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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Saturday, January 17, 2004
 

Bush and the forthcoming Bolivian Revolution - more (perhaps...)


The suggestion was raised in a report in the Argentinian press (my piece of January 16) that USG had been preparing for the possibility of a revolution in Bolivia with discussions with its heavyweight neighbours, Chile Argentina and Brazil, on inserting some kind of military force to keep order in the country, should the balloon go up, as the old saying went.

The fact that this was a single report, with not a single anglophone source (let alone a press pack worthy of the story), counselled caution, if not immediate filing in the WPB.

There is a little more. Still nothing in the anglophone media, that I can trace [1]. But for the military talks, there is a second source...

I think it's Coughlinbollocks with a salsa beat. However, I always remind myself, Frank Koza turned out to be a real person...

So, what do we have?

A piece in EconoticiasBolivia (January 7) under the head
EL BANCO MUNDIAL TEME ECLOSIÓN SOCIAL EN BOLIVIA

It quotes from a leaked report (it says) in these words:
...luego de hacer un análisis económico, político y social de la situación actual, el Banco hace referencia de que aún existe un riesgo que el conflicto social pudiera hacer erupción de nuevo alrededor de febrero - marzo de 2004

It's a storm-warning, and the World Bank is proposing to take in canvas:
el Banco Mundial optó por reprogramar y redimensionar el apoyo financiero que brinda al país, condicionándolo a la evolución de la crítica e incierta situación boliviana, caracterizada por una virtual quiebra técnica en las finanzas públicas con un déficit fiscal mayor al 8% y que es difícil de financiar, una extrema debilidad institucional y un clima latente de convulsión social.

The amount of World Bank gelt will be related to the success of the Bolivian government in staying financially and politically afloat. Currently, it's shipping water:
El dinero destinado inicialmente a las obras de infraestructura y en proyectos del sector social han sido transferidos temporalmente al Tesoro General de la Nación (TGN), que los ha utilizado en el pago de sueldos, salarios y aguinaldos en la administración pública.

What is needed is new taxes [2]. And there are indeed proposals (at what looks like the kite-flying stage) to increase the take from oil and gas sales and from personal incomes [3]. But, whilst the oil companies seem willing to pay more, the populace is unlikely to be so keen [4].

There is also concern expressed in the World Bank paper over the so-called Asamblea Constituyente - designed to remake the country's institutions; though, since this is likely to start sitting in 2005 at the earliest, I fancy any concerns may soon prove moot.

There is a second EconoticiasBolivia piece (January 11) by a journo from a Página 12 (Buenos Aires) journo which deals - despite the title, dammit!- only parenthetically with US policy towards the country; but mostly about regional geopolitics in general (including Argentinian government efforts to assist in the seacoast issue).

On flamboyant coca-growers leader Evo Morales, it says that
Para Estados Unidos es impensable que Morales pueda asumir el gobierno.
(President Néstor Kirchner's government apparently thinks probable Morales' election as Bolivian president.)

Enter Southcom, to ram home the message on USG's opinion of Morales:
El jefe del Comando Sur de las Fuerzas Armadas estadounidenses, general James Hill se lo dijo al ministro de Defensa José Pampuro en Estados Unidos,

And - bonus! - a namecheck for pin-up of the blog, WaPo's Dana Priest, who
En su libro The Mission...describe cómo los jefes de los Comandos Sur, Europa, Central y del Pacífico reinan como procónsules y han desplazado a la cancillería en la formulación y ejecución de la política exterior estadounidense.

On military deployments, it says (after touching on the risks of instability in Ecuador and Colombia, as well as Bolivia)
En ese contexto, tanto Chile como Brasil han desplazado tropas hacia sus fronteras calientes, en el norte y en el Amazonas, y las han restado de los límites con la Argentina, con la que están avanzando en hipótesis de cooperación. El jefe del Ejército, Roberto Bendini [6], negó ante el gobierno que haya analizado con sus pares de Chile y Brasil cualquier forma de intervención en Bolivia. Desmintió así al diario cuyo subdirector le presentó a Kirchner un pliego de condiciones si quería durar más de un año. Su primer punto era "alineamiento incondicional con Estados Unidos".

Sounds like a flat denial of those tripartite military discussions to me!

