All Notebook Entries

  • Mesa a punto de renunciar en Bolivia

    Les escribo a unas cuadras del Palacio de Gobierno. Mientras en las calles de La Paz hoy se ha movilizado más o menos medio millón de personas, el rumor en las calles y las informaciones de las fuentes del gobierno son coinciden: en cualquier momento el Presidente Carlos Mesa estaría a punto de renunuciar. El Presidente del Congreso Nacional, el senador Hormando Vaca Diez, tendría que asumir la presidencia, y habría llegado a un acuerdo con las Fuerzas Armadas para decretar de inmediato el Estado de sitio.

    Un poco más de historia se escribe este lunes 6 de junio en las calles de la sede de gobierno. Los sectores más combativos del movimiento sociales (los aymaras urbanos y los aymaras del campo, los mineros y los unviersitarios alteños, entre otros) han hecho crecer su cerco al centro del poder del Estado: desde hace horas hay combates con la policía para tratar de tomar la Plaza Murillo.

  • Hispanic Federal Officers Want "Bully" Agents Investigated for Intimidation of Bill Conroy

    There are, apparently, still many people working for the United States government who respect democracy and press freedom. As we have reported here, journalist Bill Conroy has been recently pursued by customs agents from the Department of Homeland Security demanding he give up his source for a leaked internal memo. The Federal Hispanic Law Enforcement Officers Association (FHLEOA) has now sent a letter to that department’s head, as well as other top law enforcement and security officials in the Bush administration, defending Conroy and requesting an investigation into those agents’ actions.
  • Peru Oil, Gas Tech Project Seeks To Lure Foreign Investors

    The U.S. Trade & Development Agency (USTDA) has launched a technology assistance project that will enable the government of Peru to spark private-sector exploration of untapped oil and natural-gas reserves -– an initiative whose primary aim is to entice foreign investors. This attempted expansion of oil- and gas-exploration opportunities in Peru comes at a time when its neighbor to the southeast, Bolivia, stands practically on the brink of civil war over the control of such national hydrocarbon resources.
  • The twist and turns of Homeland Security justice

    The TV “news” show Dateline NBC featured an interview tonight with a “respected” supervisory agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

    On the nationally broadcasted segment, Joseph Webber, special agent in charge of ICE’s Houston office, blasted the FBI, claiming the Bureau had jammed up one of his investigations by holding up a wire tap on someone he suspected of raising money for terrorists. Webber didn't provide any specific details on the case, however, for fear it might “compromise” the investigation.

    The Dateline report made it clear that Webber’s turf battle with the FBI has been going on for at least four months or so. U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, was interviewed during the segment as well. Grassley indicated he had talked to FBI Director Robert Mueller about the case and the senator is now requesting a formal investigation.

    Strangely, Webber is not the type of ICE employee who might be expected to become a whistleblower, according to sources who have talked to Narco News. In fact, those sources say Webber is more adept at fostering the kind of workplace conditions that create whistleblowers.

     In any event, he is due to retire soon -- unexpectedly, according to sources inside DHS.

  • Bolivian Right Declares Virtual War

    A few hours ago, representatives of the right wing in Santa Cruz, Bolivia’s center of economic development and refuge of the multinational oil companies, decided not to accept President Carlos Mesa’s decree of yesterday. The people of Santa Cruz, in a meeting of the Pro-Santa Cruz Civic Committee, have decided to hold their own referendum on August 12, accusing the president of wanting to divide the country.

    In the west, the people of El Alto have also given their answer. In the streets around El Alto’s Senkata gasoline plant, they have dug ditches to impede the transport of fuel into La Paz. The marches continued in the capital, diminished in terms of numbers, but giving a clear answer: nationalization, and a constitutional assembly.

  • La derecha en Bolivia declara virtualmente la guerra

    Hace unas horas, los representantes de la derecha de Santa Cruz, el polo del desarrollo económico y refugio de las transnacionales del petróleo en Bolivia, han decidio no aceptar la convoctaria lanzada ayer por el Presidente Carlos Mesa. Los cruceños, reunidos en su Comité Cívico Pro Santa Cruz, han decidido autoconvocarse a un referéndum sobre las autonomías para el próximo 12 de agosto, acusando al presidente boliviano de querer dividir este país.

