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UN Finds Drop in Bolivia’s Coca Cultivation

September 18, 2012

by AQ Online

The production of coca leaves in Bolivia is down since last year, according to an annual United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report published yesterday. The area used for cultivation of coca decreased 12 percent, from 31,000 hectares (76,600 acres) in 2010 to 27,000 hectares (66720 acres), the 2011 national coca monitoring survey said.

UNODC surveillance showed decreases in cultivation in Bolivia’s coca-growing hotspots: 11 percent in Yungas near La Paz, responsible for two-thirds of the country’s production; 15 percent in Cochabamba Tropics, Cochabamba; and 7 percent in the provinces north of La Paz. Despite these efforts, Bolivia remains the third-largest cocaine producer, after Peru and Colombia. While the production of cocaine is illegal in Bolivia, the production of small amounts of coca crop, the main ingredient in cocaine, remains lawful.

Monday’s UN report comes two days after the governments of Bolivia and Venezuela rebuffed a statement by President Barack Obama that both nations "have failed demonstrably during the previous 12 months to adhere to their obligations under international counternarcotics agreements." Bolivian President Evo Morales responded by saying that the American consumption of cocaine and other narcotics gives the U.S. “no morality, authority or ethics” to speak on the War on Drugs.

Tags: Bolivia, Coca Production, Drug Trade

Monday Memo: AQ’s Top Expected Stories for the Week of July 16

July 16, 2012

by AQ Online

Top stories this week are likely to include: López Obrador files a legal challenge to Peña Nieto’s win; cholera spreads in Cuba; standoff between Bolivia and a multinational Canadian mining firm; the Chávez factor in the U.S. presidential election; and Unasur sends a delegation to Paraguay.

López Obrador Contests Peña Nieto’s Victory: Although Enrique Peña Nieto won the July 1 presidential election according to the independent electoral authority Instituto Federal Electoral (Federal Electoral Institute—IFE) earlier this month by over 6 percentage points, runner-up Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has now filed a legal challenge to the ruling, claiming fraud on the part of Peña Nieto’s Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party—PRI). AMLO’s team says it will prove that “illicit money” was used to buy votes. Despite IFE having recounted over half the ballots and still upholding its verdict of Peña Nieto’s win, AMLO’s legal challenge submitted to IFE will now be forwarded to the Federal Electoral Court; in turn, the Court will deliver a ruling before early September.

AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini notes, “While fraud remains a problem in Mexican elections and with it people's trust in the results, AMLO is going to have an uphill battle explaining the direct, logical connection between any allegations of fraud and 3 million plus votes of difference between him and the winner, Enrique Pena Nieto."

Cuba and Cholera:
According to the Cuban health ministry in a release over the weekend, there have been no new cholera-related deaths since the three ones reported earlier this month in the eastern city of Manzanillo. However, the health ministry has reported 158 cases of the disease, a significant increase from the 56 initially disclosed. Given that the health ministry has remained rather quiet, leading to rumors about a wider problem with the outbreak, pay attention this week to growing concerns about the spread of cholera. 

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Tags: Canada, Cuba, Bolivia, Paraguay, Hugo Chavez, UNASUR, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, 2012 Mexico elections, 2012 elections, Enrique Peña Nieto

La batalla del presidente Evo Morales con los indígenas del Territorio Isiboro Sécure

July 11, 2012

by Cecilia Lanza

El año 2009 visité Yungas de Vandiola en Cochabamba, Bolivia, colindante por el costado sur con el Chapare, el mayor centro de producción de hoja coca en Bolivia. Allí vivía Silvia, dirigente cocalera.

Silvia me contó que el ahora gobernador de Cochabamba, Edmundo Novillo, paisano de la zona y miembro del partido de Evo Morales había prometido tierras a nuevos cocaleros como parte de la campaña política del MAS. Promesa cumplida. Porque esos colonos ingresaron a Yungas de Vandiola a plantar coca y el año 2006 se armó la grande dejando como saldo dos muertos. Lugareños contra colonizadores. Pero como Yungas de Vandiola es extraña -y sospechosamente diría yo- un lugar casi olvidado, nadie hizo demasiado caso.

