Monday, April 05, 2010

Thinning air in La Paz

Bolivia held local elections yesterday, a rather unusual proposal for a Latin American country to vote on Easter Sunday.  As expected Evo Morales followers won, which did not stop quite a few surprises from taking place, eerily reminding recent electoral situations in Venezuela.

As it is the case in coverage of difficult elections one is very disappointed by most if not all international press who have no problem in writing banners of Evo won, thinking that arithmetic is analysis enough.  You can look for example at the useless article at the BBC which seems to imply that from Venezuela yours truly seems to know more about Bolivia political situation than their man there.....  Or you can dare to read on line Bolivian papers with such strange coverage as you can read in La Prensa.

The fact of the matter is that Evo won and yet nothing was basically changed, problems remain the same in Bolivia and the country is not really that far from a final break up.  Percentages remain basically in the same ranges in all provinces and the one that we know for sure switched sides, Chuquisaca, did it with a similar narrow margin as it went for the "Media Luna" a couple of years ago (no final results yet so I might be corrected on this later).  Thus on one side Bolivia retains the impoverished mountain indigenous population trying to find ways to benefit from the not as indigenous reasonably prosperous populations of the low land.  A sure recipe for continuing trouble.........

Evo Morales seems to have followed the Venezuelan Chavez script on elections, including extreme polarization and threats not to work with the opposition leaders that might get elected.  The threat did not work out it seems, in spite of the fact that Evo Morales can use the real racial card of Bolivia, a racial ploy that Chavez has been trying to invent in Venezuela out of nothing.  Like in Venezuela the primitivism of Evo Morales message seem to work only when he is himself in the ballot.  Then he wins with votes in the 60 points range.  But when local elections come, things start changing.

Just as I have detailed for Venezuela many times, the more urban the center, the more prosperous, the more educated it is, the less it is likely to vote for the caudillo.  Just as Chavez sweeps over Venezuela, he never can manage to secure Caracas, Maracaibo and Valencia.  Same thing in Bolivia where Evo sweeps the rural vote but loses 7 out of ten of the major cities of Bolivia, including, hold tight, La Paz, the capital chock full of native inhabitants.  Never mind that the two most prosperous provinces o Tarija and Santa Cruz said No to Evo's allies.

We are in the XXI century of mass communications and Internet and thus outdated messages work more for the charismatic leader than for their actual content.  When people look at local services and the true effect on their daily lives they are more prone to chose the tested local leader than the one the central power wants you to chose.  Chavez understands that very well now and he is busy dismantling democracy and decentralization.  We will see if Evo Morales turns out to be a democrat and accept occasional compromises that the opposition results of yesterday mean. Or whether Evo will turn out to be just another reactionary caudillo, in spite of his Native American origin which should tell him best.

I am not optimistic: the way Evo did ramrod the Constitution, the way he engineered the fall of the presidents before himself make me afraid of the future of Bolivia.  No matter how cheerful the naive BBC might sound on Evo, we can expect anti constitutional maneuver to sabotage the opposition mayors and provincial leaders elected yesterday.  But for all their inner divisions these seem to be of a different mettle than the wimps Chavez faces here, wimps whose precarious unity seems to be collapsing lately....  but that is another story for a future post.


  1. Boludo Tejano9:08 PM

    Thanks for posting on Bolivia. Bolivia de mi corazon, as the song goes.(My preferring vos to tu is a consequence of living not only in Maracaibo and Argentina, but also in Santa Cruz. I worked w an engineer from Tarjia here in TX, who informed me that I was the only one in the US who had addressed him as Chapaco.)One thing that will impede Evo's taking control in the manner that his mentor has in Venezuela is that there is a very strong anarchic strain in Bolivia.

    While Bolivia's anarchic strain has its unpleasant consequences, such as roadblocks whenever a group doesn't like a given political policy, it also means that the reach of caudillos - elected or not- is not without its limitations.

    Also glad to see there is someone who remembers the fast ones that Evo pulled regarding his constitution- very well documented in MABB. Thank you.

    The Medialuna, surprise, surprise, is still against Evo. As the years go by, the importance of the Medialuna relative to the altiplano increases, due to the continual migration of collas from their homes in the altiplano. Where the former colla become more camba than those camba who were born in Santa Cruz.

    I would agree with your assessment of the BBC reporter. Even I could have done better. That's pretty bad!

  2. No one cares about Boliva.
    Its GDP is less than Vermont.
    It has no oil to speak of.
    All its water has been stolen by James Bond.
    No one cares.

  3. Milonga12:01 AM for those that read Spanish. Very confusing news coming from Bolivia, apparently Pando is not clear who won and officialism is claiming fraud (!!!???) Also in Spanish:

  4. MAS couldn't win La Paz, and only got 38% of the vote (though a victory nonetheless - there's an object lesson for the Venezuelan MUD) in El Alto. Wow. I'm pretty sure they expected to win the prefecturas of Pando and Beni, too.

    I suspect that if Evo had preceded Chavez, things might have gone more his way. But the voters are all too aware of the excesses of Hugo, which I believe was a factor for many.


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