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Bolivia's politics, economy and society

older | 1 | 2 | (Page 3)

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    MABB ©

    Source: Bolivian Electoral Organ (

    On Sunday, November 20, 2016 Bolivia will for a second time in one year go back to the ballot boxes to cast votes for yet another approval referendum (plebiscite). This time around the people will be asked to approve or reject the regional or local constitutions, which have been in formulation since the process to obtain autonomy began in 2010.

    Fifteen "territorial entities", as the different governmental levels are known in Bolivia, will be asking their inhabitants whether the regional and local constitutions they have written are good to go or not.

    A breakdown of these looks as follows:

    So called Organic Charters, which are the fundamental laws for municipalities, will be voted on in the municipalities of Viacha (La Paz); Totora, Arque, Vinto (Cochabamba); Sucre (Chuquisaca) and El Torno, El Puente, Buena Vista, Yapacaní and Cuatro Cañadas (Santa Cruz).

    In Uru Chipaya (Oruro), Mojocoya (Chuquisaca) and Raqaypampa (Cochabamba) the vote will be over the so called originary/campesino/indigenous statutes, which would be the equivalent of constitutions for these type of territorial autonomy. In similar terms, Gran Chaco (Tarija) will be submitting its statute for approval. This would be a so called regional autonomy. Finally, the Gutiérrez municipality (Santa Cruz) will be asking its inhabitants whether they want to go down the road of an indigenous/origins/campesino autonomy.

    The Bolivia autonomic process

    The process of obtaining autonomy in Bolivia has been complicated. According to the law, there are four ways in which territorial entities can become autonomous: Departmental, Municipal, Regional and indigenous/originary/campesino.

    Departmental autonomy is the equivalent to a state government in the US or a laender in Germany. Many times these are also labeled regions, but in Bolivia this distinctions has been important because of this reason. Municipal autonomy is just that, municipalities. One has however to remember that a municipality can cover an entire large city or a territory larger that the city. That depends on the number of inhabitants in that municipality. Regional autonomy, instead, are particular regions within a departamento. They cannot go over its boundaries. In Bolivia, the Chaco region is a particularly distinct region, hence its seeking autonomy. In contrast to the latter types of territorial autonomy, the indigenous/originary/campesino have been difficult to define. In the law they are not defined. After all, how to define territory on ethnic or identity basis without crossing many artificially created territorial units such as states or municipalities? However, in the particular case of Bolivia, these territories have come to be defined as the equivalent to municipalities. The difference is on the attributions and responsibilities each form has. To cut a long explanation short, the municipalities are the type of entities that have the most responsibilities and therefore the most financing. The other forms of autonomy have to do with ethnicity and identity and with tradition.

    Lastly, the referenda are the last step of a long process, through which the formulation of such documents had to be written by officials, presented to the population through countless events, revised, voted on in the respective assemblies, checked by the national government for its conformity with the 2009 Bolivian Constitution to then ask the citizens whether they also approved it or not.

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    MABB ©

    This piece should have been published in a Routledge-sponsored "encyclopedia of democracy and democratization". But since the publication fell off the ground (I do not know why) and I had already written the article on waves of democracy, I am publishing it here. Enjoy! Please, do not forget to cite me.


    Waves of democracy


    Is democratization an irreversible, long-term, global trend? Is democracy a form of government that, under certain conditions and contexts, alternates with various forms of authoritarian rule over a long-term? These are the most meaningful questions the notion of waves of democracy addresses at its most fundamental level. Embedded within the democratization field of studies, the concept of waves of democracy (also referred to as waves of democratization or even as democratization waves) refers to the increasing propensity of non-democratic governments to transition towards democratic systems of governments over, more or less, distinctive periods of time. This observation was made by political scientist Samuel Huntington who coined and developed the concept. He first wrote about waves of democracy in a 1991 article published in the Journal of Democracy. He later expanded the concept in a seminal book entitled The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century, published the same year.

    Remarkably distinctive, the concept of democratic waves has been very useful to better understand regime transitions and, in a more indirect manner, the dynamics of larger issues such democratization processes, and ultimately, the application, endurance and stability of democracy as a regime system. In order the conceptually frame his analysis, Samuel Huntington took a chronological approach to the analysis of regime changes over a long period of time. This approach made it possible to shed light on the pattern of development, i.e. waves, through which this process could be better understood. In addition, it must be highlighted that the main focus of analysis were the so called third wave democratization processes. Samuel Huntington’s main conclusion drawn from his analysis has been to recognize that most probably, not one, not two, but many factors contribute to the democratization of countries; more likely, in a simultaneously and/or often contradictory manner. That is, for example, transition explanations for the first two waves covering from the early 1800s to the post-WWII period tended to concentrate on the role of factors such as economic development, cultural traits, decolonization and prior experience with such a government. Alternatively, the explaining factors concerning the transitions during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, tended to concentrate on the role of legitimacy problems of authoritarian systems, unprecedented global economic growth, changes in the Catholic Church’s doctrine against authoritarianism, changes in the foreign policies of international actors, and the enhancing of international communication which contributed to the snowballing effect.

    This entry aims at explaining the nature and meaning of the concept of waves of democracy by, first and foremost, addressing the question: what is it meant by democracy? In second place, the entry presents the development of the term, to thirdly, present the more contemporary debate.

    What is it meant by Democracy?

    In order to delve into the waves of democracy subject it is necessary to understand first what type of democracy we are dealing with when we speak of ‘democracy’ in this context. To be able to follow the development of the democratic waves over time, Samuel Huntington used a contextualized definition of democracy. In that manner, in order to categorize democracies during the first wave, for example, the definition of democracy focused on two rather constraining requirements from today's point of view but adequate at the time. In the context of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a country that implemented male universal vote and chose its heads of states in a more or less competitive elections, was considered democratic. In a more modern context, this type of democracy can be understood as electoral democracy. However, the conception of democracy has evolved as has the practice of democracy. For that reason, in more recent times, both, academics as well as practitioners, starting with Samuel Huntington, have had liberal democracy in mind when speaking about the democratization of a country. There may well be many reasons for that, among them that the debate has been dominated by English speaking scholars who live in the United States of America or the fact that for many who dedicate their work to measuring the degree of democracy in a country have tended to have liberal democracy as a model of an ideal system of government or, not least, the fact that the American liberal democracy has become a model due to its resilience and stability since its inception.

    As Samuel Huntington analyzed democratization processes in the twentieth century, he had liberal democracy in his mind when he thought of democratization. Liberal democracy has been defined as a type of democracy where democratic as well as liberal values come together. It includes the idea of free, fair, competitive and frequent elections; that political representatives get elected through an electoral process; that those results are respected by everyone with the full knowledge they are not permanent; the existence of political and civic pluralism; that people can express and associate themselves freely; that the rule of law guarantees equality and fairness; that people have free access to alternative forms of information; and that people can take part freely in the political process.

    However, some authors criticize this assumption. For some scholars Samuel Huntington’s definition to democracy is not explicit enough, giving way to classify some countries as democracy which otherwise defined would not be considered as such. For other critics the definition is too narrow. They argue that it should be more inclusive of democratic as well as semi-democratic patterns. On the contrary, this last criticism often opens indeed the way for some countries with semi-democratic systems or even with apparent democratic systems to be defined as democracies.

    Waves of democracy

    The concept of waves of democracy is understood as the process through which groups of transitions from authoritarian to democratic regimes take place within a specified period of time. Within each wave, there is an initial period where an increasing number of transitions towards democratic systems of government take place reaching a maximum after some time. Once that peak is reached, the direction of transition reverses and a smaller number of those transitions revert towards authoritarian or non-democratic regimes. Samuel Huntington observed three waves of democracy in world history. The first wave took place between the American and French revolutions in the last quarter of the XIX century and the first decades of the XX century. The second wave took place in the post WWII period and the third wave of democratization began in 1974 with the Portuguese return to democracy, with no end in sight.

