Archive for January, 2010

Bolivia celebrates festival of abundance

January 28, 2010

Bolivians celebrated the traditional Aymara Festival of Abundance on Sunday, buying miniature money, houses, and professional titles — all as an expression of their dreams and aspirations.

The Festival of Alasitas is a yearly artisans fair dealing in miniatures, which are then blessed under the auspices of Ekeko, the Aymara god of abundance.

Bolivians celebrated the traditional Aymara Festival of Abundance on Sunday, buying miniature money, houses, and professional titles -- all as an expression of their dreams and aspirations.

Many Aymara believe if Ekeko, who can be either male or female, is given offerings of alcohol and cigarettes, he or she will help make their desires-represented by the miniatures-a reality.

Jose Luis, miniature ekeko buyer, said, “I bought myself a little miniature plot of land, so that I can one day have a real one. I have nothing and I bought many things because I believe that they can make my dreams and those of my family come true.”

Ekeko is typically portrayed as obese and with a large smile, and dressed in the traditional garb of the Bolivian highlands. He is also often shown carrying a pack full of food and other necessities.

The miniatures are blessed by a Yatiri, a traditional healer or shaman, so that Ekeko may bless the miniatures and the people who purchased them.

Source: CCTV


Experts Discuss on World Crisis in Bolivia

January 28, 2010

Imagen activa

La Paz, January 27 (Prensa Latina) Experts from Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Peru and Uruguay will discuss on Wednesday about economic World crisis and energy policies in a seminar organized by the Center for Labor and Agricultural Development Studies (Sedla).

  The Forum, sponsored by Oxfam Internacional (OI), will assess the current energy policies and their prospects.

Experts aim to develop a panoramic view of the crisis, it connection with renewable and non-renewable resources and impact on society.

In the meantime, it is expected to know how States and civilian population have reacted to the crisis around the world.

Experts will also discuss about the region’s energy integration, new oil paradigms, alternatives and policies, right to access energy for the poorest people, renewable energy’s role and new governability for energy policies.

Source: Prensa Latina

Take a treacherous drive on Bolivia’s ‘Death Road’

January 28, 2010

The road out of Bolivia’s capital, La Paz, climbs five kilometres above sea level, before pitching down­wards like a terrifying roller-coaster ride. A statue of Christ stands here, and drivers pull into the gravel lay-by to make offerings, praying that they’ll make it down.

Road signs usually point drivers to places, or alert them of impending congestion. Not here on the Yungas Road. The signs here are memorials to dead motorists, and this 69 km stretch of winding single lane, above Bolivia’s steepest valleys, is peppered with wooden crosses like potholes.

Known as “The Death Road,” it’s estimated that up to 300 travellers lose their lives here each year.

Its reputation is helped by the awesome yet clearly lethal surroundings — narrow roads, sheer cliffs, dense jungle. If the crash doesn’t kill you the anacondas will.

When it rains, visibility is compromised and the road turns to slime. The track literally can wash away from under you.


BOLIVIA: Unprecedented Gender Parity in Cabinet

January 28, 2010

By Franz Chávez

LA PAZ, Jan 27 , 2010 (IPS) – Evo Morales began his second term as president of Bolivia by swearing in a cabinet made up of an equal number of women and men – unprecedented in this South American nation with a strong patriarchal tradition.

“My great dream has come true: half of the members of my cabinet are women, and half are men,” said a visibly moved Morales when he presented his new team of ministers Saturday, the day after he was sworn in to a second term.

“This was an impressive surprise,” Jimena Leonardo, one of the heads of the Bartolina Sisa federation of peasant women of La Paz, told IPS.

Three of the 10 female members of the cabinet are indigenous social activists.

The 50-year-old Morales, the first indigenous president in this country where Amerindians make up over 60 percent of the population, said that since his days as a rural trade union leader, he had stressed the need for women’s participation in top posts to be “chacha-warmi”, which means roughly fifty-fifty in Aymara, his mother tongue.

