All Notebook Entries

  • 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.

  • In Such a Demonic Age as This, There Is No Room for Calm

    Dear Readers,

    For two years, many people have asked me why I write for Narco News. “Narco what?” they ask me, their eyes opening wide. “What a weird name,” they say. “It isn’t a newspaper for drug dealers, is it?” “Who reads it?”

    And before I can respond, they begin to tell me about the importance of working for a “recognized” publication, one that would guarantee me “protection” and would “back me up” (with bullet-proof vests, a good salary, and other armaments). And, what’s more, they assure me that “everything would be easier” for me if I would just start not to care about the situation of a country that seems to be without salvation, like Colombia, or if I would accept with stoic joy that all those who are born without money should just reproduce and die, punctually following the demands of the establishment.

  • Wednesday Relatively Calm in La Paz, with Rumors of a Coup

    Good afternoon, welcome to our nearly daily space for coverage of the reality in Bolivia… this morning the Aymara came down marching from El Alto once again. This time it was a huge group divided into three parts: more than 5,000 rural school teachers from the La Paz department, then the Federation of Neighborhood Committees of El Alto (FEJUVE), and behind, battle-hardened, the Aymara peasant farmers. Downtown La Paz was paralyzed all day long by mobilizations… and all day long one could hear the famous rumor of a civic-military coup looming in Bolivia. We’ll tell you, here, how the people have lived, on their feet, in this country…
  • Miércoles de calma relativa en La Paz... hay rumor de golpe

    Buenas tardes, bienvenidos a nuestro espacio casi cotidiano de reporte sobre la realidad en Bolivia... hoy por la mañana volvieron a bajar los aymaras en marcha desde El Alto. Esta vez se trató de un gran contingente dividido en tres sectores: adelante más de cinco mil maestros rurales del departamento de La Paz, luego la Federación de Juntas Vecinales de El Alto (Fejuve) y atrás, aguerridos, los campesinos aymaras. Todo el día estuvo paralizado el centro de La Paz con las movilizaciones... todo el día también se escuchó el rumor del famoso golpe cívico militar que se avecina en Bolivia. Aquí se los contamos como lo vivieron las gentes de a pie en este país...
  • Transmisión radiofónica: Más allá de la noticia, saber el pasado para comprender el presente

    En Bolvia, están sucediendo cosas importantes, se habla de una posible guerra civil. Esta trasmicion radiofónica (audio) intenta dar un cuadro para comprender como se llega a la crisis de hoy, con un análisis historiográfico que ayude a entender por qué es tan importante la Asamblea Constituyente para los movimientos sociales. Desde la guerra contra las drogas, pasando por la guerra del agua, febrero del 2003 y hasta la guerra del gas, el pueblo boliviano ha demostrado que ya no están dispuestos a permitir el saqueo que sufren desde hace más de 500 años. Nuevas fuerzas resurgen y no sólo piden nacionalizar los hidrocarburos sino tambien el derecho de contar la historia atraves de la memoria. Son los indígenas. Una charla, en La Paz, con Felipe Santos Quispe y Cristobal Condoreno, indígenas que llevan adelante el Taller de Historia Oral Andina (THOA), en la que, a través de un análisis de las movilizaciones, explican por qué la Asamblea Constituyente es una prioridad.
  • Customs Cops Visit Bill Conroy with an Attack on Press Freedom

    At 5:55 p.m. last night, Monday, May 23rd, in San Antonio, Texas, Agent Carlos Salazar of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, accompanied by a female agent who failed to identify herself, made a surprise visit to the home of Narco News journalist Bill Conroy, a reporter, and author of the online book Borderline Security, who has broken a string of stories about embarrassing and worrisome problems inside Salazar’s agency.

    Identifying himself as an agent of “Customs OPR” (short for Office of Professional Responsibility, better known as “Internal Affairs”), Salazar told Conroy’s wife of 23 years, Teddi Beam-Conroy, that he was looking for Bill. “He’s at work,” replied Teddy. Salazar asked when he would be home. “Probably around 7ish,” she replied, asking the agents for a business card. Salazar flashed his badge. His partner never identified herself.