    The first wave of democratization

    The first wave of democratization took place between the years 1828 and 1926. Rooted in the American and French revolutions, the first wave took roughly one hundred years. The most active time was however the time after the collapse of the Habsburg, Hohenzollern and the Romanov empires. During this time somewhere in the order of thirty countries established some type of democratic institutions in their systems. Subsequently, the first reverse wave took place from 1922 to 1942. Notable was, the reversal occurring in the nations which had less experience with democracy and those new nations which emerged after World War II. Notable was also that almost none of the nations with long-term democratic experience had experienced reversal. The reasons for the reversals have been traced to the great depression, the inexperience with democracy of newly created nations, and the emergence of communist, fascist and military nationalist ideologies.

    Second wave of democratization

    The second waves of democratization, and the shortest of them all, took place from 1943 to 1962. This wave began in the aftermath of World War II and was, to some extent, reinforced by the beginning of the decolonization process. A counter balancing force, however, was the expansion of communism in the context of the Cold War.  All in all, around forty countries became democracies in this period. The second reverse wave happened between 1958 and 1975. By all accounts, this reversal period was the most significant. Not only because from thirty democracies twenty two had reversed to some type of authoritarian regime, but also because the decolonization process gave way to many new independent nations which turned authoritarian right away and also because this reversal had included some nations which had had experience with democracy for the best part of a quarter of a century.

    Third wave of democratization

    The third wave of democratization began in 1974 in Portugal. In contrast to the previous reversal, this rise in the number of democracies by a number of thirty five countries was impressive. Not only did this wave reach parts of Southern Europe, Latin America and Asia during the 1970s, where there had been prior experience with it, but endured throughout the 1980s and some part of the 1990s reaching Eastern Europe and some parts of Africa and the Middle East where democracy for the most part was a relatively new experience. The third wave is seen as a truly global event.

    Debating about the waves

    The overarching conceptual category framing the debate about democratic waves is regime change. Within this debate, regime change or transition may refer to a change from authoritarian to a democratic regime, from a democratic to an authoritarian regime or even to a change from an authoritarian to another authoritarian regime. The focus here is on the transition of the particular regime, without any specific direction. However, the debate over waves of democracy has a distinct direction which denotes a transition from a non-democratic towards a democratic regime. In this debate, which has generated a vast amount of literature, the questions have concentrated on the existence of waves and reverse waves, wave patterns, on whether these waves have happened in distinguishable periods, on whether there were only three distinct waves, and on whether the third wave is still happening or is it over or the waves in general are over.

    The existence of waves

    This part of the debate focuses on whether the waves of democracy were indeed waves. While the original argument makes use of the concept of waves to characterize the increase in regime transformations from non-democratic to democratic systems and the subsequent reversal of these transformations in a given time, Samuel Huntington warned that history was messy and not unidirectional and therefore it could not be expected that these historical events would fit a neat pattern as the one the idea of waves portraits. Nevertheless, he argued further, the conceptualization of waves of democracy was useful to understand the phenomenon.

    In contrast, for many critics, the idea of wave patterns was difficult to argue, if not impossible. A group of scholars argued the different regime transformation patterns in question did not reflect waves precisely because these events did not fit neatly into the pattern of a wave. Instead, these processes could be better understood by looking for regional patterns, e.g. Western Europe, Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Maghreb. This approach takes into account the structural, socio-economic, cultural and contextual differences in each region. Moreover, for a number of scholars the manner in which Samuel Huntington defined waves using the percentage of democracies in the world at some point in time was problematic. Had he instead focused on regime transitions rather than the number of democracies he would have found no evidence for waves. Similarly, other critics find no evidence for reverse waves, which supports the contention of no waves.

    Other critics, while accepting the idea of waves, criticized the manner in which waves themselves were placed in time and the number of waves that took place. Contrasting to what Samuel Huntington proposed, scholars have pointed out that the first wave was really two distinct ones. One involved the European-settled countries which had already managed to establish certain freedoms and rule of law and that over this period moved towards an expanded understanding of democracy by extending voting rights. The second cluster was made up of countries which in the aftermath of WWI became democratic because they lost the war. Additionally, the second Huntington wave could be divided into three waves. One made up of countries defeated in WWII, a second wave made up with countries born out of decolonization, and a third cluster included coincidences, mainly in Latin America. Lastly, during the so called third wave, two clusters could be distinguished. One was the wave of democratization that swept Southern Europe and Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s. The second cluster had to do with the disintegration of the USSR.

    Furthermore, other scholars argue a fourth wave is under way. With this scholars refer to the events beginning in 2011 known as the Arab Spring, albeit this wave having not produced as many stable democracies as one might expect in a wave. The argument highlights the differences in types of regimes and the time in which these events took place. In addition, other arguments have been proposed following this logic which introduces further waves at distinct points in time. This debate, to this day, has not been resolved, and it will continue until a clear pattern of reversals can be observed which would signal the clear end of the third wave of democratization.

    Why do waves happen? External and internal factors

    Another part of the debate concentrates on the factors that trigger waves. Based on Samuel Huntington’s argument, scholars have been able to identify internal and external factors playing a role in the transition process for an authoritarian regime to turn democratic. By the same token, scholars, by observing the transitions from democratic regimes towards authoritarianism or other non-democratic systems have also been able to discern relevant factors. The relevance of such factors and their contribution towards the establishment or reversal of democracy is what largely makes up the content of the current debate in this field.

    Samuel Huntington proposed four ways in which waves happened. He first pointed to factors that could evolve parallel to each other, such as socio-economic developments. Second, he argued that many times there is an agreement among political actors across societies that institutional reforms are needed as solution to a particular situation. Third, he argued there were spill-over effects of democratization from one country to another. These could be elite-led or opposition-led. Finally, he argued that there could be one significant factor happening, mainly external - changing attitude of a great power or wars, etc.

    Arguments highlighting internal factors tend to explain the first and third waves in the following manner. The first wave transitions before WWI signified a change to democracy from oligarchies by the extension of political rights such as universal vote and were primarily affected by internal factors. The third wave transitions were relatively quick and affected largely by internal factors and they were from an authoritarian to a democratic regime pushed by popular demand. Those scholars who tend to emphasize external factors explain the second wave thus. The transitions after WWI and the ones after WWII were affected mostly by external factors such as the aftermath of the two wars, the end of the major empires and the efforts to decolonize.

    More often than none, however, there are explanations that combine both external and internal factors contributing to a democratization wave. Most of those arguments support Samuel Huntington’s proposition that regime changes do occur in waves, in particular regions and in particular times. For example, external factors simultaneously impact the systems of multiple countries, whereby the system in each particular country finds itself in an unstable period being affected by particular internal factors. Particularly susceptible are the countries where the institutional arrangements are not solid and the influences of neighboring countries are significant as are any external shocks to the interstate system. These, combined with the slow but certain impact of economic development, are the causes for waves.

    Is the Third Wave Over?

    Indeed, it is precisely the definition of this wave that triggered the most significant and enduring debate. The wave had been defined as beginning in 1974 and was literally left with no recognizable end. However, in most recent times, many scholars have argued the third wave did come to an end, while others argue it continues but in a different quality. Marc Plattner has suggested the waves are over. Primarily because within the pool of countries, the ones more apt for democracy have already transitioned while those remaining are less prone to democracy. Also, the attractiveness of the world's leading democracies has been declining and their institutions have been functioning poorly, therefore the attractiveness of democracy has diminished. In addition, foreign policies and supporting actions for democracy have been discredited. Finally, the influence and assertiveness of authoritarian regimes has been increasing. Moreover, many scholars have even go as far as recognizing a reverse wave, especially in the Latin American region, which would definitely bring the third wave to an end.

    Other scholars argue the third wave has not come to an end but it is stagnating. They point out at the vast literature showing empirical evidence that very few democratization processes are being started. Finally, other scholars characterize the third wave as continuing to progress but in a different quality. With that is meant the various deepening or consolidation processes having been started around the world.