Bolivia has thus become the second country in Latin America, after Chile, to have a cabinet with gender parity, said Mónica Novillo, head of advocacy and lobbying for the Coordinadora de la Mujer, a Bolivian umbrella organisation of more than 200 women’s groups.

Referring to the new constitution that took effect in February 2009, Novillo told IPS that “this was a promise that President Morales made when the new constitution was enacted, which has been fulfilled with the swearing in of the new cabinet.”

Noting that the women in his 20-member cabinet include “singers, lawyers, activists and social leaders, economists, doctors and workers,” the president highlighted the fact that Bolivia will have a female labour minister for the first time ever – while calling on trade unionists not to protest the historic appointment.

Novillo pointed out that there are now twice as many women in Morales’ cabinet, compared to his first term, which began in January 2006. The leftist leader was reelected – to a five instead of four-year term under the new constitution – in an unparalleled landslide victory, with 64 percent of the vote, on Dec. 6.

She added that gender parity in the three branches of the state is a long-time demand of the women’s movement.

The new constitution, which guarantees equal rights for men and women, empowers both women and the country’s historically downtrodden indigenous majority.

The naming of 10 women ministers was preceded by the election of a female legislator, Ana María Romero of the governing Movement to Socialism (MAS) party, as the powerful president of the Senate – another milestone for gender equality touted by Morales.

The proportion of women in the new parliament – in which the total number of legislators was expanded under the new constitution – will be double what it was in the previous Congress: 46 out of 166 seats (28 percent), compared to 22 out of 157 seats (14 percent).

In appointing his new cabinet, Morales had to respond to conflicting pressures from the various social movements that make up his support base and from his supporters among the middle class and intellectuals. He also apparently made a small concession to his adversaries by replacing his interior and defence ministers and chief of staff, who were extremely unpopular among the opposition.

But seven ministers stayed on, including three who were considered key to the success of his first administration: the ministers of economy and finance, autonomy, and foreign relations.

Bolivian women’s organisations have been celebrating the new cabinet as a far-reaching achievement in a country where machismo runs deep.

Women have quietly made headway in politics as part of the process of change that brought Morales to power. But only now is the strength of their participation since 2006 gaining recognition, under the leadership of indigenous and community activists from poor rural and urban areas in the country’s western highlands region.

Leonardo is one of them – a farmer who led thousands of peasant women as they showed their strength in roadblocks, days-long marches along highways, and protest demonstrations that formed part of the struggle against the free market economic policies implemented by governments between 1985 and 2005.

Researchers and indigenous thinkers say the major changes seen in Bolivia over the last four years are largely due to the strength and drive of women. But up to now, the women’s movement had not taken a front seat role.

When he announced his new cabinet, Morales also said that Bolivian women’s social conscience, patriotism and dedication to defending national interests, as well as the respect he feels for his mother, sister and daughter, were factors in his decision to break with a long history of discrimination against women.

The female members of the cabinet include popular folk singer and activist Zulma Yugar in the Ministry of Culture; lawyer and former ombudswoman Nardi Suxo as the anti-corruption minister; U.S.-trained economist Elba Viviana Caro in the Ministry of Development Planning; Antonia Rodríguez, the head of an association of women artisans, as Minister of Productive Development; Nilda Copa, a leader of the Bartolina Sisa federation of peasant women of Tarija, in the Justice Ministry; and Carmen Trujillo as Minister of Labour and Social Security.

Others are Dr. Sonia Polo as Minister of Health and Sports; María Esther Udaeta as Environment Minister; Nemesia Chacollo, a leader of the Bartolina Sisa federation of peasant women of La Paz, as Minister of Rural Development and Land; and Minister of Legal Defence Elizabeth Arismendi.