    Teddi got a pen and paper and wrote down the agent’s cell phone number, so that Bill could contact Salazar: The number Salazar left was 210-336-0036...

  • Estamos presente, la gente esta caliente! Altiplano Aymaras enter the scene

    They descended into La Paz this morning and headed straight for the Plaza Murillo, the seat of government, disregarding the convention of gathering in the lower Plaza San Francisco for photo opps and motivational speeches. 20,000 Aymara campesinos from the Bolivian Altiplano (highlands) came chanting,  "Estamos presente, la gente esta caliente!" (We are here, the people are hot!), looking for confrontation and with a palpable anger worlds apart from the calmness of their cocaleros comrades. And they brought their whips.  As the march strategically segmented itself to encircle all sides of the police guarded Plaza, sexagenarian campesino women ran ahead, whipping everything in their path: taxis, mini-buses and the occasional street vendor unfortunate enough to have been still operating in the vicinity. Rocks followed, shattering the windows of the transportation vehicles that couldn't maneuver out fast enough.
  • A Time of War for Bolivia

    Gualberto Choque, leader of the peasant farmers of the Department of La Paz and, as such, leader of the rural Aymara people, said it yesterday: “This is a time of war.” Although nobody listened to him, it was a warning. This morning at 9:30 more than 10,000 Aymara peasant farmers, from the twenty highland provinces, came down from El Alto’s Ceja neighborhood into La Paz. “This is not about demonstrations or speeches, brother,” Choque told Narco News. “Now we are going to take the Palace of Government.”
  • Pacha de guerra en Bolivia

    Ayer lo dijo Gualberto Choque, líder de los campesinos del departamento de La Paz y por tanto de los aymaras del campo: “Este es un pacha [tiempo] de guerra”. Pero nadie escuchó con atención que eso, más que una constatación, era un aviso. Esta mañana a las 9:30 más de 10 mil campesinos aymaras, venidos de las veinte provincias del altiplano, bajaron desde el barrio alteño de la Ceja hasta La Paz. “No se trata de mítines ni de discursos, hermano”, dijo Choque a Narco News, “Ahora vamos a tomar Palacio de Gobierno”.
  • "We Won't Let Them Tear Bolivia Apart"

    Yesterday morning at 10:00, the leaders of the Federation of Neighborhood Committees of El Alto, with their president Abel Mamani in front, walked the hundred meters that separate them from the Ceja zone and installed a blockade in front of the highway that leads to La Paz. The El Alto public school teachers followed them. At the same time, the march of the different groups of the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), which arrived last night in El Alto, began the final section of their long march to government headquarters. A general civic strike, a march, and, at 1:30 pm sharp, a great open council in the Plaza de los Heroes in La Paz: the Bolivian social movements spent several hours deliberating what to do to reclaim the country’s hydrocarbons and other natural resources, taking them out of the hands of the Bolivian politicians and the multinational corporations. It was a fast, dramatic day... let’s look at the events, and what led up to them.
  • "No vamos a permitir descuarticen a Bolivia"

    Esta mañana a las 10 los dirigentes de la Federación de Juntas Vecinales de El Alto, con  su presidente Abel Mamani al frente, caminaron  los cien metros que los separan de la zona de la Ceja e instalaron un bloqueo frente a la autopista que lleva a La Paz. Hasta ahí llegaron los maestros de las escuelas públicas alteñas. Al mismo tiempo, la marcha de los diferentes sectores del Movimiento Al socialismo, que llegaron anoche a El Alto, iniciaron el tramo final de su larga marcha hacia la sede de gobierno. Paro, marcha y, en punto de la 1:30 pm, un gran cabildo abierto en la Plaza de los Héroes de La Paz: los movimientos sociales bolivianos deliberaron algunas horas en torno a qué hacer para recuperar los hidrocarburos y los demás recursos naturales, sacándolos de las manos de los políticos bolivianos y las transnacionales. Esta jornada ha sido hasta ahora muy movida… vamos a la historia.
  • Otra semana agitada en Bolivia: paro alteño y marcha del MAS

    Buenos días. Perdido de la NarcoEsfera desde hace varios días, por problemas técnicos, este corresponsal regresa a sus pantallas con un breve resumen.