    Dr. Miguel A. Buitrago

    See also: Democratic Process; Stages of Democratization; Liberal Democracy; Regime Type; South American Transitions to Democracy; South Asian Transitions to Democracy

    Further readings

    Huntington, Samuel P. The Third Wave: democratization in the late twentieth century. Norman, London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991.

    Huntington, Samuel P. “Democracy’s Third Wave”. Journal of Democracy, 2, 2, pgs. 12 – 24, 1991.

    Plattner, Marc. “The end of the transition era?”. Journal of Democracy, 25, 3, pgs. 5 – 16, 2014.

    Moeller, Jurgen and Sven-Erik Skanning. “The Third Wave: Inside the Numbers”. Journal of Democracy, 24, 4, 2013.

    Moeller, Jurgen and Sven-Erik Skanning. Democracy and Democratization in Comparative Perspective: Conceptions, Conjunctures, Causes and Consequences. London: Routledge, 2013.

    Perez-Liñan, Anibal and Scott Mainwaring. “Hegemony or Contagion? International Factors and Democratization in Latin America, 1945 – 2005”. Paper prepared for the FLACSO-ISA Joint International Conference in Buenos Aires, July 23 – 25, 2014.

    Doorenspleet, Renske. “Reassessing the three Waves of Democratization”. World Politics, 52, 3, 2000.

    Dahl, Marianne, Scott Gates, Havard Hegre, and Havard Strand. “Why Waves? Global Patterns of Democratization, 1820 – 2008”. Accessed on December 24, 2014.

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    MABB ©

    I might as well publish this other article which was also to be published in the failed Sage encyclopedia of democracy and democratization. Once again, enjoy.


    Bolivia’s democratic evolution


    Over the last 33 years Bolivia’s democratic process developed through three distinguishable periods. An initial period (from 1982 to 2000) was marked by the transition from a military dictatorship to a representative democracy, and the subsequent effort to consolidate the democratic process. A second period (from 2000 to 2005) was dominated by a loss of political legitimacy and deep social crisis, which, in spite of the efforts to consolidate the democratic process, placed the survival of democracy into serious question. The third period (from 2006 on) was marked by the emergence of Evo Morales, who, together with the country’s indigenous political forces managed to take control of power with a political alliance denominated Movement Toward Socialism. This entry aims to outline the development of the democratic process in Bolivia from the return of democracy to current times.

    Re-democratization and Democratic Deepening

    Bolivia’s transition to democracy began in October 1982 after a long spell of military dictatorships. This period was marked by a deep economic and social crisis, the implementation of neoliberal policies in response to that crisis and the efforts of subsequent governments to consolidate the democratic process. In response of the crisis, the Victor Paz government took the first steps towards its abatement by introducing neoliberal policies such as: liberalization of the economy, reduction of public expenditures, increase of government revenues and reduce the role of the state in the economy. While these measures promptly replaced the deep economic uncertainty with a new sense of macro-economic stability, over the rest of the period, the measures had negative social effects in the form of massive unemployment and low economic growth. Once the worst of the crisis was surmounted, the subsequent governments sought to consolidate the economic process. One first factor was the application of a coalition-building mechanism already present in the Constitutions known as Accorded Democracy, which allowed the establishment of arguably one of the most institutionally and procedurally stable periods for the Bolivian democratic process. Accorded Democracy greatly reduced the risk of congressional deadlock by promoting the building of majority governments. Another factor was the implementation of a decentralization program in 1994 under the label of popular participation, which sought the official recognition of indigenous and civil society organizations as legitimate political entities, the incorporation of such organizations in the political and economic process, the introduction and promotion of participative democracy, the guarantee for equality, and the perfecting of the representative democratic system. With this law, the government achieved the deepening of the democratic process by guaranteeing the involvement of citizens in the political process.

    Political and Social Crisis

    While the re-democratization process had been relatively successful from the institutional and procedural points of view, the efforts to consolidate the democratic process were deficient. On the back of citizen frustration over democracy’s unfulfilled expectations, the political system lost legitimacy through: first, the implementation of neoliberal policies, of which the most damaging was privatization. The government’s efforts to privatize the many state industries resulted in massive unemployment; and second, the public and indiscreet manner in which political actors practiced Accorded Democracy, which often concentrated on the distribution of public posts rather than the formulation of policy.

    The period was marked by citizen frustration and it manifested itself in the form of massive and confrontational protests, road blocks and marches, most of which made uncompromising demands to the government while expecting results. The most significant protest episodes in this period were: the April 2000 successful reversal of the water supply system privatization in the country’s third largest city, Cochabamba; the episodes on February and October 2003 when there were violent confrontations between demonstrators, military and police forces where dozens of demonstrators fell victim of police repression; the times protests forced, and not exactly in a constitutional manner, the forced removal of two presidents: Gonzalo Sanchez and Carlos Mesa; and the largely irregular election of Eduardo Rodriguez, the third candidate in the line of succession. The former President of the Supreme Court and newly elected President Eduardo Rodriguez became president on June 2005 with the only task of organizing the next general elections.

    Post-neoliberal era

    The post-neoliberal era began with the arrival of Evo Morales in January 2006 to the government. His rise has been of historical significance for the country because he is the first president with indigenous background elected through popular vote. While his government has continued the economic progress began in prior governments, it has also placed emphasis on the inclusion of indigenous peoples in the political process, consolidating the government’s central role in the economy and relying on a strong anti-capitalist and anti-neoliberal discourse to maintain its support. At the same time, Evo Morales has been criticized for attempting to restrict certain rights and liberties and for using the law in his favor to solidify his position of power in government.

    During the two terms Evo Morales and the MAS have been in government they have been able to raise revenues by nationalizing Bolivia’s natural resource industries. In fact, the export of natural gas to Brazil and Argentina has become the single most significant source of revenue for the country. In addition, the government introduced financial transfers to incentivize children to stay in school and pregnant women to have medical check-ups before and after birth. It also introduced a minimal retirement benefit for seniors. These programs have lifted many people out of indigent poverty. On the other hand, critics have keenly observed Morales’ repeated disregard for the country’s new constitutional order and of the rule of law. He has been criticized for the manner in which he and his government have used the almost absolute majority in Congress to pass laws virtually without debate or opposition; to gain control of important public offices by removing opposition leaders with the use of recently passed legislation; and to appoint government-friendly justices. In addition, he has also been criticized for his efforts to silence criticism from the media by invoking recently passed legislation which punishes any statement that can be interpreted as racially motivated.

    On October 2014 Evo Morales won a third consecutive presidential term with enough support to avoid a second round of elections. This time around, one important objective is to solidify the central role the government plays in the economy by creating national industries capable of diversifying the country’s production base. At the same time, the government plans to guarantee food security by playing a role in the production and distribution of important foods as well as assuring the price is accessible for all.

    Dr. Miguel A. Buitrago

    See also: Stages of Democratization; Political Realignment; Protest Movements; Social Movements; Ethnic Mobilization.

    Further readings

    Farthing, Linda and Benjamin Kohl. Evo’s Bolivia: Continuity and Change. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2014.

    Creabtree, John and Ann Chaplin. Bolivia: Processes of Change. London and New York: Zed books, 2013.

    Peñaranda, Raul, et. al. Treinta Años de Democracia en Bolivia: Repaso Multidisciplinario a un Proceso Apasionante (1982 – 2012). La Paz: Pagina Siete, 2012.

    Dargatz, Anja and Moira Zuazo, eds. Democracias en Transformacion: Que hay de nuevo en los nuevos estados Andinos?La Paz: Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung, 2012.

    Pearce, Adrian. Evo Morales and the Movimiento al Socialismo in Bolivia: the first term in conttext (2005 – 2009). London: Institute for the Study of the Americas, 2011.

    Cameron, Maxwell and J. P. Luna, eds. Democracias en la Region Andina. Lima: IEP, 2010.

