I admire that the ACLU is consistent, and even defends the rights of horribly racist orgs like the KKK.

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The key question which I am desperately trying to understand is what you mean when you claim that somehow the situation in Bolivia is denying "some basic legal protections" to minorities. What rights are being denied either in the current political structure or the proposed CPE? Where is the beef dude?????!!!!!! Your comments imply that crucenos have no legal protections and are an oppressed group. Please provide examples... very simple. And yes, minority opinions, even repugnant ones deserve protections in regard to their expression. That does not mean I think that the KKK should be able to form a break-away regional governmental structure where slavery and discrimination against people of color would would be legal.

Miguel de los Shanqueros

1:29 PM  
Blogger Norman said...

MDLS: you've asked Miguel Centellas to show where the CPE denies some basic legal protections to minorities; a valid question.

Could you please indicate where the autonomy statutes support forming a break-away regional governmental structure where slavery and discrimination against people of color would would be legal"? (I will take another look at the proposed CPE re protection for minority groups.) Thanks.

1:42 PM  
Blogger El Grindio said...

This post has been removed by the author.

1:57 PM  
Blogger mcentellas said...

Shanqueros: Um, I don't remember EVER arguing that the current or proposed CPE denies minorities any rights. For the record: It doesn't deny such rights. So you're raising a non-issue. And equating the KKK w/ the UJC may be a valid comparison, but equating the KKK to the ENTIRE regionalist movement is like equating al Qaida to all of political Islam. Both are false.

But YOU did suggest that the autonomy statute makes slavery and discrimination legal. I must point out that this claim is false. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to see that yesterday Santa Cruz approve elections for a regional assembly that has 28 members, 5 of which specifically reserved for indigenous communities, and only 6 of which will represent the city of Santa Cruz. The rest will represent the rural provinces. Additionally, each of the 15 provinces will be able to elect a subprefect. By my calculations (which I've posted elsewhere) based on Dec 2005 votes, MAS could win between one third to half of the Santa Cruz legislative seats.

In the future, please take more careful note of what I do actually write.

2:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"That does not mean I think that the KKK should be able to form a break-away regional governmental structure where slavery and discrimination against people of color would would be legal."

Anarchists would in fact support the KKK if they wanted to form their own "racially pure" society, but anarchists would also support the rights of anybody who was being harmed by them. Anarchists would defy any local or distant pro-slavery government and free the slaves, because they believe each individual slave has the right to autonomy, as long as he is not harming others.

2:16 PM  
Blogger El Grindio said...

This post has been removed by the author.

2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of careful reading I never said that autonomy statutes condonse slavery and discrimination. I was carrying forward an analogy that you started regading minority views and to what extent society tolerates them. I attempted to highlight a limitation that reasonable peopl would agree on. Any inference of a literal comparison between the KKK and the media luna was wholly your own.

My main point, which I sincerely wish to understand, is that media luna supporters such as yourself often use a discourse of minority rights to justify autonomy. Implicit and explicit in that argument is that there is some sort of repression of the cruceños and other eastern dwellers. I want specific examples, which no one, including you, so far can provide.

There are aspects of the new CPE which grant exraordinary rights to indigenous communities around self'determiantion and governance. In the proposed CPE the definitions are vague, there are vague explications of what the special rights, and the actually consequences are unclear. All of that criticism seems valid to me and could be the foundation for a frank dialogue. But to claim that the proposed CPE would create an apartheid state where non-indigenous people are going to be denied rights is a farse, at least from what I have read. It is one thing to acknowledge a special status for people who have pre-colonial roots and continue to attempt to maintain pre-colonial cultural traditions, but another to claim that such an acknowledgement amounts to reverse racism. Again, I am trying understand the situation and sincerely seek specifics beyond rhetoric.

Miguel de los Shanqueros

2:34 PM  
Blogger mcentellas said...

How about we take #1 (which already exists in various places throughout the current & proposed CPE) and #2 (since in the US the supremacy clause only comes into effect when local laws are in direct contradiction w/ federal laws, but still allows states broad autonomy), but not #3, thank you.

Also the US supremacy clause only exists BECAUSE states are recognized as autonomous. A constitutional provision that central government trumps local government when there's a discrepancy assumes that local governments exist and can make their own laws.

But Grindio here makes an excellent point: We should hold Evo (and Costas and anyone else) to the same standards we would like to see Bush held up to. Otherwise, we become just as hypocritical as "Dubya." The reason why it's important to articulate standards, is that they're too often tossed aside when they suit us (e.g. Bush's statement that Russia is wrong to seek "regime change" through force in Georgia).

2:39 PM  
Blogger mcentellas said...

