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Evo Morales WINS, The Bird Shit War & Bush's Nightmare

by Chris Kulczycki Sat Dec 24th, 2005 at 04:55:28 AM EST

from the front page. --Jérôme

[Update] With 99.8% counted, Morales is at 53.7% - so it's now definite that Morales won already in the first round. Second-placed rightist Jorge "Tuto" Quiroga only got 28.6%. Participation was an amazing 84.5%.

Hence bumped again. (Also: whataboutbob's thread incorporated in the comments!)

To find out what this has to do with bird shit, Bush, and war please go below the fold.


Bolivia's history has been one of domination and exploitation by foreign powers. The population consists primarily of Amerindians who have been fighting for real democracy since colonial times. To understand the significance of a Native American being freely elected as president it helps to know a little history.

Bolivia lost her coastline in a war over bird shit. Also called the War of the Pacific, it took place from 1879 to 1884. It was fought between Chile and Bolivia over deposits of guano and saltpeter that were being exploited by British interests.

A most interesting story about how this war started involves the British ambassador to Bolivia making the mistake of disdainfully declining a cup of Bolivian beer at an official function. Bolivian officials were so offended by his condescending attitude that they dragged him through the streets of La Paz tied across the back of a donkey, then forced him to drink a whole barrel of the brew. This is said to have enraged Queen Victoria and to have led to the instigation of the Bird Shit War.

I don't know how much of the above is fact, but the war was very real, as was the loss of Bolivia's only access to the sea and the guano and saltpeter deposits. British officers fought on the Chilean side while Germany and the US egged on the Bolivians.

The War of the Pacific is but one example of how foreign powers have long treated Bolivia and exploited its resources.

Another example is the Bolivian tin mines run by local tin barons on behalf of US corporations. Thousands of miners to died due to a combination of inhumane working conditions and starvation wages.  This is what brought Che Guevara to Bolivia and cost him his life.

Yet another example of exploitation was the privatization of water (from Wikipedia):

In September 2001, following the advice of the World Bank, the Bolivian government declared that all water was to become corporate property, so that even drawing water from community wells or gathering rainwater on their own properties, peasants and urban dwellers had to first purchase and obtain permits from International Water Limited (a multinational largely owned by the Bechtel Corporation). The government, however, retracted and abolished the new water privatization rules following wide-scales uprisings and riots in protest of the legislation.

Bolivian's believe the huge deposits of natural gas under their country, an estimated 1.5 trillion cubic meters worth over 1.2 billion USD was also taken from them. To exploit the reserves, a consortium called Pacific LNG was formed by the British companies BG Group and BP, and Spain's Repsol YPF. The agreement with the consortium gave Bolivia only 18% of the future profits from the exportation of the gas. This and a host of other issues led to two recent periods of intense civil insurrection. Many among Bolivia's poor would like to see the gas and related infrastructure nationalized and the profit used to benefit all citizens, two thirds of whom live in poverty.

As if that were not enough, the US backed coca eradication program took away one of the only crops available to many Andean farmers. So it is no surprise that "Long live coca! Yankee go home!" is the "war cry" of the Aymaras and Quechuas, original nations of the Andes and strong constituents of Evo Morales an an Aymara Indian himself.

A BBC story about the elections in Bolivia is titled "Bolivia candidate 'US nightmare'". Indeed, Morales wants to legalize Coca growing, and is an ideological ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. "I am not a drug trafficker," he once said. "I am a coca grower. I cultivate coca leaf, which is a natural product. I do not refine [it into] cocaine, and neither cocaine nor drugs have ever been part of the Andean culture."

He seeks national control over Bolivia's huge gas reserves to bring the benefits of the nation's hydrocarbons to the people. He is also a fierce critic of the US, and he will become the country's first indigenous head of state. Most feel he will undermine US influence in the region.

"The hour has arrived when we liberate ourselves completely. I feel a wave of uprising and rebellion all around Latin America and a growing courage to stop our subjugation at the hands of the North American empire.", Evo Morales said.

There is more at stake here than just the presidency of one small South American country. This is part of a shift to the left by much of Latin America. And some think Bush will go to war to prevent its spread, and they have pretty good evidence.  The map below shows the situation. This is a great interactive map and it worth going to the original BBC page to click on the links.