    Los últimos días de la semana pasada fueron tensos en la ciudad de La Paz, sobre todo porque los mineros no dejaron de asediar, jueves y viernes, el centro de la ciudad. Mesa ha hablado poco, deja que todos discutan en los medios sus “novedosos” planes de gobierno. Las petroleras y la derecha siguen en sus puestos: entre las transnacionales, la brasileña Petrobras ha decidido aceptar el cambio de los términos en su contrato original… y la derecha nacional, es decir la burguesía de Santa Cruz, ha decidido convocar solita a su proceso de autonomía,s in consultar con la demás gente en este país. En este escenario, cuatro mil campesinos del Movimiento Al Socialismo (MAS) se preparan para llegar a La Paz y El Alto comienza su paro general.

  • Mexico: the arrival of crack cocaine

    Things do seem to be heating up in Mexico. Statistics may say otherwise, but statistics aren’t valid in a land where most crime goes unreported.

    Traditionally, Mexico’s drug wars involved the business of moving drugs to the U.S. And this has always meant crime and violent acts as the participants of one of the most capitalistic of all businesses—that of selling illegal drugs—battle over turf. But now it appears that crack cocaine is finding its way into Mexican communities. Crack has a way of destroying all that get near.

    Coca leaf tea is one thing: crack cocaine quite another. Just as a tonic with a small amount of opium is quite different than injectible heroin. Some drugs can’t be made available to the masses without dire consequences.

    I know this is an unpopular view for many that frequent this site, but that’s the way real democracy works: people have to sit down and discuss ideas and look at all sides of an issue.

    It’s easy to blame all drug-related problems on the fact they’re illegal. And I fear, inaccurate.

    I find lots of gray areas in this world, where the solution to one problem creates other problems.

  • U.S. Marshals to Expand Caribbean 'Mission'

    The Justice Prisoner & Alien Transportation System (JPATS) of the U.S. Marshals Service is getting ready for what appears to be an anticipated increase in detainee deportations. The Oklahoma-based JPATS on Thursday (May 19) alerted potential vendors that it needs to buy a 56+ passenger twin-engine turboprop aircraft "to perform a recently expanded Caribbean mission."
  • Day to Day Show

    NPR’s Day to Day show is running a three part series produced by Scott Carrier. I am the subject of the piece. The first part, which aired Tuesday the 17th can be heard here. And part two here. Part three is here.

    The pieces don’t talk politics. Scott simply asked questions of me and then condensed the answers into short soundbites for the show. If you want to learn what it was like smuggling marijuana out of Mexico in the eighties, which, by the way, resembles what it is like today, check it out.

  • Bolivian Miners Besiege Capital

    Today around 500 miners came down from El Alto. Led by Jaime Solares and the secretary general of the Bolivian Mineworkers Federation, Miguel Zuvieta, they again confronted the police just outside downtown La Paz. Meanwhile, the long march led by Evo Morales’ group continues on its path and the indigenous Aymara – both from the city and from the countryside – are preparing for a major offensive that will begin this Friday with a 24-hour civic strike en El Alto. And a few oil companies have already begun to blackmail Bolivia: Petrobrás, of Brazil, has said that it will decrease its investment… but they have so far announced that no company is leaving.
  • Los mineros bolivianos mantienen el asedio