But the organisations that make up the Coordinadora de la Mujer have no intention of resting on their laurels, and have already launched a campaign to achieve gender equity at the municipal and regional levels, demanding that half of the candidates fielded by political parties in the Apr. 4 local and provincial elections be women. (END)

Source: IPS

Bolivia’s ex-prez faces charges in deadly crash

January 28, 2010

LA PAZ, Bolivia – Police in Bolivia say former President Jaime Paz Zamora will face homicide charges for a car crash that killed a man.

The transportation director in the southern city of Tarija says the driver of the other car in the accident died Wednesday, meaning the charge against Paz Zamora will be increased to homicide.

Gonzalo Cuellar says Paz Zamora was driving to his house on the outskirts of Tarija early Monday when his vehicle crossed into the other lane and crashed head-on with the other vehicle.

Telephone calls to Paz Zamora’s family seeking comment were not answered.

Paz Zamora suffered bruises to his face and chest in the wreck. He was Bolivia’s president from 1989 to 1993.

Source: AP

New Drink Planned for Bolivia: “Coca Colla”

January 27, 2010

Coca growers from Chapare in central Bolivia have submitted a plan to the government to launch a new fizzy drink to rival corporate giant Coca Cola.

The new drink, aimed at boosting coca production, has been tipped as Coca Colla, a name which makes reference to the people living in the Andean region.

Currently coca is being used in the area to produce tea, flour, toothpaste, and liquor; the leaf has been cultivated in the region for over 3,000 years.

Source: Short News

Bolivia’s Morales Woos Chile’s President-Elect Piñera

January 27, 2010
Written by Steve Anderson   
Monday, 25 January

Bolivian President Evo Morales gave unexpected attention to Chile during his inaugural speech on Friday, January 22, highlighting the special relationship that has developed in recent years between the two historically antagonistic nations. Morales also saluted Chile’s president-elect Sebastian Piñera and expressed his hope that Piñera will continue the bi-national dialogue started by “compañera” Michelle Bachelet.


Photo by Christian Peña

The dialogue covers 13 issues that both nations agree need to be discussed and resolved before diplomatic relations can be restored. But certainly the most important issue for Bolivia (it has been enshrined in its new Constitution) is its aspiration to once again have access to the Pacific Ocean.

Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet was in the audience on Friday to hear Morales’ inauguration speech, as was Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo and Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa. Noticeably absent was Brazilian President Lula da Silva.

“In democracy, the right or the left can win,” said Morales, more than an hour into his speech. “But it is democracy itself that is most important, and which must be respected.”

Morales continued: “Of course, compañera Bachelet, we want to continue our relationship of mutual respect, a diplomatic effort, people to people, and most certainly with the new president, to whom we send our greetings.”

Morales, the first indigenous person elected president of Bolivia, won overwhelming reelection to a five-year term in office in December, receiving 64% of the vote, comfortable majorities in both houses of Congress, and a mandate to advance with the reshaping of his country.

Press accounts suggest the Bolivian leader is concerned that President-elect Piñera may not be keen in continuing the dialogue begun under Bachelet. Piñera’s single reference to Bolivia during the recent Chilean presidential campaign came in the final debate against his opponent Sen. Eduardo Frei, when the center-right presidential candidate categorically rejected any suggestion that Chile would cede Bolivia sovereignty to Pacific coast lands now owned by Chile.

Chile won the War of the Pacific against Peru and Bolivia in the late 1800s, taking control of nitrate and mineral-rich northern areas that originally belonged to its enemies.  During the war, Chile occupied Lima, Peru, and Bolivia lost its access to the Pacific Ocean. 

Ever since, international relations between Chile and its two northern neighbors have been strained. Bachelet’s willingness to include access to the Pacific Ocean as one of the 13 discussion issues has been hailed in Bolivia as a diplomatic opening that must be nurtured and pursued – hence Morales’ unexpected greeting to President-elect Piñera.

But Morales had much more to say last week than simply salute Piñera.

Speaking at the end of an indigenous ceremony celebrating his inauguration, Morales said that Friday, January 22, 2010, will henceforth hold special significance in Bolivia because it marks the enactment of a new constitution with sweeping reforms that seek to upgrade the social and political conditions of the majority indigenous population of one of South America’s poorest countries.