ManfromMiddletown recently posted a diary that did not get enough attention. It laid out why this could lead to American intervention. For more background and reason to worry about another Bolivian war, please read ManfromMiddletown's diary. I'm adding a little of what I've found below. Remember that the US has sent troops to interfere in Latin America 87 times.

This is by Benjamin Dangl from Canada's The Dominion:

Controversy is raging in Paraguay, where the US military is conducting secretive operations. 500 US troops arrived in the country on July 1st with planes, weapons and ammunition. Eyewitness reports prove that an airbase exists in Mariscal Estigarribia, Paraguay, which is 200 kilometers from the border with Bolivia and may be utilized by the US military. Officials in Paraguay claim the military operations are routine humanitarian efforts and deny that any plans are underway for a US base. Yet human rights gropsin the area are deeply worried.

White House officials are using rhetoric about terrorist threats in the tri-border region (where Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina meet) in order to build their case for military operations, in many ways reminiscent to the build up to the invasion of Iraq. [1]

The tri-border area is home to the Guarani Aquifer, one of the world's largest reserves of water. Near the Estigarribia airbase are Bolivia's natural gas reserves, the second largest in Latin America. Political analysts believe US operations in Paraguay are part of a preventative war to control these natural resources and suppress social uprisings in Bolivia.

Argentine Nobel Peace Prize laureate Adolfo Perez Esquivel commented on the situation in Paraguay, "Once the United States arrives, it takes it a long time to leave. And that really frightens me." [2]

The Estigarribia airbase was constructed in the 1980s for US technicians hired by the Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner, and is capable of housing 16,000 troops. A journalist writing for the Argentine newspaper Clarin, recently visited the base and reported it to be in perfect condition, capable of handling large military planes. It's oversized for the Paraguayan air force, which only has a handful of small aircraft. The base has an enormous radar system, huge hangars and an air traffic control tower. The airstrip itself is larger than the one at the international airport in Asuncion, the Paraguayan capital. Near the base is a military camp which has recently grown in size. [3] -snip-

The proximity of the Estigarribia base to Bolivian natural gas reserves, and the fact that the military operations coincide with a presidential election in Bolivia, has also been a cause for concern. The election is scheduled to take place on Dec. 4, 2005. Bolivian Workers Union leader Jaime Solares and Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) legislator Antonio Peredo, have warned of US plans for a military coup to frustrate the elections. Solares said the US Embassy backs right wing ex-president Jorge Quiroga in his bid for office, and will go as far as necessary to prevent any other candidate's victory.

And here are some details from Helis.com


·  The Estigarribia airbase  was constructed in the 1980s for US technicians hired by the Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner, and is capable of housing 16,000 troops

·  The base has an enormous radar system, huge hangars and an air traffic control tower. The airstrip itself is larger than the one at the international airport in Asuncion, the Paraguayan capital. It's oversized for the Paraguayan air force, which only has a handful of small aircrafts

·  Pope John Paul II was there in May 1988 when he visited the town of Santa Teresita, 3 kilometers away

·  Estigarribia has a population of about 2000, which 300 belongs to the 6th Infantry Division, 3rd Corps, paraguayan army garrison

·  On a May 2005 agreement, Paraguay allows United States to use the base

The location is 22 deg 2 mins S    /    60 deg 37 mins W

This is from Foreign Policy In Focus:

Some 500 special forces arrived July 1 for a three-month counterterrorism training exercise, code named Operation Commando Force 6.  

Paraguayan denials that Mariscal Estigarribia is now a U.S. base have met with considerable skepticism by Brazil and Argentina . There is a disturbing resemblance between U.S. denials about Mariscal Estigarribia, and similar disclaimers made by the Pentagon about Eloy Alfaro airbase in Manta , Ecuador . The United States claimed the Manta base was a "dirt strip" used for weather surveillance. When local journalists revealed its size, however, the United States admitted the base harbored thousands of mercenaries and hundreds of U.S. troops, and Washington had signed a 10-year basing agreement with Ecuador .

The Eloy Alfaro base is used to rotate U.S. troops in and out of Columbia, and to house an immense network of private corporations who do most of the military's dirty work in Columbia. According to the Miami Herald , U.S. mercenaries armed with M-16s have gotten into fire fights with guerrillas in southern Columbia, and American civilians working for Air Scan International of Florida called in air strikes that killed 19 civilians and wounded 25 others in the town of Santo Domingo.

