The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, November 21, 2003

Jorge Quiroga: Bolivia's dark horse on the right(ish)

Just a straw in the wind, perhaps. But, as ex-president Sánchez de Lozada was heading off for a life on the beach in Florida, Quiroga [1] was jetting back in on a visit. And getting himself interviewed by the world and his wife.

Quiroga, it seems, was something of a prodigy and a (political) pretty boy, with a gringo education - he's a Texas A&M man - that recommended to him to former military dictator of Bolivia Hugo Banzer [2] for advancement in Banzer's ADN party. He was in government at the age of 30 in 1990 under President Jaime Paz Zamora - the ADN in coalition with Paz Zamora's [3] MIR. And, in 1997, Banzer chose Quiroga as his running-mate, and was at last successful in getting elected to the presidency [4]. When Banzer quit through ill health in 2001, Quiroga took over for the rest of his term.

While I'm hazy - to put it mildly - on the doings of his short presidency, I get the impression he managed to calm things down (after the revolt of 2000) and left office on August 6 2002 [5] without having blotted his copy-book.

(He couldn't have run for re-election: under Article 89 of the Constitution, no President can succeed himself: the old eunuch rule that applied in several Southern states of the US - that led to the candidacy of Lurleen Wallace for Governor of Alabama in 1966, in succession to husband George Wallace, of course. (I'd forgetten that she had died in office.)

Quiroga's current shtick seems to be Atacama irredentism: gas is great, but salt water is better! As an example, an interview in last Sunday's Opinión of Cochabamba:
Si sólo buscamos vender gas sin tomar en cuenta el tema marítimo, me dolería mucho que en el lugar por donde salga el gas boliviano se hagan fábricas de petroquímicas.

Now, industrialización of Bolivia's gas reserves - rather than selling them as gas or (in the case of exports to the US), LNG - is a key demand of the street opposition under friends of the blog, Evo Morales and Felipe Quispe (amongst others). Definitely, the whiff of populism here from Quiroga, I think!

(His bio says that, during his presidency,
la prensa de Santa Cruz [lo] definió como un "socialdemócrata liberal" con unas aspiraciones renovadoras un poco al estilo de la Tercera Vía pregonada por el laborista británico Tony Blair.

Omen or what!)

Naturally, the hack asks whether he's going to go to run for president next time - it's far from clear whether current president Carlos Mesa will serve out the balance of Sánchez de Lozada's term (expiring in 2007), and, if Mesa were to resign right now, Quiroga would be eligible to run. Sample the bollocks:
¿Candidateará a la presidencia?

JQR: Quiero candidatear a ser buen boliviano en estos meses para impulsar un proyecto de unidad entre los bolivianos.

¿Retorna al país?

JQR: Tengo compromisos y trabajos afuera, pero está claro que en el momento de que el país requiera del concurso mío estaré acá.

So it's over to Señora Q - a gringo called Virginia Gillum [6], who's been keeping her head down back home (in the US somewhere, I'm thinking).

But, if the balloon does go up, and the military decide to take over once more, what better front man than a gringo-friendly neo-populist like Quiroga (seems to be)? These days, the optics of a military president are a little too much for the sensitive souls at State: but the Turkish model - military control through a National Security Council is evidently acceptable. And having Quiroga as figurehead might allay brass-hat fears a good deal.

Watch this space...

  1. Jorge Fernando Quiroga Ramírez, in full: a fairly full bio.

  2. Hugo Banzer Suárez - his bio.

  3. If I'm understanding this right, Paz is such a common surname in Bolivia that the matronymic - in this case, Zamora, is added in general use. The leader of the 1952 revolution, and the implementer, on his return to the presidency in 1985, of the Washington Consensus economic policy, Víctor Paz Estenssoro, is also commonly referred to by both surnames.

  4. Pretty much every presidential election since the last military dictatorship finished in 1982 has been decided by a run-off vote of members of Congress between the two candidates with the most votes (Constitution, Article 90).

  5. The presidential election took place on June 30 2002.

  6. Apparently, her nickname is Ginger, his is Tuto. And gringo, though once a wetback, is now a fully naturalised citizen of the English language - so no gender agreement.

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