“We had to wait 180 years for the re-foundation of our country,” said Morales.  “We are standing before a state that has died and we watch while another is born. Gone forever is the colonial state which was permissive to the continuous looting of our natural resources, and gone, too, is the discriminatory colonial state.” Morales then signed a decree declaring January 22 the Pluri-National State Foundation Day and declaring it a national holiday to be celebrated each year.

Bolivia’s traditional independence holiday on August 6 — which celebrates its separation from Spain in 1825 — will continue to be celebrated as a national day.

Morales finished his speech repeating the words of a former president Gualberto Villarroel, killed in 1946 by the extreme right: “I’m not an enemy of the rich, but I’m friendlier with the poor and disposed.” Morales, during his first term in office, nationalized Bolivia’s natural gas deposits, the second largest in South America.

On Thursday Morales — who belongs to the Aymara ethnic group — participated in the traditional indigenous festivity which conferred upon him the spiritual leadership of the different peoples of Bolivia at the sacred pre-Hispanic Tiawanaku citadel, located 70 kms from the capital of La Paz and 3,800 meters above sea level.

Aymara elders and representatives from other indigenous peoples dressed in ceremonial white tunics combined with colorful Andean designs dating back to the Tiahuanacota culture completed several rituals at the Akapana pyramid. At precisely mid-day, Morales was handed the “baton of command” by several children.

Earlier that day, while at the top of the pyramid, Morales had to address the four cardinal points and received blessings in the different indigenous languages while offering ritual gifts of coca leaves and alcohol to the mother earth god Pachamama and to the sun god Tata Inti.

Indigenous priests later called on the gods at the four cardinal points to bless the leader and endow him with “knowledge, wisdom and humbleness.”

Thousands of indigenous peoples from the four cardinal points of Bolivia were present at the ceremony at the Tiahuanacota temples, temples that belong to a pre-Inca culture and are revered as the most sacred in the Andes highlands.

In 2006, when he was first elected, Morales participated in a similar ceremony, signaling the rebirth of traditional indigenous rituals and cultural traditions in his country.


Violence and democracy in Bolivia

January 27, 2010

Bolivia’s new Constitution which came into effect a year ago, recognizes upfront that women’s rights are human rights, and it has led to real progress in both legislation and policies granting women equal rights. The changes relating to gender equality include the establishment of an electoral body that guarantees equal participation for men and women, changes in terminology recognizing the female identity and gender differences, the recognition and value of household work, the right of women to access, own and sell land, and the recognition that women have rights over their sexual and reproductive health.

The area of women’s political participation and empowerment is one of the clearest examples of the progress in establishing women’s rights in the last few years. The electoral law known as the Quotas Act provides for the equal participation of women in politics with quotas for 30% of female candidates. The new Constitution also mandates quotas for 50% of women standing as candidates for local government, Congress, Senate and the new pluri-national Legislative Assembly. In addition, the Political Parties Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender, age or ethnic origin, and more recently the Citizen’s Associations and Indigenous Peoples Act establishes 50% of female representation.

CEDAW and the Optional Protocol (ratified by Bolivia in 1990 and 2000) have been vital to advancing Bolivian women’s rights, providing a tool for civil society and women’s organisations to demand rights and better conditions for women around the country. The CEDAW Committee welcomed the new legislation promoting equal political participation and representation, but still expressed its regrets about the insufficient representation of women in senior posts in many areas of professional and public life, particularly in the judiciary. At the regional level, the Inter American Convention on the prevention, punishment and eradication of violence against women of Belem do Para has also played a part in advancing the women’s rights agenda. Some of the progress in the ‘Heart of South America’ can be seen through advances in education and health for women and girls, the implementation of tools to tackle domestic violence and increased women’s political participation at the national and local levels.