The base is crawling with U.S. civilians--many of them retired military--working for Military Professional Resources Inc., Virginia Electronics, DynCorp, Lockheed Martin (the world's largest arms maker), Northrop Grumman, TRW, and dozens of others.

It was U.S. intelligence agents working out of Manta who fingered Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia leader Ricardo Palmera last year, and several leaders of the U.S.-supported coup against Haitian President Bertram Aristide spent several months there before launching the 2004 coup that exiled Aristide to South Africa.

"Privatizing" war is not only the logical extension of the Bush administration's mania for contracting everything out to the private sector; it also shields the White House's activities from the U.S. Congress. "My complaint about the use of private contractors," says U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsy (D-IL), "is their ability to fly under the radar to avoid accountability."


And just to put things in focus:
For the Bush administration, however, Bolivia is all about subversion, not poverty and powerlessness.

When U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld visited Paraguay this past August, he told reporters that, "There certainly is evidence that both Cuba and Venezuela have been involved in the situation in Bolivia in unhelpful ways."

A Rumsfeld aide told the press that Cuba was involved in the unrest, a charge that even one of Bolivia's ousted presidents, Carlos Mesa, denies.

A major focus of the unrest in Bolivia is who controls its vast natural gas deposits, the second largest in the Western Hemisphere. Under pressure from the United States and the IMF, Bolivia sold off its oil and gas to Enron and Shell in 1995 for $263.5 million, less than 1% of what the deposits are worth.

Will Morales’ election finally bring democracy and freedom to Bolivians? Or will this election bring Bush’s new war and the 88th instance of US interference? If it is, we should call this one the Chicken-Hawk War.

Display:
I'll update this as I learn of later results. Though DoDo will probably beat me to it :<)

Do not feel safe. The poet remembers.
Czeslaw Milosz
by Chris Kulczycki on Sun Dec 18th, 2005 at 05:49:15 PM EST
From Reuters:

Morales, who has vowed to roll back a U.S-backed campaign to eradicate coca leaf growing, had between 47 percent and 50 percent support, according to results tabulated by four local television stations.

The results showed Morales with a much wider lead than had been predicted in pre-election polls, meaning he could easily pass a hurdle in Congress, which must decide between the two top contenders if none gets more than 50 percent of the vote.

Jorge "Tuto" Quiroga, a conservative former president, was in second place with between 31 percent and 33 percent of the vote, according to the media tabulations.



Do not feel safe. The poet remembers.
Czeslaw Milosz
by Chris Kulczycki on Sun Dec 18th, 2005 at 08:40:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dec. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Bolivian Indian activist Evo Morales, who describes himself as the ``United States' worst nightmare,'' won election as president of South America's poorest nation.

Morales, 46, took 51 percent of the vote based on 80 percent of ballots counted, Bolivian station Unitel reported. Ex-President Jorge Quiroga, 45, the second-place finisher, conceded at a press conference in La Paz, Bolivia tonight. Polls had indicated no candidate would win the majority needed for a first-round victory.



Do not feel safe. The poet remembers.
Czeslaw Milosz
by Chris Kulczycki on Sun Dec 18th, 2005 at 09:01:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
With a third of votes counted, so far Morales is short of absolute majority (he is at 48.27%).

I'll update and bump your post if we get closer to 100%.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Dec 19th, 2005 at 06:47:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
With 68.4% counted, Morales now has 52.054%. Tomorrow if there is a new update I'll bump this post.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Dec 20th, 2005 at 05:19:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
With 80.3% counted, Morales (see "MAS") has 52.303% - unlikely to change.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 21st, 2005 at 10:01:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Cross posted on Daily Kos, should anyone care to recommend. Thanks.

