Wry Exchange

Bolivia Ratified New Constitution
01-27-09, 1:24 pm
Filed under: Culture, Home | Tags:

  Bolivians voted over the weekend to ratify the new constitution.   Articles from the last few days seem to have shifted to a more positive view of Evo and his government.   I wonder why?  Santa Cruz and nearby areas haven’t embraced Evo’s policies. 

This New York Times article gives a good overview, even if they upgraded Evo to a former llama rancher instead of coca farmer.   Time has one online as well.


Blogroll Addition-Exchange Student in Bolivia
09-28-08, 11:36 pm
Filed under: Culture, Exchange Students, Outbounds Outbounds | Tags: ,

 I found a new blog that I’m excited to share it with you.  FES is in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.   “Existence in the Heart of South America” is beautifully written, with a lot of detail.   I appreciate a strong point of view.  His experience in Bolivia is deeply personal, and I don’t have the same perspective. FES wrote that women drivers are rare, and that wasn’t my experience.  He writes about things I forget or don’t think to mention.  He wrote about the filth in Santa Cruz.  I forgot about how much litter there is in South America.  It’s something I just don’t notice.  (I also don’t notice dust or dirty dishes.  I can walk past clutter for months without seeing it.)  He wrote about difficulty getting time alone.  I forgot about that, too.  I need time to myself daily.  I go crazy when I have to talk to people nonstop.    Go read the blog before I just ruin it and tell you everything the kid wrote.

ETA: I removed the link.  He’s hurting people’s feelings.

States of the States
09-15-08, 11:32 pm
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I have a Monday wrap-up of news from home to Bolivia today.

  • Bolivia-seems to be quieting down.  This follows the pattern since Morales was elected.  The next flare-up will probably be in December when Bolivians vote on the referendum of Morales’ new constitution.
  • Venezuela-Chavez played ‘me, too’ and expelled the US Ambassador to show solidarity with Bolivia.  In a speech to his supporters, he said “Shithead Yankees, go to Hell!”  Nice touch, huh?  He immediately followed that line with “We are a dignified people.”  He also offered to send troops to Bolivia in event of a coup attempt.  He was rebuffed by an Army General who said Bolivia won’t tolerate interference in it’s sovereign affairs. 
  • Chile-Thank you Michelle Bachelet for bringing Evo Morales to Chile to discuss issues with Unasol-Union of Nations of South America. 
  • Home-we had our first hurricane here at home.  Ike’s remnants hit 81mph, enough for category 1 status.  We received absolutely no rain, but the wind.  Oh, my the wind.  People are without power in a wide area, roads are closed because so many trees and power lines are down, and schools were closed. Our new roof held up perfectly, hurray!  We lucked out with just a few small branches down, and a portion of our stockade keepthedogsintheyard fence blew over.  The wind ripped a 4×4 post out of the ground in pieces.

Bolivia in the News
09-11-08, 2:23 pm
Filed under: Culture, Outbounds Outbounds | Tags: , ,

 Bolivia hasn’t been in the news much lately.  That’s changed this week.  Morales has declared the US Ambassador “persona non grata” and ordered him expelled from the country.  The charge is ‘supporting the opposition.’  Ambassador Phillip Goldberg was accused of ‘conspiring against democracy.’  (This from a president who wants to steal distribute land to poor people.)

Santa Cruz is all fired up again.  The Federal government wants a lot of the gas tax money from the state.   The state thinks they should have more of a voice in how the money is spent. Cruceños broke into a regional tax office,  government run ENTEL phone company, and a government run television station.  As always, the opposition wants greater autonomy and more control over spending the natural gas income.  Morales wants to give more money and land to the poor indigenous people.  What one side calls ‘land reform’ the other side calls ‘theft.’  Racial conflicts are a big part of the problem, too.  The poor indigenous population is uneducated, supports Morales, and outnumbers the educated citizens of Santa Cruz who are of mixed race.

I have three students in Santa Cruz this year.  I’ve spoken to two parents in the last day reassuring them their children are fine.  The kids are with savvy, well-connected families who understand the problems and will protect them if needed.  My kids don’t understand Bolivian Spanish that well yet; they don’t get the nuances of conversation or news reports.  (Bolivian television news isn’t sanitized like it is in the states.  If there is a traffic accident, they’ll show the victims and pieces parts, not bodies covered by a blanket.)  My kids called their parents to tell them not to worry, so of course the parents are worrying.