    Dunkerley, James. Bolivia: Revolution and the Power of History in the Present. London: Institute for the Study of the Americas, 2007.

    Kohl, Benjamin and Linda Farthing. Impasse in Bolivia: neoliberal hegemony and popular resistance. London and New York: Zed Books, 2006.

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    MABB ©

    These are four images from the newly released World Trade Report from the WTO. The images show a complete list of regional trade blocks around the world. They also show where Bolivia is engaged and where not.

    Source: World Trade Report 2016

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  • 01/23/17--11:46: Morales' New Cabinet
  • MABB ©

    Source: ABI, Jose Lirauze
    Source: ABI, Jose Lirauze
    Evo Morales has once again renewed his government and made changes to his cabinet. He created the Ministry of Energy, while he abolished the Ministries of Autonomies and of Transparency. It is worth mentioning that Juan R. Quintana (Ministry of the Presidency), David Choquehuanca (Ministry of Exterior) and Marianela Paco (Ministry of Communications), two (Quintana and Choquehuanca) of the most experienced Ministers have left the government. Quintana was very unpopular with the MAS organizations and Choquehuanca was well respected. Both are sure to get posts in the diplomatic core.

    The following list is the new Cabinet.
    1. Fernando Huanacuni Mamani- Canciller de Bolivia (Minister of Exterior)
    2. René Martínez Callahuanca- Ministro de la Presidencia (Ministry of the Presidency)
    3. Carlos Romero - Ministro de Gobierno (Ministry of Government) (ratified)
    4. Reymi Ferreira - Ministro de Defensa (Ministry of Defense) (ratified)
    5. Mariana Prado Noya - Ministra de Planificación del Desarrollo (Ministry of Planning and Development)
    6. Luis Alberto Arce Catacora - Ministro de Economía y Finanzas Públicas (Ministry of Economy and Public Finances) (ratified)
    7. Luis Alberto Sánchez Fernández - Ministro de Hidrocarburos (Ministry of Hydrocarbons) (ratified)
    8. Eugenio Rojas - Ministro de Desarrollo Plural Productivo (Ministry of Plural Productive Development)
    9. Milton Claros Hinojosa - Ministro de Obras Públicas y Servicios y Vivienda (Ministry of Public Works, Services and Housing) (ratified)
    10. Félix Cesar Navarro - Ministro de Minería y Metalurgia (Ministry of Mining (ratified)
    11. Héctor Arce Zaconeta - Ministro de Justicia (Ministry of Justice)
    12. Hector Hinojosa Rodríguez - Ministro de Trabajo, Empleo y Previsión Social (Ministry of Work, Employment and Social Security)
    13. Ariana Campero Nava - Ministra de Salud (Ministry of Health) (ratified)
    14. Carlos Ortuño Yañez - Ministro de Medioambiente y Agua (Ministry of Environment and Water)
    15. Roberto Iván Aguilar Gómez - Ministro Educación (Ministry of Education) (ratified)
    16. César Cocarico Yana - Ministro de Desarrollo Rural y Tierras (Ministry of Rural Development and Lands) (ratified)
    17. Vilma Alanoca - Ministra de Cultura y Turismo (Ministry of Culture and Tourism)
    18. Gísela López - Ministra de Comunicación (Ministry of Communication)
    19. Tito Rolando Montaño - Ministro de Deportes (Ministry of Sports (ratified)
    20. Rafael Alarcón – Ministro de Energías (Ministry of Energy)

    Source: El Deber (N stands for New and R for Ratified) If you hover on the letters you will get a brief statement about the person in Spanish.


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    MABB ©

    On November 12, 2016 I wrote about what a #Trump government would mean for the Latin American region and Bolivia. In that post, I highlighted the many measures affecting the region that Mr. Trump wanted to implement in the first 100 days after he took office. I also mentioned that it was important to know who his collaborators in the cabinet would be, and in the government positions below the cabinet level. Some days after Mr. Trump's inauguration as @POTUS and some weeks after the beginning of the confirmation process of Mr. Trump's cabinet, we have more facts on which to rely on, to be able to look ahead on the shape of the #US-Latin American relationship.

    For instance, we can look at Rex Tillerson's (former CEO of Exxon Mobile) confirmation process for Secretary of State. Mr. Tillerson's confirmation vote is scheduled to happen next week, but his ongoing testimony and prior record has opened a window on his beliefs and, perhaps, on his future behavior. One emerging fact is that such scrutiny on Mr. Tillerson's views is revealing important differences with Mr. Trump's views. Examples are, his views on Putin's oppressive or totalitarian tendencies or views on the existence of climate change.

    As far as Latin America is concerned, Mr. Tillerson's experience with the region can be characterized as direct. In fact, as Exxon-Mobile's CEO, he has had the necessity, if not the obligation, to think about the relationship of that company with many governments of that region.

    One such government has been that of Mexico. In contrast to Mr. Trump's words about reconsidering NAFTA and Mexican immigrants being "rapist" and "criminals", Mr. Tillerson once said that the economies of US, Mexico and Canada were interwoven because of the NAFTA deal. It is understandable, that he would want more cooperation between the two nations and, specially, between two of the largest oil companies in the world, namely Exxon and Pemex. Further, he considered the trade deal a productive, job-creating, mutually-beneficial deal for the US and Mexico. In fact, in his confirmation hearings, Mr. Tiller described Mexicans as trusting friends, on whom the US could rely on.

    In contrast, his relationship with Venezuela could not be considered as positive. First of all, as Mr. Hugo Chavez nationalized Exxon's assets in 2007, as part of his "Bolivarian Revolution", he had no choice as to take the Venezuelan government to court. However, the result of that process was a $ 1.6 billion award in favor of Exxon Mobile, when the estimated cost should have been $ 15 Billion. In conclusion, Mr. Tiller could not have been happy with this outcome. In similar manner, in 2015/2016, Exxon made a discovery of oil reserves on the Essequibo river, which lies in a disputed border area between Guyana and Venezuela. That has also become a disputed issue between the Venezuelan government and the Exxon Mobile company. The larger interpretation of these issues is, that Mr. Tiller has already plenty of experience with dealing with Latino caudillos such as Mr. Chavez.

    Finally, Mr. Tiller's words concerning Colombian and Cuba were also interpreted having a certain distance with what Mr. Trump said. According to his comments, for Mr. Tiller, Colombia is a successful partner in the war against drugs and deserves continued aid support. Especially on the plan Peace Colombian, which is yet to pass in Congress and aims at continuing supporting the peace efforts the current government is engaged in. As for Cuba, he recently mentioned that if he were to appointed, he would take a careful look at the current policies towards Cuba.

    Another figure is Ret. Gen. John F. Kelly, newly appointed head of Home Land Security. Gen. Kelly (a.k.a. mad dog Kelly) has been the head of the US Southern Command between 2012 and 2015. In such as post, he was intimately linked with, at least, the military side of the North American policy towards the Latin American region. As such, he oversaw the all important war on drugs, and other measures to deal with illegal migration, crime an, to a larger extent, security.

    For instance, he repeatedly highlighted the activities of Hezbollah terrorist cells within Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil, as well as Venezuela. He also mentioned the possible threat it would mean for the US of increasing the Chinese military in the region. At the same time, he highlighted the importance of continued support of the Colombian peace process and fight against drug trafficking. Furthermore, he argued for a continued support of those efforts beyond Colombia, highlighting the willingness of Peru to work with the US against such a threat. According to the New York Times, he has supported for: "He has supported increased aid for economic development, education and a focus on human rights to combat unauthorized immigration and drug trafficking."