    En occidente, los alteños han dado también una respuesta. En las calles que rodean la planta de gasolina de Senkata, en El Alto, han cavado zanjas para impedir la salida de combustibles hacia La Paz. Las marchas continuaron en la sede de gobierno, más disminuidas en cantidades, y también a su modo han dado una respuesta: nacionalización y Asamblea Constituyente.

    Así las cosas, estamos viendo el virtual inicio de una conflagración civil... pero vayamos con calma:

  • Mesa Announces Constitutional Assembly for Bolivia

    The latest twist in the heart of the Andres came from Carlos Mesa. With Congress unable to reach an agreement, the Bolivian president released Supreme Decree 28195 at 11pm (Thursday), convoking a new constitutional assembly and a binding national referendum on regional autonomy on the same day! So, October 16, Bolivians will have to go to the polls to, on one hand, elect their representatives in the assembly, and on the other to respond to the issue of autonomy for the departments.

    Again there is chaos, and although things seem to be getting resolved, everything is actually getting more complex with every hour….

  • Mesa convoca a la Constituyente en Bolivia

    El último giro en el corazón de los Andes lo ha dado Carlos Mesa. El presidente boliviano, como los parlamentarios no pudieron ponerse de acuerdo, ha emitido a las 11 pm el Decreto Supremo 28195, por el que convoca a la Asamblea Constituyente y al referéndum nacional vinculante sobre las autonomías ¡el mismo día! Así, el próximo 16 de ocubre, los bolivianos tendrían que acudir a las urnas para elegir por un lado a los constituyentes encargados de construir el nuevo país y, también, responder sobre el tema de las autonomías departamentales...

    Nuevamente hay un caos y, aunque parecen resolverse las cosas, todo se complica cada hora que pasa...

  • "Rifle, Shrapnel, Bolivia Will Not Be Quiet!" *

    * A chant from the streets of La Paz

    Thursday was relatively calm compared to yesterday in La Paz. The city bus drivers have begun a 48-hour strike, because of which there is practically no traffic in the capital. As the people are now unable to reach the centers of protest, the marches have been small (a leader of the Press Workers Union of La Paz told us that because of this, the busdrivers are working for the government).

    El Alto forms the stark contrast in this part of the world. The general strike in this indigenous metropolis neighboring La Paz has returned in full force after a brief pause. Nothing is moving, and this morning there were two enormous marches: the Federation of Neighborhood Committees and the Regional Workers’ Federation have crossed the city. This afternoon the El Alto social movements plan to carry out a symbolic occupation of the Senkata gasoline plant.

  • Bolivia: Enter the MAS

    The MAS (the Movement Towards Socialism party) is going back to its roots. The have finally remembered that they are the party of the people - that their strength lies in the streets, despite the fact that they also have access to the Congressional floor.  Fed up with the stall tactics of the traditional rightist parties in the government (despite last night's announcement, no session was held today because they can't reach an agreement to place the Constitutional Assembly on the table), Evo and MAS have called for nationwide road blocks and for new elections.  Until now, the MAS has been soft: their marches have cruised along the Prado without venturing up the hill to put pressure on the Plaza Murillo, Evo has spoken in vague language, with euphemisms and was refusing to call for anything that would rock the boat.  This "politician-esque" posture had brought on a torrent of criticism from Bolivia's social movements.  But today, everything could have changed. The MAS decision to convert its constituency into a force that challenges the operation of the country and the authority of the current government could be the catalyst we've been waiting for. The numbers and breadth of the MAS will now accompany the fierceness of the Altiplano campesinos, the relentlessness of El Alto, and the complementing pressure from striking teachers, transit workers, and health care professionals within La Paz.  And this combination is a force unlike anything I have ever witnessed.
  • ¡Fusil, metralla, Bolivia no se calla!

    Un jueves relativamente más tranquilo que ayer en La Paz. Los chóferes del transporte público han iniciado un paro de 48 horas, por lo que la circulación vehicular es casi nula en la sede de gobierno... y como la gente no puede desplazarse hasta los centros de concentración popular, pues las marchas han sido pequeñas (por ello, un dirigente del Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Prensa de La Paz nos dijo que los chóferes trabajan para el gobierno).

    El Alto es el contraste en esta zona del mundo. El paro ha vuelto a ser contundente luego de una breve pausa. No se mueve nada y esta mañana hubo dos enormes marchas: la Federación de Juntas Vecinales y la Central Obrera Regional han recorrido su ciudad. Esta tarde los movimientos sociales alteños piensan realizar su toma simbólica de la planta de gasolina del sector Senkata.