Ahora que el centro de atención es el Territorio Indígena y Parque Nacional Isiboro Sécure (TIPNIS) pienso en Silvia y en Yungas de Vandiola. Porque lo que ocurre con el TIPNIS es básicamente lo mismo. Aunque detrás del TIPNIS hay todavía mucho más que desatar pero eso vendrá después. Ahora sucede que los cocaleros del Chapare y nuevos colonos afines al presidente Evo Morales, esperan -como en Yungas de Vandiola- ampliar la frontera para el cultivo de hoja coca invadiendo cada vez más el TIPNIS.

Esos cocaleros, ingresados al TIPNIS como hormiguitas, poco a poco, durante los últimos 40 años, han conformado lo que se llama el Polígono 7.  A estos nuevos habitantes, los indígenas “originarios” del TIPNIS no los reconocen como miembros de su territorio. Pero es a ellos a quienes el gobierno de Morales quiere incluir sí o sí, como condición para “negociar” con los indígenas del TIPNIS que hace 15 días llegaron a La Paz en su IX marcha luego de más de dos meses de caminata para hablar con el Presidente Morales que finalmente no los recibió. ¿Qué pedían los indígenas? Que el gobierno desista de su intención de construir una carretera que pase por el medio del TIPNIS para lo cual busca realizar una consulta “previa” a todos sus habitantes -originarios y cocaleros recién llegados- ¿Para qué? Depende. Desde la versión del gobierno, para llevar desarrollo a la región. Y desde la versión de los indígenas del TIPNIS para posibilitar el desarrollo de la coca destinada al narcotráfico.

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Tags: Bolivia, Evo Morales, Indigenous rights

Monday Memo: AQ’s Top Expected Stories for the Week of June 4

June 4, 2012

by AQ Online

Top stories this week are likely to include: proposed OAS human rights commission reform; OAS meeting underway in Bolivia; Pacific Alliance meeting on Wednesday; Peru-Chile relations; and no end in sight to the anti-mining protests in Peru.

OAS Human Rights Reform Considered: Organization of American States (OAS) member states such as Ecuador and Venezuela are calling for reforms to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the independent human rights organ of the regional body. Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño called for changes such as cutting funding for the OAS special rapporteur on press freedom, warning that the OAS “will disappear” otherwise, which earned the endorsement of Venezuela. Insulza has further called for renegotiation of the IACHR’s statute and procedures including allowing governments to decide how the IACHR monitors them. Last Friday, the Washington Post editorial board responded to these proposals, writing, “It’s not surprising that Venezuela and its allies would push for noxious initiatives, or that Mr. Insulza would serve as their frontman […] Canada and the United States… and their democratic allies should work to ensure that the Insulza proposals are rejected—and that the OAS is perserved as an institution committed to democracy and human rights.”

AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini concurs: “The reasoning behind the proposals that Insulza is bringing to the General Assembly is unclear. What is clear is that their effect would be to whittle away at much of the independent voice of the Commission—the most effective office in the OAS—and he’s doing it by making common cause with some suspect governments."

Developments at the OAS General Assembly: Representatives from the 35 OAS member states are in Cochabamba, Bolivia, from June 3 to 5 for the organization’s 42nd General Assembly. In addition to the IACHR reforms, other issues on the table include Bolivian President Evo Morales’ desire for forward movement in regard to his country’s lack of access to the Pacific Ocean, a longstanding dispute with Chile. Argentina’s leadership wishes to rally hemispheric consensus around its claim to the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands. OAS Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza briefed the assembly that Latin America is still far from achieving the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The UN has set 2015 as its target date for achievement of the MDGs. But expectations for concrete results are not high, notes Sabatini: "The OAS general assembly has become a theater for overreach and meaningless debate." 