Do not feel safe. The poet remembers.
Czeslaw Milosz
by Chris Kulczycki on Mon Dec 19th, 2005 at 06:51:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not this time, I was absent :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Dec 19th, 2005 at 01:39:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Great diary, and excellent news on Morales's victory. Let's hope this signals a turn for Bolivia. We should all be paying attention to South America over the next year, for signs of U.S. interference. Frankly, I'm not ready to rest easy on this, as the U.S. has a long and sad history of supporting military coups and dictators in South America. Unfortunately, neither the media nor the American public tend to pay much attention to events in South America, and I doubt if even a military coup will rouse much interest. It will be up to the blogosphere to focus on this issue, if the U.S. does try to oust Morales through military means.
by byoungbl (byoungbl at mindspring.com) on Mon Dec 19th, 2005 at 05:13:41 AM EST
I think for once it is unlikely. Bush is becoming so unpopular, no one will buy it.

Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other. -- Dr Johnson
by melvin (melvingladys at or near yahoo.com) on Wed Dec 21st, 2005 at 08:05:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, here's the thing...as cynical as this may sound, I frankly believe that the U.S. could support a military coup against Morales without the American media even covering the issue, or the American people noticing what had happened in Bolivia. Yeah, I hope I'm wrong, but I think American apathy and ignorance knows no bounds.
by byoungbl (byoungbl at mindspring.com) on Fri Dec 23rd, 2005 at 07:04:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
From the Economist:

MAS will break Bolivia's reliance on commodity exports and extend development to those "historically excluded"... The state will become the "fundamental axis" of development, financing small firms, promoting technology and backing big private firms "selectively". Gas will be nationalised but the sanctity of contracts will be preserved. A MAS government will maintain stability, but the central bank should promote jobs as well as low inflation. It all sounds like a return to the policies that brought bankruptcy and hyperinflation to Bolivia in the 1980s.

Nothing in this paragraph seems to me to support the last sentence.  Bolivia did suffer hyperinflation in the 1980s, and its gas exports were under the control of corrupt state-owned companies.  But Bolivia was a military dictatorship then.  Nationalization under the control of a democratic government is something else entirely.

The biggest uncertainty concerns MAS's plan to rewrite Bolivia's constitution in a constituent assembly starting in June...Its main business, apart from dealing with autonomy, will be to entrench the role of the state in the economy, redistribute land and secure indigenous rights. In the east, where farms are large, this raises the spectre of expropriation. Everywhere, it casts doubt on the rules that business must follow. "Would you invest before the constituent assembly?" asks Branko Marinkovic, who heads Santa Cruz's federation of private enterprise.

Does the constitution need to be modified in order to achieve a specific set of economic policies?  Sounds excessive to me...but it might make sense in the Bolivian context.

by tyronen on Wed Dec 21st, 2005 at 12:23:10 PM EST
I had posted a diary, which I am integrating into this thread (and will move comments over too):

From BBC World Online, it appears that Bolivian socialist and indigenous leader Evo Morales may have won the presidency outright: Morales 'certain of Bolivia win'

Bolivian socialist leader Evo Morales has won enough votes in the country's presidential election to be installed as leader, electoral officials say.

The country's electoral court confirmed that with almost two-thirds of the votes counted, Mr Morales' share was enough for him to win.

If this is true, it is exciting news. But now the real work starts...what will Morales need to do to have success?

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Wed Dec 21st, 2005 at 03:17:26 PM EST
Moving comments over--

from kcurie:

I have also read that the opposition , in case Morales does not reach a 50% will not try to beat him in the parlament..
So it seems we are headed for a MOrales presidency.
I expect Repsol will start talking with him very soon.
High access for high royalties will be the request from Morales. We know here the people in charge now of Repsol... Repsol will accept it with no big deal... I hope that Repsol accepting will lead the other companies to accept it too.

A pleasure

from whataboutbob:

I have read earlier statements from Morales that he will nationalize oil if the companies don't give over a lot of money...and the pressure will be from the indigenous people to nationalize oil and gas, no matter what.

from DoDo:

BTW, can someone, especially someone Spanish-speaking who can read through the official election site!, please explain the Bolivian election system? (need link replaced) It appears the vote on President is also used as a vote on proportionally distributed party seats (or vice versa), while additionally there are directly elcted representatives.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Wed Dec 21st, 2005 at 03:21:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Any Spanish-speakers around?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 21st, 2005 at 06:42:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just give me the link to the page.

WaB, I use Firefox and if I right-click on a hyperlink I can "copy link location" (which is the URL you need for the HREF tag).