    Hoy bajaron poco más de 500 mineros de El Alto. Encabezados por Jaime Solares y el secretario general de la Federación de Trabajadores Mineros de Bolivia, Miguel Zuvieta, fueron a enfrentar nuevamente a la policía en los alrededores del centro de La Paz. Mientras, la marcha del sector liderado por Evo Morales sigue su camino y los aymaras del campo y de la ciudad se preparan para la gran ofensiva que comenzaría este viernes con un paro de 24 horas en la ciudad de El Alto… y algunas petroleras ya comienzan a chantajear a Bolivia: la brasileña Petrobrás ya dice que van a disminuir sus inversiones, por ejemplo, pero ninguna transnacional se va (eso anunciaron).
  • Vicente Fox, ¿racista? (`sup nigga'?)

    El pasado 13 de mayo ante unos empresarios en Puerto Vallarta. El presidente Vicente Fox dijo, “no hay duda de que los mexicanos, (…) están haciendo trabajos que ni siquiera los negros quieren hacer allá en Estados Unidos”.
  • Vaca Díez Passes Hydrocarbons Law in Bolivia

    “I have no choice but to sign the document and pass this law, faced with President Carlos Mesa’s negative response. Now, all I ask is for unity in the country,” said Hormando Vaca Díez, president of the Bolivian National Congress, assuming, before all the members of Congress, the responsibility that President Mesa had tossed onto him. “Supported by the Constitution,” Díez passed the new Hydrocarbons Law just over two hours ago.
  • Vaca Díez promulga la ley de hidrocarburos en Bolivia

    "No tengo otra salida que firmar el documento y promulgar esta ley ante la negativa del presidente Carlos Mesa. Ahora sólo pido que haya unidad en el país", dijo frente a todos los parlamentarios, y
    asumiendo la responsabilidad que Presidente Carlos Mesa le había tirado encima -"amparado en la Constitución"-, el presidente del Congreso Nacional  Hormando Vaca Díez ha promulgado la nueva ley de hidrocarburos hace poco más de dos horas.
  • Bolivia: Mesa Washes His Hands and Does Nothing with New Law

    A little more than half an hour ago, in a conference broadcast by all the local media, Presidential Minister José Galindo (a top cabinet member) defined President Carlos Mesa’s position on the new hydrocarbons law… and it is nothing so much as washing hands hands of it and leaving Bolivia in nearly the same situation as before.
  • Bolivia: Mesa se lava las manos y no hace nada con la ley

    Hace poco más de media hora, en una conferencia transmitida por todos los medios locales, el Ministro de la Presidencia José Galindo ha definido la posición del Presidente Carlos Mesa sobre la la nueva ley de hidrocarburos... y no es otra cosa que lavarse las manos y dejar a Bolivia casi en las mismas circunstancias que antes.
  • Gift Subscription to Oaxaca Newsletter for the Next 50 Donors

    I have been living in, and writing about, Oaxaca and Mexico for over 10 years.  My partner, the photographer Diana Ricci, whose photos are as essential as my screed to our "Oaxaca / Mexico Newsletter", are readers of, and contributors to, the Narco News site, and the School of Authentic Journalism.  We attended the first school, in Merida, Mexico, as instructors - but we really became students, happy when our temporary (but really confining) ill health allowed us to attend workshops by such luminaries as Jules Siegel, Gary Webb, Mario Menendez and Al Giordano, to name only a few; and to rub shoulders with Luís and Dan and the rest of the crew.

    Aside from all the good work the JornoSchool initiates and sustains, it's also great fun and a wonderful chance for the young and the young at heart to find each other in a way that makes for an ever expanding network of friendship and collaboration on what is often a difficult and dangerous road of speaking truth to power.

    We contribute small amounts of money when we can, which is not as often as we'd like.  But there is one contribution we can make that is both unique and not costly: we can donate our labor.

  • New Protests In Bolivia: A Brief Look at the Stage and Its Players

    MAY 16, 2005: It was just a question of time. But the people of Bolivian’s social movements are now on the march, in streets and on the highways. The new Hydrocarbons Law, still not officially in effect, and the ownership of natural energy resources form the axis of the mobilizations once again.

