Wry Exchange

Reason 286 Bolivia is Crazy
04-10-08, 10:12 am
Filed under: Culture, Home | Tags: , ,

From The Washington Times:
Bolivia raises hackles with ID
April 10, 2008
By Martin Arostegui – SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia — The appearance of a Star of David on new national identity cards has alarmed opponents of President Evo Morales, who recall how the symbol was used to brand Jews in Nazi Germany.
Tiny six-pointed stars within a tight circle are printed on the back side of some, but not all, recently issued picture IDs in the Santa Cruz region. The mark was present on three cards seen by The Washington Times.
“It raises suspicions that the government is identifying individuals or segments of the population along racial, religious or ideological lines” said Carlos Klinsky, a member of Bolivia’s parliament from Santa Cruz, where the new ID cards have recently appeared.
What puzzles Mr. Klinsky and others is that the marked ID cards do not appear to target people who are Jewish or have Jewish ancestry.
Mr. Klinsky, a member of the political opposition to Mr. Morales’ leftist government, suspects — but is unable to prove — that the motive is political.
Mr. Klinsky has sent letters to national authorities, requesting explanations for the symbol, which began appearing last year on identity cards issued in the Santa Cruz area as part of a newly computerized national identification system. He has yet to receive a reply.
Santa Cruz is the center of Bolivia’s eastern lowlands, the economic heart of Bolivia and the base of widespread opposition to moves by Mr. Morales to nationalize key industries and redistribute wealth to his supporters in the western Andean highlands.
Mr. Klinsky attempted to hold public hearings on the new identity cards, but the police refused to testify.
Col. Ruben Camacho, the director in Santa Cruz for the national identification system, told The Times that the symbol means “nothing bad.”
He said that it was stamped as a “security feature” on some cards by a subordinate to safeguard against duplication and counterfeiting.
Another official, Lt. Col. Lily Cortez, has said that she fashioned the logo from a Star of David necklace inherited from her grandmother and that the name Katerine inscribed above the star is that of her 14-year-old daughter.
A leader of the Santa Cruz Youth Union, who shows the name Chio by the star on his card, says that the police explanation is “inconsistent” because different words appear above the star on other cards.
The Times has seen other variations including the word “Chiquita” above the star. The term in Spanish usually refers to a small girl.
The president of the Jewish community and Israel’s honorary consul in Santa Cruz, Francisco Hubsch, has been conducting his own investigation.
He thinks that the starred card is circulating too widely for it to involve an anti-Semitic persecution.
But Mr. Klinsky, the opposition lawmaker, didn’t rule out an ethnic connection. He said he fears the “fundamentalist influence” of Iran on Bolivia’s government, a reference to an influx of Iranian officials connected to numerous joint ventures to develop Bolivia’s energy reserves.
Moreover, growing tensions between the Santa Cruz region and the central government have taken on an ethnic dimension, pitting a poor and mostly Indian majority in Bolivia’s Andean highlands against European descendents in the energy-rich eastern lowlands.
Mr. Morales is of Indian background.
Lawyer Hugo Acha said it would be highly irregular for police officials to place personal markings on identity documents.
He thinks that the symbols correspond to a “code” for classifying the population, devised by Cuban and Venezuelan advisers, who he thinks are running the new registration system.
“It’s a way of marginalizing us” said opposition newspaper editor Centa Reck when she saw the star on her recently renewed identity document.
The altered IDs have appeared at a time of growing tensions in the run-up to a May 4 vote on whether the Santa Cruz region should declare itself an autonomous zone — effectively breaking most ties with the capital, La Paz.
Officials in Mr. Morales’ government have called the referendum treasonous.
The Catholic Church and neighboring nations have urged both sides to open negotiations, fearing the showdown could lead to violence.
  Lt. Col. Lily Cortez gets double bonus points-for creativity, and for trying to take the blame.  I almost believe the markings are there for no other reason than to mess with the people’s heads.


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