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Dec 21st, 2005 at 06:52:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Same link as in my UPDATE at the top of the diary: it goes to the Bolivian elections site, where - if my minimal Latin/French was enough - it seems there are election rules too.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 21st, 2005 at 07:10:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Check out the actas digitalizadas (scanned vote records) link at the bottom of the left-hand-side menu bar. The Bolivians are light-years ahead of everyone else as far as I can tell in terms of vote count transparency.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Dec 21st, 2005 at 07:24:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bolivian National Electoral Court: FAQ - General Election 2005 (in Spanish)
When will the General Election be held?

On Sunday 18 December 2005.

What will be elected?

President, Vicepresident, Senators and Representatives.

How will the President and Vicepresident be elected?

The President and Vicepresident will be elected by universal, direct and secret ballot. If no candidate attains an absolute majority of the votes, that is, 50% plus one vote, the National Congress will choose the President and Vicepresident among the two highest vote-getters.

How many Senators will be elected, and how?

Three senators will be elected from each Department by simple majority. Two senators will correspond to the winning formula [sic] in the Department, and one to the runner-up formula.

How many representatives will be elected, and how?

130 representatives will be elected by universal, direct and secret ballot. 68 will be elected in single-seat districts by first-past-the-post, and 62 in multi-seat districts by the representative [sic] system.

How long are the terms of office?

President, Vicepresident, Senators and Representatives will be elected for a period of 5 years.

When will a new president take office?

The nee Constitutional President of the Republic will take office on 22 January 2006.

When can new voters register?

Inscription in the Electoral Register for the 2005 General Election will be open on Monday 15 August and will close on Monday 5 September. The following must be registered: those turning 18 until September 4, inclusive; people who did not vote for any reason in the 2004 Municipal Elections, as they will have been removed from the Register; and people who have changed their residence.



A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Dec 21st, 2005 at 07:41:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, many thanks, but now I have to ask you to find where the party list votes ("Diputados Plurinominales") are truly displayed... When I click "Resultados nacionales", there is only one set of numbers - which must be the vote for President. When I click "Resultados departamentales", there is again only one set of numbers, and from the one department where the final result has been called (Cochabamba), it is clear these are the votes for Senators.

Now, the results for those representatives that I could find:

Senators (in "Resultados departamentales"): here is an incredible number of empty votes (25.2%).  in five departments there is a MAS landslide, but in the four others PODEMOS won similarly, in two of these MAS was only third - so I'd predict 13-12 or vice vera for PODEMOS and MAS, and 1-1 for two others (one left one right) - razor-thin decision of majority.

FPTP-elected MPs: this is kind of a mystery, for there are 70, not 68 election districts in the nine departments - I counted 42 for MAS, 2 for centre-left MNR, 24 for right-wing PODEMOS and 1 for also right-wing UN, and one without information (Chuquisaca-6).

But any way I look at it, with the proportional votes added in, MAS must have something like 75 MPs out of 130.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Dec 22nd, 2005 at 06:47:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Chuquisaca-6 went for PODEMOS, so from left to right, it's now 42:2:25:1 direct mandates.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Dec 22nd, 2005 at 11:24:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A Spanish radio station (COPE) owned by the Spanish Catholic Conference of Bishops pulled a prank on Evo Morales yesterday, impersonating Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero on a congratulatory phone call and steering the conversation towards Fidel Castro and "imperialism". COPE show hosts spent all of today making fun of Morales for falling for it. The Bolivian embassy has lodged an official complaint, Zapatero has called the prank "unacceptable" and the Spanish Socialist Party is suggesting the impersonation might actually constitute a crime. (source).

OMFG, I can't believe the Spanish right.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Dec 21st, 2005 at 07:54:38 PM EST
A station in Miami did the saem thing claming to be Fidel Castro calling Hugo Chavez last year.  Chavez fell for the joke.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Wed Dec 21st, 2005 at 09:52:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It will be interesting to see whether Morales follows up his campaign rhetoric with radical policies. Keep in mind that American interference with South America has historically been part of the broad anti-communist policy, and that has moderated in the wake of the collapse of the USSR. Morales has plenty on his hands on the domestic front, and doesn't have the big oil lever in the international arena that Chavez has.
by asdf on Wed Dec 21st, 2005 at 11:13:23 PM EST


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