  • Nacionalización y Asamblea Constituyente

    El dirigente de la Coordinadora de Defensa del Agua y el Gas, Oscar Olivera, nos explica la solución que tiene que llegar al pueblo Boliviano en su lucha por la recuperación de los hidrocarburos.

    Audio: Oscar Olivera - (2,14 min)

  • Momentum Building in Defense of Bill Conroy

    “Authentic journalism is telling people something that the government doesn’t want them to know.”

    - Gary Webb

    The campaign of harassment and intimidation from agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security towards Narco News correspondent Bill Conroy continues to draw outrage from journalists and others who value press freedom. Journalists in the United States and around the world have seen this case as not just an attack on Conroy, or on Narco News, but on all of us. Momentum is already building for his defense.

  • Fatigue, Strength and an Uncertain Future

    (June 1, 11pm): Everyone is tired.  Almost every day for the past ten, campesinos and Altenos have walked miles from their highland homes into, through and back up out of La Paz.  Accompanying them through the capital have been urban teachers, university students and profesors, neighborhood organizations and contingents from other areas of the country that have made the capital their home for the course of this battle.  Every day they march for hours. They are gased and shot at with rubber bullets...only to return the next morning for more of the same.  Today once again, despite the weariness their feet and hearts must be feeling as we near the end of week two, thousands of Bolivians continued their demonstration of remarkable collective will and impassioned struggle. The intensity, size and conflict of the marches today was lower than yesterday: only part of La Paz was shut down directly by protests, tear gas remained in its canister, and most of the marches felt calm.
  • El Congreso en Bolivia llega a un acuerdo

    Huy, el caos aumenta en Bolivia. Luego de suspenderse la reunión del Congreso Nacional por segundo día consecutivo, los líderes de los partidos políticos han llegado a un acuerdo, llamado "Acuerdo Nacional por Bolivia", en el que han consensuado tratar al mismo tiempo la Asamblea Constituyente y el referéndum por las autonomías que demanda la derecha boliviana.

    Y aunque los movimientos bolivianos movilizados dicen que las medidas de presión se mantienen, el panorma luce más enredado que nunca.

  • A Suspenseful Wednesday in Bolivia

    La Paz was paralyzed again this morning, though only partially. The merchants of El Alto, the rural schoolteachers and the urban schoolteachers, and, once again, the rural Aymara leadership, have returned to the streets of downtown La Paz.

    There were a few incidents, but none to get too upset about… it seems the social movements – faced with Senator Hormando Vaca Diez’s blackmail in saying that there were not guarantees of a congressional session – have left the politicians alone for the moment, to see what they’ll do.

    An important detail: the 1st regiment of the National Police has decided, by consensus, not to go out to repress the people… and have been internally reprimanded by the government.

    This afternoon, the National Congress finally prepared to meet and discuss the two questions that have caused so much tension in recent days: the constitutional assembly and the referendum on regional autonomy.

  • Miércoles de suspenso en Bolivia

    La Paz ha estado nuevamente paralizada, aunque sólo en forma parcial, durante la mañana de hoy. Los comerciantes de El Alto, los maestros rurales y los maestros urbanos... y nuevamente la dirigencia de los campesinos aymaras ha vuelto a las calles del centro paceño.

    Hubo algunos incidentes, ninguno de lamentar... pareciera que los movimientos sociales, ante los chantajes del senador Hormando Vaca Diez de que no hay garantías para el trabajo parlamentario, hubieran dejado un rato tranquilos a los políticos para ver qué hacen.

    Un detalle importante: el Regimiento no. 1 de la Policía Nacional ha decidido por consenso no salir más a reprimir a la gente... y han sido reprimidos internamente por el gobierno.

    Esta tarde el Congreso Nacional se apresta por fin a sesionar y discutir las dos cuestiones que los mantienen en tensión los últimos días: la Asamblea Constituyente y el referéndum sobre las autonomías.

  • Acuña and the Numbers

    ZZ Top once immortalized this small border city with Mexican Blackbird, a song that described a Mexican whore—the product of another Mexican whore and a black American, that apparently know how to deliver what they were looking for. Over the Memorial Day weekend, I went there to meet with my friend Oscar.