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Tags: Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Jose Miguel Insulza, Organization of American States, Venezuela, Ecuador, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Sebastian Piñera, Ollanta Humala

La crisis de la policía boliviana

June 1, 2012

by Cecilia Lanza

La jerga delincuencial de los policías bolivianos

En Bolivia, los policías destinados fuera de su lugar de origen pagan un “diezmo” (10 por ciento de su salario) a sus superiores. Llaman “saludar” cuando pagan por obtener determinado cargo; “aceitear” cuando exigen dinero para agilizar algún trámite; y “formar” cuando piden a un funcionario presentarse a su superior para ofrecerle dádivas. Hay otros también:  “cupo” es el dinero que deben reunir para “comprar” el destino al que quieren ir; “sanción” es el monto que pagan para pasar por alto sus faltas; “toco, teque” dicen, cuando pagan por un cargo u otros beneficios; y “vía rápida” llaman al soborno necesario para agilizar los trámites de licencias de conducir o documentos de identidad. Al mismo tiempo es muy común otras formas de pagamiento: “tres días” es el nombre y apellido de un hecho delictivo cometido por ellos mismos; “rayar” es el verbo que divide el dinero recaudado en algún trabajillo; y “filo” es la ganancia que exige el superior por el botín obtenido entre policías y ladrones.

Lo cuenta el propio presidente Evo Morales que en los seis años de su gobierno ya ha cambiado a siete comandantes generales de la Policía, tres de ellos en menos de dos años. Todos juran al cargo prometiendo erradicar la corrupción y lavar la tan deteriorada imagen institucional. Y todos terminan embarrados. Atrapados en el lado de los bandidos.

Un caso memorable es el del coronel Blas Valencia, líder de una banda delincuencial que el año 2001 atracó a un automóvil blindado con varios millones. De película. De ahí para adelante, rutina. Por eso casi ya no sorprende que el ex jefe de la Fuerza Especial de Lucha Contra el Narcotráfico, general de la Policía, René Sanabria Oropeza, quien hasta el año pasado dirigía el Centro de Inteligencia y Generación de Información antinarcóticos, sea más bien un gran narcotraficante, según acusación de la Oficina Antidrogas de los Estados Unidos donde fue extraditado luego de ser aprehendido infraganti en Panamá.

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Tags: Bolivia, corruption, Crime and Security

Weekly Roundup from Across the Americas

May 30, 2012

by AS-COA Online

Peru Declares State of Emergency amid Mining Protests

The Peruvian government declared a state of emergency yesterday in the southeastern province of Espinar after a week of protests left at least two dead and 70 injured. Espinar residents are protesting a $1.5 billion expansion of the Tintaya copper mine, claiming that the mine’s Swiss owner Xstrata—the largest single mining investor in Peru—does not contribute enough to the local economy. Similar demonstrations took place last year in the province of Cajamarca, where residents protested the expansion of a gold mine.

Brazil Plans Five New Hydroelectric Dams

On May 25, Valor Econômico reported that the Brazilian government is forging ahead with plans to construct five hydroelectric dams in the Tapajos River basin, a tributary of the Amazon. The publication said that environmental studies are underway and bidding for operators will begin next year. Belo Monte—one of the country’s largest hydroelectric construction projects also located in the Amazon basin—encountered numerous obstacles to construction, including lawsuits and worker strikes. 

Dilma Announces Changes to Polemical Forest Code

On May 25, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff issued a number of alterations to the new version of the Forest Code, a legal framework for forest preservation in Brazil. She made 12 line-item vetoes and 32 modifications, most notably nixing amnesty for large-scale illegal deforesters who cleared land before 2008. The law now returns to Congress, where it won’t likely be discussed until after Brazil hosts the UN Rio+20 environmental conference in June.

Read more about the Forest Code in an AS/COA News Analysis on environmental issues in Brazil.

Brazil, Venezuela Rank High in Software Piracy

Four Latin American countries—Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and Venezuela—make the top 20 in the Business Software Alliance’s annual report on software piracy. Brazil comes out on top (and fifth overall) in terms of value of pirated software at $2.8 billion. But Venezuela leads the pack with the highest rate of pirated software—88 percent.