So the claim here isn't that "evil Evo" is somehow destroying Santa Cruz rights. But the stark reality that Bolivia is today in the process of redefining itself, as a nation-state and as a broader political/social/economic community. If so, then all bets are off. Why not a federal system? Why not something even more unique (there's a number of options beyond US-style federalism, as I've pointed to before). But it is clear that a process of decentralization begun in the 1990s is continuing forward. This was perhaps inevitable. And, as I argued in my dissertation, is the "paradox of democratization": As countries democratize, they run the risk of calling into question the very nature of the nation-state (which most everyone takes for granted). After all, there are two fundamental questions for democratic theory: 1) the kratos question (how to rule) and 2) the demos question (who is to be ruled). Not enough attention has been given to the demos question. What I've argued is that democratization not only calls into question how the rules of government are (kratos), but *who the demos IS* Today, Bolivians are working through the question of *what* is "Bolivia" and *who* is "Bolivian" and what defines *Bolivianidad*. In some ways, this is merely an extension of Benjamin Barber's argument in "McWorld v. Jihad."

2:49 PM  
Blogger El Grindio said...

What mcentellas refers to above is an accidental submission of the below draft. I thought I shouldn't the tongue-in-cheek elements of the third point, in light of the substantive discussions above:

How about Bolivia's central government implements legislation along the lines of:
1) the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution whereby minority rights are theoretically protected. This lays the basis for securing commitment to mcentella's subtextual key concern: the concept that "all people are created equal" as articulated by saying Evo and Costas should both be accountable under this doctrine. Under the rule of law, the Bolivian judiciary would by empowered to enforce that ideal against the departamentos any rogue prefectos, civicos, clans or logias.
2) the supremacy clause of the US Constitution (Article VI, Clause 2) whereby when "autonomy statutes" conflict with the Bolivian government's Constitution, Bolivia's laws or its treaties, ALL judges would be required to rule that the autonomy is trumped by the fact that Bolivia's laws are the supreme law of the land;
3) the Patriot Act. Bush's model should be followed, with all that implies including unfettered domestic surveillance and unlimited preventative detention in questions of national security, and a Bolivian "Guantanomo Bay" for domestic terrorists.

Everyone would be happy with these laws, which are based on the US Republican party's governance since 9/11.

Under this compromise, mcentellas gets theoretical laws protecting minorities and the tools with which to enforce the principle of equality under the law. Further, that another anon gets the virtual concentration camps he seeks. This is key: said anon must always first chant that talismanic mantra, "otherwise the terrorists win" before proposing or enacting said law. Then and only then may he have domestic terrorists, their financiers and arms suppliers (heads up, Norman or US Mission military types smuggling in weapons or ammo under cover of being "cheese") taken away in the middle of the night for an all expenses paid, indefinite stay at a newly built "El Gran Hotel George W. Bush". (Note: no other name would be more appropriate since Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib are already taken.)

2:59 PM  
Blogger mcentellas said...

Here's why I tend to prefer "abstract" arguments: Ignore Evo and Costas, ignore what you think of them, whether you agree w/ them or anything else. Why is a unitary centralized state preferable to some form of federacy? After all, institutions should outlast individuals. And the next individual may be horrible.

Now, Evo holds the same strong presidential powers that Goni had. Would we prefer a unitary centralized state under Goni or some form of decentralized federacy? Now imagine that Hugo Salvatierra (of MAS) were prefect of Santa Cruz and Tuto Quiroga was president. Would you prefer a unitary centralized state or some form of federacy?

Hypotheticals like this matter. Because if not, we end up rewriting the constitution over and over and over again to suit temporary political winds. I'm 33 years old. In my life I've seen three Bolivian constitutions (four, if we include the current proposal).

3:01 PM  
Blogger El Grindio said...

The reason mcentellas has seen three constitutions but not a fourth enacted lies within the context of the answer to his question: "Would you prefer a unitary centralized state or some form of federacy?"

Answer: Depends on where one lives, their ethnicity and socio-economic context.

If one is an indigenous person living in Bolivia's West, they probably favor a majoritarianism political philosophy that favors a more centralized state with an agenda promoting the primacy of the interests of the indigenous class, Bolivia's majority.

Whereas if one is a non-indigenous person in Bolivia's East, a minoritarianism political philosophy with emphasis on "some form of federacy" is favored for its constraints in what the Bolivian parliamentary majority can do. This is motivated by the desire to protect certain advantages and privileges of euro-centric elites more than to protect universal basic rights.

At Sucre, it was those elites, a minority, who blocked effective change through supermajority threshold requirements which required a 2/3 vote in favor. Thus, it was minoritarian power that blocked enactment of a fourth constitution. Not only were they able to veto/block the majority, they chilled proposals that had no chance of coming close to a 2/3 approval. It was the tension between East/West & majoritarin/minoritarian that led to the disturbances resulting in the CA meeting on secure military grounds in Sucre. There, they approved what they did when the minority interests boycotted their meeting. That in turn led to protests resulting in deaths that foreshadowed subsequent racist attacks and polarization that advances the minoritarian power at the expense of a consensus between political philosophies.