    Oscar is trying to figure out how to make a living for himself and his community without selling illegal drugs.

    And he’s having hell.

  • Long Day in Bolivia

    It was the longest day yet. For almost twelve hours--from 9:30 am until almost 9:30pm--the Plaza San Francisco and the area surrounding it were filled with people. A reported 100,000 protesters occupied the streets and squares of La Paz today, paralyzing the city.  They came from around the country, though the largest and strongest contingents were once again from El Alto and the Altiplano.  They marched the length of the Prado, around the Plaza Murillo and extended out to normally untouched regions of the city, creating a feeling that the capital of Bolivia was now under the control of the politicized masses.  
  • The People Take La Paz

    In a march even bigger than yesterday’s, the residents of El Alto and the Aymara peasant farmers returned to La Paz this morning. More than 50,000 people covered an area of nearly 100 square kilometers: this time they didn’t just limit themselves to surrounding the Plaza Murillo, where the president makes his speeches and congressmen decide Bolivia’s fate without taking the people’s desires into account. Now they have spread out to the neighborhoods bordering the city center, where the middle class, exclusive merchants, and several embassies are located. The pressure on Congress and the administration, though not looking for confrontation, is now coming from dozens of vital intersections.
  • Bolivia: La Paz tomada por la gente

    En una marcha todavía más grande que la de ayer, los vecinos de El Alto y los campesinos aymaras han vuelto a La Paz desde esta mañana. Más de 50 mil personas cubrieron un territorio de hasta 100 kilómetros cuadrados: ya no se limitaron a rodear la Plaza Murillo, donde el Presidente despacha y los parlamentarios deciden el destino de Bolivia sin tomar en cuenta los deseos de la gente; ahora se desplegaron hasta los barrios aledaños al centro, donde la clase media, los comerciantes finos y algunas embajadas... la presión contra el Congreso y el gobierno, si bien no buscó la confrontación, está instalada en decenas de cruces viales.

    Y otra vez, la división entre los movimientos sociales bolivianos es notoria: mientras unos exigen la nacionalización de los hidrocarburos, los otros piden ya nada más la convocatoria a la Asamblea Constituyente...

  • Of Power and Tactics in Bolivia

    If power concedes nothing without a demand, then the objective of every social change campaign must be to articulate an unavoidable demand which your target (the person/governing body/corporation with power to give you what you want) has no choice but to yield. Only by developing and working through a strategy—a long-term plan that includes a series of actions or tactics and that is born from an understanding of the power you hold in relation to your target—can a demand be made unavoidable.  Though straightforward, this rule is difficult to achieve because of the complicated relationships, disparate desires and physical limitations that characterize any campaign.  Nevertheless, it is what has to be done.
  • More Marches in Bolivia as Protests Widen, But Still No Advance

    This morning they did it again: the steep kilometers that separate La Paz from EL Alto were completely covered by the biggest march the Bolivian capital has seen since October 2003. Workers, street merchants, and other groups from El Alto led the human serpent… and behind them the Aymara peasant farmers, who have also kept the roads coming into the city from the northern provinces blocked since last Thursday. Nevertheless, despite so much activity, the social movements have not decided on an offensive advance and have limited themselves to surrounding the central plaza and holding an assembly there, as has become the custom….
  • La gente marcha en Bolivia, pero no hay avance todavía

    Esta mañana lo volvieron a hacer: los empinados kilómetros que separan a La Paz de El Alto fueron totalmente cubiertos por la marcha más grande que ha visto la sede de gobierno desde octubre de 2003. Comerciantes, trabajadores y otros gremios alteños encabezaron la serpiente humana... y detrás de ellos llegaron una vez más los campesinos aymaras, quienes además desde el jueves pasado mantienen bloqueados los caminos de la zona norte del altiplano. Sin embargo, pese a tanto movimiento, los movimientos sociales no han determinado el avance ofensivo y se han limitado a rodear la plaza y a realizar un cabildo en el lugar de costumbre...
  • Zetas burn media's script in war on drugs

    The violence plaguing the border town of Nuevo Laredo, sister city of Laredo, Texas, has led to travel advisories being issued by the State Department and dire warnings from U.S. officials that narco-traffickers are on the hunt for U.S. citizens.