Venezuela Targets Civilian Aircraft in Drug Fight

The Venezuelan Congress passed legislation May 23 permitting the country’s air force to shoot down aircraft suspected of carrying illegal drugs. Though the government believes the law will help Venezuela in its fight against international organized crime groups, InsightCrime believes “a policy advocating the use of force against civilian aircraft carries risk.” 

Poll Shows Narrower Lead for Chávez

A recent survey by Venezuelan polling firm Varianzas puts opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski within five points of his competitor, President Hugo Chávez. The current president leads with 50.7 percent of likely votes while Capriles has 45.5 percent, the poll found. However, 53.3 percent of respondents said they believed Chávez would win in October, compared with 42.4 percent for Capriles.

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Tags: Human Rights, Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, energy, Organization of American States, Venezuela, Environment, Hugo Chavez, José Mujica, Dilma Rousseff, Quebec

Bolivia Nationalizes National Electric Grid

May 2, 2012

by AQ Online

Bolivian President Evo Morales on Tuesday announced his intention to nationalize a majority of the country’s electricity transmission system, which is currently administered by a number of private-sector companies. Transportadora de Electricidad S.A., part of the Spanish multinational, Grupo Red Electrica de España, holds a 74 percent stake in Bolivia’s electric grid and administers approximately 1,720 miles of high voltage lines. The remaining 26 percent of the grid is owned by individual domestic and foreign companies serving specific regions of the country.

The government justified this decision by characterizing as insufficient the $81 million that firms have spent on maintaining and expanding the grid over the past 16 years. In a press conference in La Paz’ Palacio Quemado, Morales said, “we are nationalizing the Transportadora de Electricidad in the name of the Bolivian people as homage to the workers who fought for the recovery of our natural resources and basic services.” The decree also said that the shareholders of the affected companies will be compensated, but did not specify exactly how.

This latest move is part of a larger trend in Bolivia toward nationalization that began in 2006 and has affected numerous sections, including hydrocarbons, telecommunications and agriculture. The Morales government considers certain “basic services”—energy, water and telecommunications—to be strategically vital and subject to state ownership.

There is likely to be swift condemnation by foreign investors in the region, particularly in light of recent moves to by the Cristinia Fernández de Kirchner government in Argentina to nationalize that country’s largest energy firm, YFP.

Tags: Bolivia, Evo Morales, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Nationalization in Bolivia, Bolivian Electricity

Chile Most Inclusive Country in Hemisphere, Says AQ Study

April 26, 2012

by AQ Online

With today’s release of its Spring 2012 issue, Americas Quarterly has unveiled a new index that measures social inclusion in the Americas. This ranking evaluates 15 different indicators and compares them across 11 countries in the hemisphere. The variables include a country’s economic competitiveness, percent of national GDP spent on social programs, level of political and civil freedoms, and citizen perception of personal empowerment and government responsiveness in that country.

Out of a maximum of 100, Chile came out on top with a score of 71.9, while Guatemala ranked lowest at 7.5. The index praises Chile’s “consistently high rankings across almost all indicators” and cites “severe inequalities by race and ethnicity” in the case of Guatemala, adding that “Indigenous and Afro-Guatemalans lag far behind” socioeconomically. Uruguay and Brazil ranked second and third, respectively.

For four variables—enrollment in secondary school, percent of population living on more than $4 per day, access to adequate housing, and percent of population with access to a formal job—Americas Quarterly uses data collected by the World Bank in household surveys and disaggregated by race and gender.

According to the index, social inclusion is defined as “the concept that a citizen has the ability to participate in the basic political, economic and social functioning of his or her society. It includes not just economic empowerment, but also access to basic social services, access to infrastructure (physical and institutional), access to the formal labor market, civil and political participation and voice, and the absence of legally sanctioned discrimination based on race, ethnicity or gender.”

Access the full results of—and methodology behind—AQ’s social inclusion index.

