All Notebook Entries

  • 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.

  • 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.

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