    Another important figure should be Robert Lighthizer, nominated for heading the US Trade Representative Office. Mr. Lighthizer, however, has been a known figure in Wasington, DC and therefore his tendencies are more or less easy to discern. His tendency to protectionism and his criticism towards NAFTA and other free trade agreements are well documented in the public record. His approach can be summarized as blaming the free trade agreements sought by the US government so far as being too generous to outside partners and not careful enough to keep benefits for the US. He has been know to criticize, among others, Latin American nations as not holding up to the standards of trade agreed upon and unfairly benefiting from the agreements in place. He is widely expected to carry out Mr. Trump's policies towards the region without hesitance.

    Lastly, former Texas Governor Rick Perry, suggested by Mr. Trump to head the Energy Department. This is the same department which Mr. Perry said he wanted to eliminate during his candidacy campaign during the republican primaries in 2011. Mr. Perry, as Texas governor is intimately familiar with the immigration issues with Mexico. Moreover, since a large part of those people who enter illegally the US through the Mexico border are not Mexicans, but Latin Americans and even Africans, he should have a highly differentiated knowledge of the problem. However, his comments tend to confirm that he will pursue Mr. Trump's policy without any criticism. That is, if he does not reveal any new views on the matter on the remaining confirmation session.

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    After a while, I am posting something interesting. The World Bank (WB) just released its Sustainable Development Goals Report for 2017. For those of you who remember, these are the former Millennium Goals.

    This measurement, which looks at some 17 categories, to rank countries on a four quarter scale of low income, lower middle income, upper middle income and high income pretends to measure the stage of development a country finds itself at a certain time, in this case, it would be 2017. The categories are listed below for your information. They have been extracted from the document, hopefully with the good will of the WB.

    “World Bank. 2017. Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals 2017 : From World Development Indicators. World Bank Atlas;. Washington, DC: World Bank. © World Bank. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.”
    If you need more detailed information on each of the categories head to the link above and download the report. It will give you a load of information based on the WB's data, neatly arranged data following the categories, fully illustrated, in about 131 pages.

    If you want specific information on a country, I suggest you go directly to the WB's data site. To get information on a specific country through the report is a bit difficult. You will have to read the whole report. If you have time, by all means, do it.

    My own impression on Bolivia is the country has been accumulating a positive record on many of the SDGs goals. This is most notably in the areas of poverty, hunger, health, well-being, education, gender equality, clean water, and sanitation as well as clean energy. The critic on this positive development has been the marginality of the improvement versus the available resources ($$$).

    In other areas, especially on institutions (justice, government, civil society), sustainability of cities and of economic development, as well as action on climate issues, the country's development has been more than questionable, measured with the SDGs tools.

    Overall, an interesting read. Enjoy.

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    On the first of June this year, Bolivia took the rotating presidency of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for the duration of one month. During this time, Bolivia will seek to continue pressing the world on paying attention to issues such as peace, weapons proliferation, and the right to access water around the world.

    Bolivia has been a UN member since 1945, and having been a member of the UNSC in two occasions already, from 1964 to 1965 and from 1978 to 1979, it currently finds itself in its third time in this exclusive club, from 2017 to 2018. In the course of these memberships, Bolivia has held the council's presidency five times prior to June 2017, that is in January and December 1964, in November 1965, in June 1978, and in November 1979.

    This time around, the issues Bolivia seeks to bring to the councils agenda are: preventive diplomacy and transboundary water, explosive hazards, international peace and security, terror acts, peace building and sustainable peace, peace keeping missions, issues on Cote de Ivore and Palestine, and Haiti.

    If you want to follow the work of Bolivia in the Security Council, you can visit the Security Council's website.

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    Noted in prior assessments, Bolivia has profited in the past from the boom in commodity prices, especially higher prices in natural gas, Bolivia's most important natural resource. The country was able to accumulate a substantial amount of financial resources, something that has been useful to weather more recent times when those prices have declined. Currently, Bolivia has been experiencing a more delicate economic situation, where past surpluses have turned into deficits and the government having to rely more on those reserves and on credit. While Bolivia has been growing at decent rates and is forecasted to continue growing, the economic future has turned a bit more gray.

    The government follows two plans in order to implement its agenda. One plan, which is more like a framework, is the so called Patriotic Agenda 2025, issued five years ago. The plan calls for the eradication of poverty and improvements in access to health and education as well as government-led economic development. A second plan, the five year Economic and Social Development Plan, emphasizes public investment to spur growth. That investment is aimed at industrializing the country through the creation of national industries, such as cement, carton or paper factories. Other aims are the subsidization of necessity goods to keep prices accessible and social transfers. 

    All those efforts have been burdening the economy in several ways. To start, we take a look at GDP growth. Continuing the trend my prior analysis identified (see here and here), growth in the Bolivian economy has been slowing down. Not only several international organization such as the IMF, the World Bank and the CEPAL, but also independent think tanks within Bolivia and, to a certain extent, the Bolivian government itself, have confirmed this trend. So is, that the Fundacion Milenio (independent Bolivian think tank) reports in its latest assessment of the Bolivian economy, that growth for 2016 has been 4.3 per cent, whereas the same in 2015 was 4.9 per cent and in 2014, 5.5 per cent. For 2017, the expectations between the Bolivian government and the rest take different directions. Similarly, the government expects a 4.7 per cent growth, while the IMF and the CEPAL estimate a rate of growth of 4 per cent and the World Bank estimates a 3.5 per cent growth. 

    The main factors for this slower economic development continues to be the already reported breakdown of exports, of which, the predominant cause is the fall in the volume of natural gas exports to Brazil and Argentina. The volume of natural gas sales to both countries in 2015 was 49 million cubic feet, while in 2016 this fell to 43 million cubic feet. For an economy, such as the Bolivian economy, dependent on the sale of natural resources, the fall of prices in international markets of natural gas and oil has meant a serious economic challenge. 

    The most immediate effect of this decline in exports has been, the decline in public investment. The government has been feeling the pressure of having less financial resources available. As such, it has had to make difficult decisions as to which projects to continue financing, which new projects to start financing and which ones to stop financing. In 2015, public investment grew at 8.5 per cent, while in 2016 growth was registered at 2.4 per cent. This slow in growth was much more felt at the departmental level of government.

    Despite of the negative trend, some sectors of the economy have experienced some relative growth. For example, the financial services sector has been growing at a 7.9 per cent and the construction sector at a 7.8 per cent in 2016. Agriculture has grown in the same year at a 3.1 per cent, in spite of the harshest drought in 25 years. Finally, the mining sector -especially small and cooperative enterprises- has been growing at a 4.7 per cent. 

    Another factor in the slowing down of the economy has been the hesitant domestic consumption, which up until recently was a stabilizing factor for the economy, but since 2015 it showed a decline from 5.2 per cent in 2015 to 3.4 per cent in 2016. This reduction happened in spite of the government efforts to precisely induce more consumption through increase in salaries, subsidize prices of some goods and strengthen the value of the Boliviano against the Dollar. 

    All this has had the effect of bringing back the problem of the budget deficit, a problem that Bolivia has not had for a number of years. For 2016, the fiscal deficit was 6.6 per cent and for 2017, it has been estimated to be reaching 7.8 per cent. In the last years, this deficit has been financed in the order of 70 per cent by the central bank and the rest through external credits.

    The combination of policies aiming at strengthening domestic demand, keeping the Boliviano strong and a high level of public investment, has tended to keep the economy growing. However, the danger of such policies has been to increase demand for import, which are anything but supporting of the production of local goods and services and therefore of consumption. Furthermore, the pressures building on the financial side of the economy, such as the fiscal deficit, the expansion of the monetary base through large government investments, the subsidies and the unstable international environment, are still a concern for the government.

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    Re-election has been a recurring issue in Bolivian politics. It seems the MAS forces as well as the government are intent on allowing Evo Morales remain in the presidential office. The first time, back in April 2013, Morales was allowed by the Supreme Court to run again by ruling the first time Morales was elected in 2005 did not count towards the two terms allowed because it happened before the new Plurinational State was founded in 2009. The second time, official political forces asked the population in a referendum whether the amendment of article 168 in the constitution, which would allow a one time re-election of Evo Morales and his VP for a period 2015 - 2020, would be allowed.The result was a narrow negative to amending the constitution.