Tags: Chile, Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, Mexico, Colombia, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Social inclusion, poverty, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay

Cumbre de las Américas: la Cumbre de EEUU

April 16, 2012

by Jenny Manrique

No nos digamos mentiras: los únicos resultados concretos de la Cumbre de las Américas se hicieron a la medida de Estados Unidos. Unas pocas horas antes de que el presidente Barack Obama aterrizara en Cartagena, dos leyes sustanciales para la aprobación del Tratado de Libre Comercio (TLC) fueron aprobadas a pupitrazo por el Congreso de Colombia.

Por su propio veto (el de Estados Unidos), temas cruciales que marcaron la agenda mediática y política las últimas semanas, no se discutieron en la Cumbre: la inclusión de Cuba en próximos encuentros continentales y la defensa argentina de la soberanía de las Islas Malvinas. Ese disenso motivó que no hubiera declaración final conjunta. Una cumbre sin declaración, es como una reunión sin acta: ni idea quién estuvo ni qué se dijo, ni en qué orden, ni quién apoyo qué. Claro, aquí se sabe más que eso, pero varias de las reuniones fueron privadas, y las públicas fueron sin duda políticamente correctas.

Por tanto más hubiera valido hacer una cumbre bilateral y no un encuentro con 31 invitados que costó al menos 25 millones de dólares (según la propia cancillería) en los que algunos se fueron molestos (Argentina y Bolivia), otros cortaron su estancia inexplicablemente (Brasil) y otros se tomaron fotos con los indígenas Wayuu y hablaron de responsabilidad social (Chile) pero a la hora de la verdad tampoco aportaron al debate grueso que prometía marcar la diferencia en esta cumbre: la discusión sobre la política antidrogas.

Pese a que el mismo José Miguel Insulza, secretario general de la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) dijo que ya era hora de una estrategia antidrogas propia para el continente, desde pronto Barack Obama, entrevistado en medios latinoamericanos, tanto como Juan Manuel Santos en medios norteamericanos, lanzó frases políticamente correctas como que aceptaba la responsabilidad de su país en el consumo, pero siempre fue claro en que no estaba de acuerdo con la despenalización.

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Tags: Summit of the Americas, Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Barack Obama, Argentina, ALBA, Juan Manuel Santos, Counternarcotics

Brazil Displeased at Bolivian Decision to Revoke Highway Contract

April 12, 2012

by AQ Online

The Brazilian government expressed its displeasure yesterday at Bolivian President Evo Morales’ decision to revoke the contract of a Brazilian construction company to build a controversial highway through the Amazon. According to the Brazilian newspaper Valor Económico, Morales’ announcement on Tuesday that he would rescind Construtora OAS’ contract to build the Villa Tunari-San Ignacio de Moxos highway “was poorly received in the Brazilian government, which considers it a sovereign decision but not a positive one from the point of view of Brazilian investors in that country.” The newspaper also said the subject would likely come up when Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff meets with Morales later this week at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia.

Morales suspended construction on one part of the highway last fall, following a series of protests over the road’s planned path through an Indigenous rainforest known as the Parque Nacional y Territorio Indígena Isiboro-Secure (Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory—TIPNIS). He announced on Tuesday his plans to annul the contract to build the other two sections of the highway, saying during a news conference that “the company hasn’t complied” with the terms of their agreement and that it had “suspended construction without justification or authorization.” Morales did not say if construction of the highway would continue without OAS or if the company would be compensated.

Funding for the project was due to come largely from Brazil’s national development bank, Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social (BNDES), which had approved a $332-million loan for the project that Brazil hoped would link the Brazilian Amazon to Peruvian and Chilean ports on the Pacific coast. Bolivian Minister of the Economy and Public Finance Luis Arce Catacora on Tuesday declared that the loan’s interest rate was too high and that Bolivia could “likely obtain other sources of financing...with better terms for Bolivia.” 

Tags: Bolivia, indigenous, TIPNIS, Bolivia-Brazil relations

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