    They began in two key places in Bolivia: on the highway that divides the country horizontally in half (and unites the main cities), thousands of peasant farmers, coca growers, and other groups under the leadership of coca grower and congressman Evo Morales; and in El Alto, a city once again united as a single “person” who came down midday today to combat the repressive forces of the Bolivian state. Along with them comes a public school teacher’s strike, miners, and Aymara farmers, all present in today’s march in El Alto.

    And although everything now hangs in suspense, while Evo Morales’ march grows and heads toward the capital city, while the people of El Alto decide on their next actions, we should take a moment to chart a simple and brief map of the stage and the actors moving across it.

  • Las nuevas protestas en Bolivia: un mapa breve

    Era cuestión de tiempo nada más. Pero ya están en marcha, en los caminos y en las calles, los bolivianos de los sectores sociales de este país. La nueva ley de hidrocarburos, que no ha sido promulgada, y la propiedad de los recursos naturales energéticos son nuevamente el eje de las movilizaciones.

    Hoy han iniciado en dos puntos clave de Bolivia: por la carretera que parte horizontalmente el territorio (y une las principales ciudades) se dirigen a La Paz miles de campesinos, cocaleros y otros sectores bajo el liderazgo del diputado cocalero Evo Morales... y El Alto, otra vez constituido en una sola "persona", que ha bajado a mediodía a combatir con las fuerzas represivas del Estado boliviano... y ahí viene una huelga de maestros de escuelas públicas, vienen los mineros y también los campesinos aymaras (presentes hoy en la marcha alteña).

    Y aunque todo ha quedado en suspenso, mientras la marcha de Evo Morales crece y se encamina hasta la ciudad sede de gobierno, mientras los alteños deciden sus siguientes acciones, conviene hacer un mapa sencillo y breve del escenario y de los actores que en él se mueven.

  • U.S. Air Force Preparing to Build More Counterdrug Deployment Sites

    The U.S. Air Force is conducting "market research" of various equipment suppliers and service providers in preparation for future counterdrug surveillance missions staged from Ecuador, Curacao, and Aruba. The agency's Air Combat Command last month released a special notice for potential contractors that can provide all "personnel, equipment, tools, materials, supervision, and other supplies" in support of U.S. "forward operating locations" (FOLs) in the three nations.
  • La ley de derechos sexuales y reproductivos: ¿quién dijo que el sexo no es político?

    Todo empezó el 29 de abril de 2004, cuando la Cámara de Diputados aprobó la ley de Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos. Los Senadores la aprobaron una semana después (6/05/04). El 17 de mayo de 2004, la Delegación de la Iglesia Católica exige al presidente Mesa que no apruebe esta ley. Por su parte, el Movimiento de Mujeres exige lo contrario. Tres días después, el presidente devuelve la ley al Parlamento, pidiendo, con el fin de armonizar su ejercicio con otros derechos de igual naturaleza se inicie un debate público con todos los sectores. Desde entonces, diversas asambleas se han llevado a cabo en Bolivia, suscitando sobretodo la reacción de la Iglesia Católica. Pero en Santa Cruz, el 15 de Abril 2005, se sumaron también los famosos “movimientos cívicos”. En esa ocasión, participaron mas de trescientos oradores, de los cuales menos de un tercio eran favorables al proyecto. Sin embargo, las intervenciones favorables fueron abucheadas e insultadas…

    Actualmente, en Bolivia, los movimientos sociales gestores de la Constituyente parecen indiferentes frente a esta ley, sin tomar una posición visible. Los movimientos religiosos, se movilizan activamente para impedir a toda costa que la Ley se promulgue, aunque eso implique algunas mentiras piadosas… Lo que muestra que los derechos sexuales no son un derecho cualquiera, y que por lo visto muchos no los consideran como derechos fundamentales de una persona. ¿Quién dijo que el sexo no es político?

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