    Now, the third time, the same political forces have gone back to the legal path. This time around, the government is raising an issue of constitutionality about some articles within the same constitution. The government has submitted a petition (in Bolivia known in legal terms as Recurso de Inconstitutionalidad, and in English maybe translated to recourse or procedure or appeal) to the Constitutional Tribunal or in other words Constitutional Court to take a look at some articles within the current Bolivian constitution to see if they are unconstitutional. 

    The argument is somewhat convoluted. Basically it says the term limit on the presidency of no more than two times restricts the political rights of Bolivians when it comes to having the human right to run for office without being restricted. Legally, the people who presented this appeal are arguing that by restricting terms in a public office, the constitution is unconstitutional because it is violating the political, which is equaled to human rights, to run for any office or to be elected. The argument finds the solution in article 256 in the same constitution, which allows the application of international norms superseding the same constitution, such as the American Convention on Human Rights, which in its article 23 defines the right to be elected as a human right.

    I ask myself, what is the logic behind this argument? The more I think about it, the more I question the logic. Granted I am not a lawyer, I dare to think aloud about this issue.

    The argument does not seem to be logic to me. To start of, it seems to me, it is being argued the Bolivian constitution can be subordinated to an international norm such as the above mentioned convention on human rights. As far as I know, these type of conventions or international laws have to be ratified by the country's congresses. These ratification processes go through, among other things, a process of constitutionality, i.e. whether they are not contrary to the constitution. This means to me that such laws have to be in accordance with the constitution, which is the supreme law in the land, and nothing and nobody is above it.

    However, there is another point in the logic of the argument that makes me more skeptic. In such an appeal or procedure of unconstitutionality, where the objective is to see if a legal text is contradictory to the constitution, the text being looked at has to be compared to the constitution. Now I ask myself, how in the world are the constitutional judges going to take text from the Bolivian constitution and compare it to the same constitution to rule whether this text is constitutional or not? It seems they would be measuring something that is defective with itself.

    Third, and final point, it is being assumed the political right of a person (lets say, from Evo Morales) is being restricted by applying the notion of terms in office. The result, a person cannot run for office, therefore his or her political right, which is also a human right, according to the convention, is being restricted. That cannot be. Well, that might be true, however we are forgetting here to differentiate between two things: One, the fundamental right of a person to run for public office in a country. Two, the equally fundamental notion of delimiting the terms of a president in office.

    Because the first issue is so basic and easily understandable as well as being widely accepted, I will elaborate on the second issue. The reasons why a constitution allows for term limits in high office is to protect the democratic system from becoming eventually a de-facto authoritarian or dictatorship system of government. This is, in nature, a defense mechanism the system build within itself to protect the democratic process. In many countries, this restrictions are reserved for the higher positions, while other officials such as mayors or the like could be re-elected many times. 

    In the particular case of Evo Morales, which is at the center of our concern, he was indeed guaranteed, with the current constitution and with the one before, his right to run for elections. In fact, he has been running for office since the early 80s. He has been deputy and is not president of Bolivia. In this manner, it seems to me his political and human right to run for office has been protected and guaranteed by the Constitutions of Bolivia.
    Where will this issue end? We are all expecting the issue will end at the Constitutional Tribunal. Because the argument seems to be weak. However, if the tribunal allows Morales to run again the matter will last until the next elections in 2019. Then, the people of Bolivia will have the opportunity to once and for all tell Mr. Morales he should make place for someone new.

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    Source: ABI

    Evo Morales will be able to run again in 2019 for an unprecedented fourth presidential term. That is how the opposing political forces are interpreting the constitutional court's finding regarding a "Abstract recourse of unconstitutionality" submitted by MAS' congress men and women to the court in September 2017. The decision has triggered sharp reactions from the opposition and many spontaneous demonstrations condemning it in major cities such as La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz. The government has shown itself pleased with the decision and so have the political forces supporting Morales' re-election.

    The decision involves the nullification of all the articles within the 2009 constitution, and the subsequent change of the electoral law, which set limits to the terms higher public officials have once elected to office. In the case of the president, the vice president, governors and assembly members, the term was five years with the possibility for re-election of two consecutive times. These limits are now nullified and the result is that a president or governor can run for office indefinitely. 

    The reaction on the streets has been widespread. Hours after the announcement of the decision by the court's president, people gathered around the government buildings of major regional capital cities. In La Paz, protesters encountered police resistance which provoked clashes, but no serious violence. In contrast, in Santa Cruz and Cochabamba groups of mainly young protesters proceeded to enter government buildings to which police forces responded firmly and aggressively. In Santa Cruz there were even some reports of arrests and in Cochabamba the press reported the use of rubber bullets. However, the reaction has been largely moderate, with opposition leaders making alarming comments as to the beginning of the end for the Bolivian democratic process and the government ignoring the decision made by the population in the

    On its part, the government reacted calmly. Evo Morales praised the decision and highlighted its contribution to political stability and the continuation of the process of change. He also reminded the people that not only he and the vice president would benefit from such decision but every Bolivian who wants to run of any public office. In that respect, beneficiaries are also governors, mayors, assembly members and so on. Similar was the reaction of many government officials and of many social movement leaders, who praised the decision as a significant contribution to democracy and not against it.

    Another political fallout is the call by the opposition to nullify the vote in the so called "judicial elections" on Sunday, December 3. On this day, Bolivians will be electing judges to the most important courts in the country, including the supreme court and the constitutional court. The opposition has been promoting the nullified vote and now this strategy might have a real chance to succeed. Meanwhile, the government has been campaigning against such strategy. After all, if people vote null in significant numbers, this time around, it will be interpreted as a vote against the re-election of Evo Morales. That is what the government wants to avoid at all costs.

    Moreover, in a somewhat unusual move, the US government has issued a statement urging Evo Morales to desist running in 2019 and to remember the results of the February 21, 2016 referendum when the no to allowing Morales to run again won by 51.3%. The short statement states: "The United States is deeply concerned by the November 28 ruling of the Constitutional Tribunal of Bolivia to declare inapplicable provisions of the country’s constitution that prohibit elected officials, including the President, from serving more than two consecutive terms. The decision disregards the will of the Bolivian people as confirmed in recent referendum"

    At the same time, Luis Almagro, OAS Secretary General, also criticized the court's finding calling it inaccurately interpreted. In similar terms, several political personalities, Carlos Mesa, Jorge Quiroga,Victor Hugo Cárdenas, current Governor of Santa Cruz, Rubén Costas and Unidad Nacional's leader, Samuel Doria Medina, jointly expressed their rejection of the decision and announced the construction of a "real alternative" political force for the coming general elections in 2019.

    In the end, the implications of such decision are manifold. To start of, the 2009 constitution has been reformed. The phrase expressing the term limits "por una sola vez  de manera continua" (something like, for one time and in continued manner) will have to be removed, not only from the constitution but also from the electoral law. Now, some doubts arise in regards of the reform process. Will this reform be total or partial? Article 411 of the same constitution stipulates there are two types of reform. Total reform, which concerns the fundamental ideas within it, such as rights, responsibilities and guarantees, will have to be carried out by a constitutional assembly. A partial reform, which remains undefined, will have to be carried out through a reform law issued by the Bolivian Assembly (both lower and upper houses), which will have to be approved by a referendum.

    A more immediate reaction might be on the results of Sunday's judicial elections, as mentioned above. On December 3, Bolivians will vote to elect new judges for the various courts, among them the Supreme and the Constitutional courts. This decision might provide support for the opposition's null vote strategy to undermine the government's work. That is certainly a possibility.