3:54 PM  
Blogger Norman said...

Are we back to this again E-G? Okay, let’s go over past arguments. The minority was able to block the proposed CPE because more than 1/3 was in disagreement with it, per the laws / rules established by the law convocatoria. To circumvent that unfortunate circumstance the majority illegally moved the site, called for a rush vote, and excluded the minority with a gauntlet of MAS supporters outside the site. They held a hasty general vote on a proposed constitution that no one read. Then for the specific vote, they illegally changed the law convocatoria regarding where the assembly could convene by excluding opposition lawmakers from the congressional session (again with a gauntlet of MAS supporters who physically assaulted any opposition trying to enter). They used deceit to hide where the new assembly would meet to vote in detail on the proposed CPE in detail, then convened, with too little notice (by law) another hurried session and again excluded the opposition. This is all okay though because it's what the majority wants and the ends justify the means.

4:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my humble opinion there is plenty of criticism to go around on how both sides handled the development and passage of the new CPE. Norman can highlight MAS poor performance at the last stages, but that ignores about a year of other impediments that came from traditional political parties.

I agree Centellas that federalized systems can have their advantages, but centralized can be beneficial in controlling undue influence of local elites. When the discussion becomes too abstract we lose the context and the ability to answer questions like: Why are the demands for autonomy coming forward so strongly now. Who will benefit where from regional government? Does the Santa Cruz autonomy proposal even fit the federal model. It seems that the only responsibilities of the central government under the SC model would be foreign relations and national defense. That seems to be on the extreme end of decentralization, and more akin to an alliance than a federalization.

As for the idea that this autonomy movement is the result of soul searching on the part of Bolivians about their identities and the nation, it might be a factor. But really aren't such identities always fluid, and constantly being reinvented. Just like race, ideas of nation and ethnicity are fictitious constructs, which change over time. I am not sure there is greater degree of self-reflection in Bolivia right now on those subjects. It is an interesting idea though, and it does seems there is perhaps more dynamic process in the east right now.

Miguel de los Shanqueros

5:16 PM  
Blogger mcentellas said...

Three quick things:

1) I'm not so sure the Santa Cruz model is as far removed from federalism (or even federacy) as many here have suggested. I've actually looked at the new CPE and the autonomy statute, and there's considerable convergence.

2) I'm not suggesting that there's some deep-level "soul searching" in Bolivia about identity. I agree that identities are always fluid (other influences on my argument are Eric Hobsbawm, Benedict Anderson, and Ernest Gellner). But only that democracy seems to call for more of that. Perhaps it's no surprise that as many countries have moved towards democracy, nationalist/ethnic/religious violence has followed (Yugoslavia comes to mind).

3) Santa Cruz autonomy movement has come to the forefront now, but only because now it has political space not available before. The same can be said for indigenous movements. Both are opposite faces of the same coin. Throughout the 20th century, both pushed against the central state. But only after decentralization reforms began in the 1990s were they able to gain political space. Evo & Costas are both products of Participación Popular.

7:17 PM  
Blogger mcentellas said...

I'd also encourage people to look at Quebec, Scotland, and Catalonia for models of autonomous governments. I don't see Santa Cruz and the other departments as pushing for anything radically different from those. There are already a number of federal republics in Latin America: Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela.

Another interesting example could be India, which is also a federal state. But alongside autonomous states, it also has "union territories" which are not autonomous. Other interesting "non-western" examples of federal structures include Ethiopia, Iraq (which grants special autonomy to the Kurds), and Indonesia (which grants Papua and Aceh special autonomy).

7:27 PM  
Blogger Norman said...

Norman can highlight MAS poor performance at the last stages, but that ignores about a year of other impediments that came from traditional political parties.

Miguel dlS, I'm not highlighting poor performance; I'm highlighting MAS violations of the current constitution guaranteeing representation and I'm saying that the left excuses these violations, i.e. the ends justify the means. Excuses include:
- The oligarchs did mean stuff first.
- The oligarchs lied.
- The oligarchs stonewalled just to make sure the new CPE wouldn't pass.
- The oligarchs brought up ancillary issues like the capitalia to sidetrack the new CPE.
- The oligarchs did illegal stuff.
There are others accusations, (I'm not debating veracity at the moment), but to my knowledge, none of these holds up as a valid reason to abrogate the protections of current constitution.

It's old hat though and the conversation between you and mcentellas is a bit more current.

5:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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7:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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2:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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9:55 PM  

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