    The truth is that the violence in Nuevo Laredo is a direct byproduct of narco-capitalism. Sure, if you happen to be on the wrong street corner when a gunfight breaks out, you are in danger, just like you would be in any inner city in the states when rival gangs pull out their pieces and start shooting at each other.

    In addition, just like in any big city in the states, you have to be careful of the company you keep.

    “Narcotics is the underlying reason (for the violence) but not for those caught in the middle,” explains one federal law enforcer who works the border near Nuevo Laredo. “I am sure some of the victims were just too friendly with bad people and were taken somewhere for a good time, and it got out of hand, and they were killed. But it seems the majority of them were indeed linked to narcotics, since guns, paraphernalia were found. It’s too much of a coincidence that they disappear without a trace and then are later found in deep-concreted holes in the back of narco’s houses. Sad but true.”

  • Respite in Bolivia

    On the surface, La Paz feels awkwardly normal. On this sunny Friday afternoon, the Plaza San Francisco holds its usual mix of Kollas (people from La Paz) making their way to and from work and tourists shopping for jewelry and crafts.  There is no lingering tear gas in the air, no smoke from business suits being burned in effigy.  Car horns and shouts from the men operating mini-buses do not compete with dynamite explosions blocks away. In the Plaza Murillo, people sit eating and conversing under the warm sun, as no more than a handful of police meander around the square.  Street vendors once again sell scarves and hats, saltenas and fresh squeezed orange juice on the blocks that connect the two main Plazas. President Mesa is somewhere in La Paz, perhaps celebrating Dia de la Madre with his family. And most likely, Janet, the 16 year old cocalero who marched for 8 days with thousands of her companeros from Carocollo to La Paz has returned to her home in the Chapare, as most of her fellow marchers have done already.
  • After a Truce, More Mobilizations in Bolivia

    Yesterday, Thursday, Bolivia celebrated the Catholic festival of Corpus Christi, which is an official holiday in this country. Most organizations called a one-day truce, and the groups aligned with Evo Morales’ Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) extended the truce until next Tuesday. Since early today there have been marches and confrontations in La Paz and El Alto, but a major new wave of protests is expected beginning Monday.
  • Luego de la tregua más movilizaciones en Bolivia

    Ayer jueves se celebró en Bolivia la fiesta católica de Corpus Christi, que en este país es un feriado oficial. La gran mayoría de las organizaciones decretó una tregua por un día y los sectores alineados al Movimiento Al Socialismo (MAS) de Evo Morales la extendieron hasta el próximo martes. Hoy hubo desde temprano algunas marchas y enfrentamientos en La Paz y El Alto, pero se espera la nueva oleada grande de protestas a partir del lunes.
  • Radical Presenters' Messages Still Not Internalized by Media Reform Conference's Organizers

    My first post on the National Conference for Media Reform will be updated with links to all related posts.

    It would take more time to clean up my notes than it does for me to write down my thoughts about this gathering of 2,500 media reformers, so here's an overview with links, the most important right now being my personal conclusion.

    As reluctant attendee Brian Dominick of the NewStandard News e-mailed me before the conference, "I'm not so much into media reform as media overthrow."

    That sentiment, usually prettied up with the word revolution, was common enough that many speakers felt a need to give a nod to it along with their planned remarks.

    The conference bookended itself with with plenary sessions that included two of the most clear, radical, and practical speakers on the problem of the media I've ever heard– and they were indisputably among the best received of all the presenters, even though nearly all were great and many had a lot more name recognition.  Like many speakers and probably most attendees, these weren't mere scribblers or pontificators, but real organizers.

  • Media Reform Conclusion: the Worthy Generals Don't Get It, But some Troops Do

    My first post on the National Conference for Media Reform asked "Are North Americans 'getting' the need for Revolution against the Media?"  My response would be marked down by any English teacher because I do not answer my own question, but rather tackle the more realistic question of whether the conference organizers, the folks at Free Press, "get it."

    No, they don't get it.

    I was fooled for a while by the momentum and energy of the event and the genuine openness and commitment of its organizers, and I will always be excited by the great, active, motivated, agitating and organizing people who attended.

    But Free Press and its funders, founders, and favored allies do not get it.

    If we follow only Free Press's path – the one it walks, pressuring the government to regulate media corporations and our airwaves in the public interest, and even most of the paths we talked about at the conference – all we will get is the media reform equivalent of crumbs.

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