    Another consequence will be the re-election of Evo Morales. Morales has repeatedly said he leaves this decision to the Bolivian peoples. In this case, the people has spoken through the initiative to submit this petition to the constitutional court. In fact, this decision was one of four paths MAS supporters decided to follow in a meeting back in December 2016. Now that the decision to allow Morales and other heads of sub national governments to run again has been made, Morales intends to follow through with his intention to run again. Of course, the opposition sees Morales' decision to run once again as his intention to stay in power indefinitely. Morales, of course, denies this claim. Fact is, he (and other politicians) can run again for a fourth term. Fact is also, that he will still have to be elected by the popular vote.

    Well, now some skeptics will say now, Morales controls government, the assembly and the electoral court and therefore he is bound to win the next elections. Others will claim he will manipulate those elections. Some commentators have already advanced this claim. However, one thing that makes me stop before I join this line of opinion is the fact that previous elections have been observed by international organizations such as the EU and the Carter Center and the reports have largely been positive calling those electoral processes free.

    One worrying consequence might be that a political crisis might be brewing in Bolivia. People who have supported the no vote in the 2016 referendum feel very angry. In fact, most people who voted for the no must be feeling angry as well. After all, the no won. These people believed the electorate or "the people" have spoken and that was it. They do not perceive the "people" as the sovereign for no reason. They think the "people" has the last word. The question is, what will these people are willing to do now that their work and wish have been in vain. The potential for an escalation of events is there. If you saw the images in Santa Cruz or Cochabamba, you must have heard some of those people calling for resistance, even violent resistance. That is worrying.

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    On Sunday, December 3, 2017, Bolivians headed once again to the ballot boxes to elect the members of higher courts. There are four instances to elect members of: the Tribunal Agroambiental (Agro-environment Tribunal), Consejo de la Magistratura (Magistrates Council - regulates and controls the judicial branch), Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (Supreme Court), and the Tribunal Constitucional Plurinacional (Constitutional Court).

    This is the second time such elections happen since the 2009 Constitution. The first time, in 2011, the process was qualified as normal. That meant, people went to vote, issued their votes and results were counted and new justices were elected. Yesterday's process was, to a large extent, "normal", with the exception that the number of blank and null votes exceeds 50%.

    The reason for that is the decision of the outgoing Constitutional Tribunal that allows Evo Morales to run for an unprecedented fourth presidential term. Mas supporters submitted a petition to basically declare many articles in the 2009 constitution unconstitutional because they violated the political rights (ergo human rights) of anyone who wanted to run for office. The legal bases were the articles in an international piece of legislation that seeks to guarantee these rights. For more on that please read prior posts.

    The result of that decision to accept the argument presented by the MAS was that Mr. Morales can (and will) run again for office in 2019. As you know, in presidential systems there is a long-standing belief sufficiently grounded by the founding fathers of the USA that presidents tend to want to perpetuate themselves in office. In these systems, the fact that a president seeks to stay in office more than what is allowed is seen as suspect. There is a very present association with authoritarian regimes, if not dictatorships.

    In any case, the elections happened and now the electoral court is busy counting the votes of the people. Preliminary counts, what Bolivians call rapid count, already tell us that the blank and null votes are leading the way. As this video from the latest report tell us. It is from the electoral court, at 81% of all the precincts counted at 9:44 pm.

    Source: Results at 80,7% count. Preliminary report from the TSE. (December 3, Red Uno, 21:44 Hrs.)

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    On December 3, 2017, amidst a controversial decision by the country’s constitutional court that in the end allows president Morales to run for office for an unprecedented fourth consecutive time, Bolivians headed to the ballot boxes to elect justices for the higher courts of the judicial branch. The election results seem to have been significantly affected by the court’s decision. The null and blank votes reached 50 percent while the valid votes reached only a third of the total. These results, according to general interpretation, reflect an overwhelming rejection of the court’s decision and of Morales’ intentions to run for office once again.

    Bolivia’s 2009 Constitution prescribes four institutions comprising the country’s judicial system. The constitution court is in charge of constitutional questions; the supreme court is there to address important legal cases; the council of magistrates is supposed to address administrative and disciplinary issues; and finally, the agro-environmental court addresses agricultural-environmental issues. All three courts and the council are headed by a board of justices, with different compositions. All these justices have been up for election this time around.

    The results of Sunday’s elections show an out of the ordinary outcome at the national level in favor of the null and blank votes, i.e. over fifty percent, while valid votes make up about a third.
    For the Agro-environmental court the null and blank votes are 52 and 14 percent respectively. In similar terms, 52 and 16 percent of voters chose to vote null and blank, respectively, when it came to the Council of Magistrates. These two sets of numbers came out after 97 percent of precincts were counted. Alternatively, the results for the supreme and constitutional courts are reported by department. In that manner, the average of null and blank votes on the nine departments is 48 and 17 percent respectively at the national level. The average of precincts counted is almost 99 percent.
    The results highlighted here are preliminary and come directly from the electoral agency’s website at where you can access them differentiated by institution and geography. At the same time, it is worth highlighting that the level of participation was an elevated 70 to 80 percent, depending on the department.

    The government and the various oppositional groups have already offered their own interpretations of the results. The government interprets the judicial elections and its results as having achieved the intended purpose. First, the elections happened in an orderly and (to the publication of this article) clean manner. Second, justices for the four institutions were elected. The vice president argued any result with any number of votes would be more democratic compared to the previous appointment system. Third, the judicial system in Bolivia is better because the justices are elected by the population and not by congress. Finally, Bolivia is at the forefront in the world because it elects its high justices.

    Meanwhile, opposition groups interpret the results mainly as an overwhelming rejection, first, to the constitutional court’s decision which in the end will allow Morales to run again for office and to Morales’ intention to run again. In addition, many groups are upset that because of these decisions (by the constitutional court and Mr. Morales’), the results of the past referendum held on February 21, 2016, when the no vote won with 52% against a government proposal to reform the 2009 constitution to allow re-election, are not being taking into account. In fact, many groups say this result is being ignored.

    As a result, many groups have turned out into the streets to express their rejection and their unhappiness with the government’s actions. Many protests in major cities have been repressed by police and there have been some arrests and injuries of protesters. In Santa Cruz, there is a call to stage a general strike, halting business and day to day life. In Tarija, a group of students has entered into a hunger strike aiming at forcing the government, as they say, respect the country’s decisions. The government is also organizing gatherings in La Paz, to demonstrate support for its actions.
    I expect these demonstrations to continue for at least some several weeks. Demonstrators seems resolute to resist the government’s actions. The political opposition is preparing several legal actions which involve submitting legal recourses to the constitutional court as well as appealing to international courts such as the inter-american human rights court.

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    Freedom in the World 2018

    Freedom House Website

    With an alarming tone titles Freedom House its latest report on freedom in the world, Democracy in Crisis. Indeed, the authors of the report paint a dramatic picture of the world where democracy is under attack or on the decline. They write that political rights and civil liberties, the core values of the freedom in the world scores have been deteriorating around the world. Further, they say 2017 has been the 12th consecutive year democracy has been on decline, and that during this period 113 countries have suffered net declines while only 62 have experienced a net improvement.

    Among the Latin American countries with the largest declines in the last 10 years are: Venezuela with -21, Nicaragua with -20, Honduras with -15,  Dominican Republic with -13, and Mexico with -11. Especially dramaticly depicted is the development of the US, which resembles a free fall. The graph the report presents is dramatic, but of course the score is not so. The one thing I find most troubling in the following graph is the arrow pointing down, which suggests to me the fall will continue.

    As far as Bolivia is concerned, the authors continue with a negative evaluation of the developments in the country. Bolivia is scored at 67 of 100 possible points, where as you know 100 is most free. It is down one point from 68 in 2017.

    The main reason why Bolivia is listed as decline is "due to a constitutional court ruling that abolished term limits and paved the way for President Evo Morales to run for a fourth term in 2019."

    The country's report is not out yet, but you can take a look at the prior report. I expect to read many of the same things in the new report, plus an analysis of the constitutional court ruling and its developments.