However, there is still a notorious gap between progressive legislation and policy –  and what happens in practice. One of the gravest challenges that women are now facing as a result of their increased participation is political gender based violence against candidates and elected women politicians. Women are often subjected to threats, attacks, intimidation physical and psychological violence and harassment by men just because they dare to speak up publicly in a patriarchal society. In Bolivia now, harassment and violence against women involved in politics is the main barrier against women’s political participation. Nonetheless this situation is still ignored and not acknowledged by the Government. It is also absent from public debate. Despite measures to promote women’s political participation, different Bolivian governments have been incapable of guaranteeing the safety of women who occupy positions of responsibility or to protect them from threats and harassment. A draft Law against Political Harassment of Women was drawn up ten years ago, it is exemplary legislation which will serve as a model for other parts of the world, but it has yet to be passed.

The National Association of Council Women of Bolivia (ACOBOL) is working hard to ensure that political violence is recognized as a crime and punished accordingly and that this type of violence is properly prevented and eradicated. ACOBOL carried out a research study about political violence against women councillors and majors in Bolivia. 117 witness statements were collected, covering different cases reported to ACOBOL between 2000 and 2005. The main acts of violence against women included: pressure to resign as councillors and leave politics, verbal and psychological violence, physical violence and sexual violence.  Only 40% of the cases received and documented by ACOBOL had been reported to public authorities. The research demonstrated the extent and damaging effects of gender based political violence against elected women politicians, and the failure of the  authorities to acknowledge to this situation. Through reviewing existing legislation and jurisprudence ACOBOL also demonstrated the existence of a legal loophole in this area. Currently there is no specific definition of women’s political rights, no legal definition of harassment and gender based violence and no mechanism through which to report cases of harassment and gender based political violence. The CEDAW Committee has expressed its concerns about the violence against women in government posts, and has demanded that the Bolivian Government adopts the draft legislation on political violence and that offenders are properly judged and prosecuted

One World Action invited representatives from ACOBOL to participate in an international conference on CEDAW that took place in London last November and to lobby the European Parliament. They pointed out that the lack of recognition of gender based political violence as a crime is a major gap in CEDAW and called for urgent action be taken to amend the Convention. This is now a challenge globally because a common definition has yet to be decided. 

In spite of the increased violence against women in Bolivia, the progress in women’s representation continues. In a ground breaking historical event, 47% of those elected to the Senate last December were women, 25% in the Chamber of Deputies and 30% in the Plurinational Legislative Assembly.  And earlier this month Dr Ana Maria Encina, ACOBOL’s President, became the mayor of Santa Cruz, the second largest city in Bolivia, and the largest in terms of economic power. This success reflects the joint work of feminist organizations, women’s organizations, indigenous women’s associations, social movements, local authorities and female leaders working towards increased women’s political participation and empowerment and ultimately aiming to achieve parity in Bolivia. This triumph is evidence of the new reality in Bolivia – a country that is now finally starting to show a women’s face.

Source: Open Democracy

Bolivia vs. Manfred Reyes Villa

January 27, 2010


Different countries have different protocols as to what happens to candidates who lose their nation’s Presidential elections. In the U.S. Al Gore wrote a book, made a movie and won both a Nobel Prize and an Oscar. John McCain returned to the Senate and became one of the opposition’s leading voices.

Bolivia is different than the U.S. in many respects and here again that’s true. Manfred Reyes Villa, the former Cochabamba Mayor and Governor who was runner up in last December’s presidential vote in Bolivia, is neither writing a book nor leading his party. He has instead fled to the beaches of Miami to avoid prosecution on corruption charges back at home.

Jessica Aguirre of the Democracy Center team in Cochabamba offers us a look at the controversial case.

[Note: We will have a special report from the Morales innauguration up in a few days.]

Jim Shultz

Bolivia vs. Manfred Reyes Villa

Barely a week after his distant second place finish in Bolivia’s Presidential vote on December 6th Manfred Reyes Villa disappeared. After a flurry of public and media speculation about his whereabouts – and official U.S. claims of ignorance as to his whether he had entered the U.S. – a Miami newspaper found the former candidate in his Miami apartment and published an in-person interview with him.