In fact, Defense Department concerns emerged in mid December (at the latest [7]) in quotes from Donald Rumsfeld himself - via anonymous sources, natch! According to a piece (December 17) in El Tribuno of Somewhere in Argentina [8], Rummy
expresó su temor por "la situación en Bolivia y la posibilidad de que el conflicto boliviano pueda extenderse a otros países"

And
Una segunda fuente del Ministerio de Defensa dijo que "es muy grande la preocupación del Pentágono por la expansión de los conflictos sociales y su eventual vinculación con el narcoterrorismo". En este sentido la fuente mencionó los casos de Colombia, Bolivia y Ecuador, países que atraviesan profundas crisis sociales, que según los Estados Unidos están vinculadas al "narcoterrorismo".

And - we have a new name to conjure with: Rogelio Pardo Maurer [9], who is Deputy Under-Secretary of Defense for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Just for the moment, let's put his name in the frame as Rummy's point-man for Andean forward policy. He's associated with a round-up in December 2003 of cocaleros in the Chapare some of which are supposedly linked to the Colombian narcoterror group the ELN.

El Tribuno continues:
...el sub secretario de Defensa de Estados Unidos, Rogelio Pardo, de visita en La Paz, le expresó al ministro boliviano del área, Gonzalo Arredondo, que existe vinculación entre "el tráfico ilícito de drogas y los actos terroristas que se vienen denunciando a partir de la crisis social que vivió Bolivia". Pardo confirmó la existencia de presuntos "grupos narcoterroristas que estarían ocasionando atentados dinamiteros en la zona del Chapare, a pesar de no presentar pruebas al respecto", informó la agencia Bolpress.

And then - surprise, surprise! - details of the Chapare round-up.

So, in the effort to pin down what USG is doing about Bolivia, a certain amount of progress, of a sort: a denial of the tripartite meeting from General Bendini (though certainly not one to be taken at face value); and an alert to the activities of former Contra buddy Rogelio Pardo Maurer.

Better than a poke up the arse with a sharp stick, but leaving the quod est demonstrandum still largely unexplained.

  1. There is a piece (January 16) in Tompaine by one Mark Engler dealing with Bush's jaunt to Monterrey; but he largely confines his attentions to trade matters.

  2. Latin America is noteworthy for the pitiful proportion of GDP it collects in tax: Bolivia bumps along the bottom of the league, from memory. at around 10%.

  3. In what looks like a flat tax of 13% (some deductions allowed) for incomes over Bol 1,760 a month (four times the minimum wage of Bol 440) - at around 8 Bols to the buck, that's just over $200. (Also this piece.) The tax system is complicated, and for another time.

  4. My understanding is that similar proposals for extra taxes on personal incomes - the impuestazo - were a factor in the revolts of February and October 2003. British readers will recall the poll-tax riots around 1990...

  5. Shared by the guys at State? The guys they have dealing with matters south of the Border are not exactly pussy-foots (Otto Reich, for instance, or David Greenlee).

  6. Mentioned in my January 16 piece as talking with his Chilean and Brazilian counterparts on military intervention in Bolivia.

  7. Entry for December 14 in the Cronología Andina.

  8. Why don't these rags give a damned street address. Or a city, even.

  9. Pardo-Maurer are sometimes hyphenated. I suspect that, unlike the Hispanic norm, Maurer is not his mother's maiden-name.

    He is notable for his sterling - or do I mean Stirling ? - work for the Contras in Nicaragua.




MORE

Worth recording, from President Carlos Mesa's end of year speech to the nation:
En mensaje a la nación, el presidente Carlos Mesa, dijo anoche que es necesario incrementar los recursos del Tesoro General de la Nación (TGN) debido a que el Estado gasta más de lo que obtiene por lo que declaró al país en una virtual quiebra técnica. "Si fuera empresario, cerraría mi empresa y me iría, pero no puedo hacerlo porque tengo una enorme responsablidad"...

A rat declining to leave the sinking ship, and wanting a medal for so doing!

On Morales, I've read stuff - URLs gone AWURL... - saying that Morales is getting more house-trained - quoting him as saying something to the effect that his MAS party was now no longer either in the opposition or in government. (Splitting the opposition was obviously Bolivian Presidency 101 for the Bearded Wonder.)

It may turn out that the droitisation of Brer Morales is so successful that he might be an ideal candidate for Uncle Sam by and by.

USG might ponder the moral of Hilaire Belloc's cautionary tale [1]:
And always keep a-hold of Nurse
For fear of finding something worse.

  1. The whole poem, entitled Jim.


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