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    Many authors have engaged the title of this post mainly to analyze why is the US' policy towards Latin America not working. While critical analysis is a desirable thing to do in order to, among other things, go forward or better (say a policy), in this topic many of the analyses seem verging on the obliviousness to real events. For that reason, an equal number of scholars have proposed new ways on which the formulation of such policy should be anchored on. This post is one more attempt at revising as well as analyzing US foreign policy towards Latin America and proposing a "new" approach, which, in my opinion, is necessary already.

    Scholars of foreign policy or international relations like to start revisiting the Monroe Doctrine when thinking about US policy towards its more southern neighbors. For it was in 1823, as President James Monroe gave his annual state of the union speech that he formulated what later would become a fundamental piece of US foreign policy and relations. So fundamental, that even President Reagan referred to it during his presidency and the presidents thereafter did not singnificantly change.

    The doctrine, written by Quincy Adams and influenced by Hamilton and others, stated that any attempt at re-colonize the newly independent countries in the Americas by European powers would be seen as a threat to the US. At the same time, the US would seek not to interfere with the remaining European colonies.

    The doctrine was so fundamental because it did not only established an approach to address issues involving the Americas but also helped establish a sphere of influence beyond the borders of the United States. It recognized that the security of the US was secured when the borders of those other countries were also secure.

    Since the end of the Cold War, the US government has been applying more or less the same approach in dealing with its southern neighbors. This approach involves the promotion of liberal democracy and the establishment of benefitious routes for trade. In the 1960s and 1970s and especially the 1980s, the issue of drug trafficking became one more pillar of that policy. While later on the issues of development and military cooperation also entered the formula. One issue left outside, but which has become fundamental has been the issue of migration south to north.

    So every time a new president takes the oath to office in the US, latin americanists, policy analysts and the politically interested asked themselves how will the US policy towards Latin America look like during the next four years. An important question has been: does the US have a sufficiently coherent and adequately modern policy that guides its relationship with Latin America?

    The short answer can be, yes, the US has had and still has one of the most coherent approaches towards the region. In fact, it is so coherent that it has not significantly changed since many decades, if not since Monroe. What has not happened is it has not been appropriately conditioned to the most recent developments in the whole region, not only within the US but also in Latin America.

    How should this new approach look like?

    First, the US should realize once and for all, the Latin American region has been living democracy since at least three decades. It is not the region anymore where the specter of communism was waiting to charge and take over; nor it is the region where a regime change meant a coup d'etat and military dictators were taking the reigns of government thinking they were the most fit to lead a nation.

    Second, the US should think twice about continuing treating Latin America as its sphere of influence or its back yard. It should instead think of the region as its neighborhood where many countries with different cultures, ways of life and interests live.

    Third, the US should think twice about concentrating heavily on the war on drugs when it deals with Latin America. I think I do not need to remind us that concentrating on one or few issues not only reduces alternatives but tends to simplify what otherwise would be a complex matter. Instead it should approach the region on the basis of a complex relationship with many sides, one of them being the war on drugs. Other important issues of this new era would be migration, financial integration, renewable energy, traditional energy, security, environment, etc.

    Fourth, the US should realize that, while the focus on trade is the right thing to do, the emphasis on getting the best deal which might largely benefit one side is not beneficial. Instead, the US should realize that it is only to its benefit that the other side also benefits, and generousely. The larger benefit for the US would be strengthening a potential market of some 500 million people which might end up consuming many US products.

    Fifth, the US should stop concentrating on the largest markets such as Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. Instead, it should also work on strenthening smaller countries such as Ecuador, Peru or Uruguay or Bolivia, for that matter. In fact, it should try to bring to its side as many countries as possible.

    Finally, the US should stop treating the countries in Latin America as if they were kids, even if many times they might behave like one. Instead, it should start treating these countries as partners, looking at them eye-to-eye, giving them the respect they are looking for around the world.

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  • 01/24/18--01:24: New Cabinet 2018
  • MABB ©

    Only two changes in Evo Morales' new cabinet. Alfredo Rada, who prviously was Minister of Government and Viceminister for Social Movements Coordination, was sworn now as Minister of the Presidency. In addition, Javier Zavaleta, former La Paz deputy for MSM, was sworn as Minister for Defense. The rest of ministers were ratified. 

    There were many critical voices within MAS calling for the president to replace some ministers, such as the Health Minister and Minister for Culture, but it seems the president did think they were doing a good job.

    Below, you will see a list of the new cabinet taken from the news agency Erbol.


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    MABB ©

    The Bolivia-Chile relations have been dominated by one issue, the loss of sea access for Bolivia as a result of the pacific war of 1879 between the two countries. Ever since, Bolivia has been claiming injustice to the world for, what the country calls, an illegal usurpation of territory. To this day, Bolivia and Chile do not have diplomatic relations and do not abandon controversy and confrontation instead of talking to one another.

    The latest chapter in this long-standing dispute is evolving this week, from the 19th to the 23rd, in the International Court of Justice at the Hague, Netherlands. On Monday 19th and Tuesday 20th, Bolivia had the opportunity to present its last oral arguments in the process initiated by this country against Chile back in 2013. On Thursday 22nd and Friday 23rd, Chile presented its rebuttal.

    What is the problem?

    The core of the problem is the loss for Bolivia of sea access, which was the result of losing the war of the pacific (1879 to 1883) to Chile. While both countries have somewhat different versions of what started the war, it is possible to determine that the dispute was over taxes imposed by the Bolivian government to Chilean mines which were operating at the time in what was Bolivian-controlled territory.

    The Chilean government saw this move counterproductive, and aided by foreign interests, namely by the British empire, it decided to intervene and as such declare war on Bolivia and Peru.

    The war lasted some four years. Chile managed to march all the way into Lima and, in the process take control of the Bolivian Litoral department. Consequently, Bolivia formally lost control of its territory through the so called Treaty of Peace and Amity of 1904. This settled the dispute and laid down the new relations between the two countries. Among the conditions, Chile accepted to allow free access to commerce for Bolivian products in perpetuity. 

    What is going on in the Hague?

    In 2013, Bolivia filed a lawsuit against Chile at the ICJ. After a brief counter suit by Chile asking the court to clarify its jurisdiction, the court accepted the case and ruled it was within its jurisdiction.

    Since then, both Bolivia and Chile have presented their cases in oral and written forms. This time around, between the 19th and the 23rd of March, both countries have their last opportunity to present their arguments in oral form. Bolivia presented its arguments on the 19th and the 20th and Chile presented its arguments on the 22nd and 23rd of March. These will be the last chance for both countries as a final decision is expected in the next months.

    The arguments

    Bolivia has been claiming its landlocked status has been a major factor against its economic development. The team of lawyers have made the argument that Chile, by its own conduct on the issue, has establish a record of willingness to addressing the Bolivian claim. This actions, if interpreted by the UN charter, establish legal grounds binding Chile to negotiate a solution for the Bolivian problem. In essence, Bolivia does not dispute the standing of the 1904 peace treaty but it asserts that Chile, through its conduct and actions, accepts the Bolivian issue is not resolved. Therefore, Bolivia asks the court to oblige Chile to enter negotiations in good faith with Bolivia to address its landlocked status.

    Chile's main argument counters that Bolivia, with this course of action, pretends to impose a precondition for the negotiations it wants with Chile. It argues further, Bolivia is not simply seeking good-faith negotiations but rather, it is demanding a pre-commitment from Chile to an outcome of sovereign access.

    The (possible) outcome

    What is the most likely outcome to a dispute such as this? It is reasonable to expect the court will want to do justice to both sides. On the one side, it will want to move towards the Bolivian argument which reasonably asks for the opportunity to keep talking (even negotiating). At the same time, the court is likely to side with Chile at the moment of advising the two sides that no country is legally obliged to enter negotiations or talks expecting to cede territory to another country. The decision is most likely to be: yes both countries have to talk with one another, however it cannot be expected from Chile to enter such talks accepting to negotiate the terms for loss of sovereignty of its own territory.


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