As it turns out, the four times mayor of Cochabamba escaped Bolivia somewhat ignominiously through the country’s border with Peru and onward from the Lima international airport. According to Peruvian officials, Reyes Villa left the country there on an American Airlines flight heading to Miami on December 15th. The Nuevo Herald found him in his luxury apartment in Miami on January 12th, nearly a month after his disappearance.

“Regrettably, I had to leave Bolivia because I had a pending case of political persecution in addition to my pending court case,” Manfred told the Herald in a videotaped interview. He expressed his distrust in the Bolivian judiciary and stated his belief that his political adversary, President Evo Morales controls all three branches of government.

The runner-up presidential candidate, who garnered 26 percent of the national vote in December, is wanted in Bolivia on various charges of corruption and malfeasance. Manfred announced in early December that he would no longer appear in public for fear of politically motivated detention, saying that he was a victim of political persecution. But he assured publicly that he would not leave the country.

Wanted on Corruption Charges

While the charges against Manfred are from the term he served as governor (which ended in August of 2008 after he was removed from office by Cochabamba voters in a national referendum) those charges did not officially surface until after the December vote. The Cochabamba daily, Los Tiempos, reported that there are 22 legal demands against Reyes Villa, involving an alleged 16.5 million dollars in public funds. The demands include corruption charges, misuse of public funds, and tax evasion, as well as charges of election fraud.

Reyes Villa and his supporters have declared that the charges are purely political: strategizing on the part of MAS to clear the field of its chief adversaries. Senators from Manfred’s political party (Progress Plan-National Convergence) publicly announced their support for him on January 13th.

For its part, MAS defenders say that it was generous not to embroil Manfred in political scandal during the election campaign.

Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera takes Manfred’s escape to be an admission of guilt, announcing, “We lament this cowardly and delinquent attitude of Manfred Reyes Villa – eluding justice, eluding his penal responsibilities in front of the justice system. It is proof, it is an affirmation that he is guilty.”

The furor following Manfred’s escape has resulted in the dismissal of two top migration officials and a general legal scramble to get Manfred returned to Bolivia for trial. The newspaper La Razon reports that U.S. officials have stated that they will fully cooperate with the Bolivian government if the charges have merit, quoting John S. Creamer from the U.S. embassy in La Paz as saying, “We are checking our files over there but I cannot confirm his presence. Clearly, if he is there and there is a judicial process here, we are always prepared to collaborate with Bolivian authorities.”

Echoes of Ganzalo Sanchez de Lozada

The fleeing of Ryes Villa to Miami holds clear echoes of another high profile prosecution in Bolivia, the criminal case against former President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, currently being heard in the Bolivian courts in Sucre. In the case initiated shortly after his ouster in October 2003, by a Congress controlled by his own political party, Sanchez de Lozada is charged along with top aides with involvement in the killings of dozens of Bolivians during the 2003 protests. Sanchez de Lozada has been living since 2003 in the Maryland suburbs just outside Washington and U.S. officials, under both the Bush and Obama administrations, have refused Bolivian requests for his extradition. President Obama’s first White House Counsel, Greg Craig, served as Sanchez de Lozada’s defense attorney prior to joining the White House.

Reyes Villa’s attorneys and Bolivian officials are both appealing to international institutions to support their cause. Reyes Villa attorney, Daniel Humérez, is submitting a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, saying that the former candidate doesn’t trust the Bolivian justice system. Meanwhile, the Bolivian courts have issued multiple orders to appear, and the central government states that it will work to get Manfred extradited.

Written by Jessica Aguirre with assistance from Jim Shultz

Source: The Democracy Center

Lithium From Bolivia Could Reshape Miami and the World

January 27, 2010

For this Article, please visit the following website:

Source: New Times