If all hell would break loose, my students would be evacuated to Chile.  They’d be driven over the border.  I don’t think it will come to that.  I think this is just another flare-up and posturing.

Bolivia Vote May 4, 2008
05-05-08, 10:10 pm
Filed under: Culture | Tags:

 Santa Cruz province overwhelmingly voted for autonomia yesterday.  Over 80% of the votes were for autonomy, and over half of the eligible population voted.  President Evo Morales refuses to recognize the vote, calling it illegal.  Let’s see if it means anything. 
From Reuters: A complete success for democracy,” said the Santa Cruz electoral court, which said that with more than a third of votes counted, 84 percent voted for autonomy, and 16 percent against.
The electoral court and the central government agreed that some 36 to 40 percent of eligible voters boycotted polls, and the central government said that was high enough abstention to make the vote invalid.
“What is notable here is the phenomenal level of abstention,” said Juan Ramon Quintana, Morales’ cabinet chief. “This vote was illegal. Shouldn’t we note how many people abstained here?”
The vote theoretically would allow Santa Cruz to elect its own leaders and create its own tax and justice system and also to control its own natural resources, including about 10 percent of Bolivia’s oil and natural gas reserves.

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. Continue reading

Chile, Bolivia, and Bond
03-23-08, 4:48 pm
Filed under: Culture | Tags: , ,

  Wow.  Like the Chileans and Bolivians don’t already loathe each other enough. 

The name’s Chile … but to 007 and his film crew it’s Bolivia
by Gerard Couzens
Sunday March 23 2008

It was possibly the most exciting thing ever to have happened in a desolate corner of northern Chile. Life in Antofagasta looked set to change forever when the producers of the James Bond films came to town, followed by 007 himself, Daniel Craig.
Mindful of Bond’s association with glamorous locations, Chilean officials welcomed the invading army and scented a once-in-a-lifetime chance to put the port on the tourism map.
So they were crestfallen to discover that producers of the forthcoming 007 blockbuster Quantum of Solace had a different vision. It involved recruiting extras and dressing them up – as Bolivians. Tourism officials and politicians now fear Antofagasta will lose its claim to fame and, worse still, be presented as belonging to poverty-stricken Bolivia, which for years has been Chile’s bitter rivals across the Andes.
Roddiam Aguirre, of Chilean tourist board Sernatur, said: ‘When we agreed to the film being shot in Chile, we did it because we thought it would bring us many benefits. We had hopes of showing the world our image through a production this size. If the film is going to take place in locations that simulate an Andean or fictitious country, we’re not going to benefit at all.’
The two South American nations, which have a history of bad blood, severed full diplomatic relations 30 years ago. Chile, an invaluable ally of Britain during the 1982 Falklands conflict, is one of the continent’s richest countries. Bolivia, which is still smarting over the loss of its Pacific coast to Chile after a five-year war nearly 125 years ago, is one of its poorest.
Marc Forster, director of Quantum of Solace, is thought to have picked Antofagasta and the nearby Atacama desert as locations after visiting the region two years ago. Craig flies in to start filming tomorrow.
Hundreds of locals auditioned as extras after producers offered the chance to take part in the film, which follows the worldwide success of Craig’s debut in Casino Royale
But the casting directors singled out dark-skinned individuals and seemingly dressed them to look like the indigenous people of Bolivia, who traditionally favour native languages over Spanish and helped to elect Evo Morales as the country’s first indigenous Indian president two years ago.
Maria Ayara Encina, whose two children, Solange and Elias, took part in the final casting session, said: ‘My little ones are dark-skinned and that’s why they got as far as they did. They dressed my daughter up in a long black skirt, white blouse and black shawl and put a hat on her before making her act out a scene as a Bolivian girl drawing water from a well.’
The move has been criticised by leading Chileans. Novelist Hernán Rivera Letelier, who grew up in Antofagasta and whose award-winning books are printed in several languages, told La Cuarta newspaper: ‘I don’t think it’s bad that they have come to make this film in Chile. But if they want to dress us up as Bolivians, they’re better off going to Bolivia itself. The locations they’ve chosen are beautiful, but all that’s lacking on the extras seems to be a feather and a loincloth.’
London-based Eon Productions is thought to be planning to film a plane crash in the Atacama desert as one of the action sequences in the movie, which is due to have its premiere in London in October.
There has already been trouble at the film’s previous location, Panama, where the set was affected by rioting construction workers after police shot dead a union leader.

From The Guardian