The 100 Most Influential People in Bolivia

CA$H magazine, a Bolivian business and finance rag, has an article on the top 100 most influential people in Bolivia. Short commentary from the Americas Quarterly blog is here (everything is in Spanish.)

Unsurprisingly, the journal emphasizes political and business figures. Also unsurprising, Evo Morales is named the most influential person in Bolivia. Considering he is by far the most well-known Bolivian outside the country as well as President, I don’t think there’s much argument here. Rubén Costas, the governor of the Santa Cruz department, is named second. Santa Cruz, the economic workhorse of Bolivia, continues to strive for greater autonomy from La Paz, and thus Costas heads the department that provides the most direct resistance to Evo’s national policies. In third place is Vicepresident García Linera.

The 100 Most Influential People in Bolivia

It’s a Coup

Nearly all the commentary about the coup in Honduras has emphasized two things: (1) that Zelaya is a completely unsympathetic figure here as his attempted power grab through a constitutional assembly precipitated the coup, and (2) that this certainly was a coup and Zelaya should be reinstated. I say nearly all, because some people actually don’t believe it’s a coup. Instead, it’s a run-of-the-mill “military impeachment” and part of the country’s “checks and balances”. The most extreme suggest we should not worry if this was a coup, we only need to ask: “[d]oes the fact that the coup is in the interests of the United States even matter to our president?”

I want to focus on The Wall Street Journal opinion piece because it tries to square the circle in the most coherent manner. What this says about the Journal’s worldview I want to leave aside and focus on a couple of points the article tries to make. First, the piece takes as sacrosanct all the legal fig leafs the supporters of the coup has trotted out. Then it tries to make a point that this coup is part of Honduras’ checks and balances. I’m no expert on Honduras constitutional law (and the Constitution is not a simple document to understand), but I don’t seem to be able to find the provision which gives the Supreme Court the ability to order the military to take the President. No doubt some would say, that the military was acting for the legislature and the Supreme Court. Besides the fact that the Court has a reputation as “one of the most corrupt institutions in Latin America” (according to Larry Birns, director of the Washington-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs.) Greg Weeks sums it up nicely:

Roberto Micheletti and other coup supporters insist everything was legal. If their actions could be deemed legal by virtue of specific laws, that would bolster their assertion that Zelaya’s removal was legitimate. Yet the coup is now about 36 hours old, and to my knowledge no one has explained what law was followed, who issued the court order for picking up Zelaya and flying him out of the country, and what legal basis the new government has for remaining in power until the next presidential election.

Moreover, the coup threatens the democratic order that Central America has tried hard to instill in the past two decades. This region only recently emerged from several longstanding civil wars (in Nicaragua and Guatemala) and democracy has a weak footing with the exception of Costa Rica. A military intervention into civil politics threatens this nascent order. The fact that Zelaya was himself acting beyond the letter of law does not make the military’s also unconstitutional actions any better. The military removed the democratically-elected president of Honduras and assumed control of the country. The Brookings Institute put it best: “While bearing by far the greater responsibility for this crisis, Mr. Zelaya is still the legitimate president of Honduras and must be reinstated in his position.”

Update:

To put the Wall Street Journal op-ed in perspective. Here is Mary O’Grady in 2003 defending the ’73 Pinochet coup in Chile on very similar grounds as with the recent coup in Honduras.

It’s a Coup

Coup in Honduras

President Manuel Zelaya has fled Honduras for Costa Rica after a military coup d’état today. Quick backstory: essentially Zelaya tried to make a big power grab by scheduling for Sunday a non-binding referendum on whether the constitution’s limit of one presidential term should be changed. The referendum was declared illegal by the courts and Congress, and the head of the armed forces, Romeo Vazquez, refused to allow the military to participate in the referendum process (the military is in charge of distributing ballots during elections.) Zelaya fired Vazquez this past Thursday.

Keep in mind, Zelaya seems to have made a ton of political enemies, and was unpopular with traditional Honduras power interests because of his left-leaning ideology and attempts to strengthen ties to other regional socialist governments in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Bolivia.

All the relevant international players, thankfully, are doing the right thing. The Organization of American States does not recognize the Micheletti government in no uncertain terms: “no government arising from this unconstitutional interruption will be recognized.” The Obama administration also still recognizes Zelaya as president of Honduras.

Coup d’états undermine countrys’ political institutions, but it’s hard to feel sorry for Zelaya when he was trying to subvert the Honduras political system to perpetuate his own power. None the less, this coup reveals how undeveloped Honduras’ political institutions are. Worse, it appears some elites are perfectly ok with using force to retain power. This is a bad situation with a lot of potential to get worse. I just hope for the citizens of Honduras that their government comes to its senses and reinstalls Zelaya. The possibility of international isolation because of the coup is real and would hurt an already sadly impoverished country’s people.

Upate:

The referendum actually asked this question:

“Esta usted de acuerdo que en las elecciones generales de noviembre de 2009 se instale una cuarta urna para decidir sobre la convocatoria a una Asamblea Nacional Constituyente que apruebe una nueva Constitucion politica?” (via Hilzoy)

That roughly translate into: “Do you agree that in the November 2009 elections, there should be a ballot question to decide whether to convene a National Constitutional Assembly to approve a new constitution?”

Most observers interpreted that to signify that the presidential term limit would be changed, but it could have much more broader consequences than that. Chavez of Venezuela and Morales of Bolivia both has used constitutional assemblies to reshape their states into a more socialist mold. Though perhaps still a power grab by Zelaya, I think the traditional elite is scared of anything changing the current power structure in Honduras and a constitutional assembly could easily do just that.

Seems they decided to try to nip in the bud any possibility of change with this coup, but from the initial international statements I think they have overplayed their hand. The Honduras elites who orchestrated this seem to be incredibly paranoid of any threats to their power. This fear of change and the elite’s seeming ability to use force to retain control does not bode well for Honduras’ future.

Update II:

Zelaya gave an interview (interesting read in Spanish) with El País in which he says that the coup asked for support from the U.S. embassy and that our embassy said it would not support any attempts to topple the Zelaya government.

Coup in Honduras

Birchers Primer

The New York Times brings us the weird world of the Birchers:

This so-called North American Union, it asserts, is part of a larger plot by an amorphous, amoral group of powerful elite — including but not limited to the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission and the Rockefellers — to take over planet Earth. Call it the New World Order.

Some of these theories may sound like cable television chatter, or the synopsis of a Dan Brown bestseller. But Birch leaders say this plot is real, with roots going back more than 200 years to a secret, insidious brotherhood called the Illuminati, and with most American presidents among its many dupes and abettors.

Worth reading the whole article. People believe strange things.

Birchers Primer

What I Do Most Days

Probably some of you wonder what I actually do with my days in Cochabamba. On a typical day, I get up and get ready for work. I try to leave the house at 8:40 or 8:45 and hope on a micro. I get to work around 9. I work till about 12:30 and then I’m home again most days until 2:45. Siesta is alive and well and most things shut down from 12-2 for lunch. During lunch, I tend to just surf the web and bum around. Laundry is also a popular activity. It takes a bit longer here, due to the lack of washer and dryer. That means I’ve becoming pretty proficient at hand washing everything and thanks to the dry climate, things dry outside pretty quickly.

I get back to work around 3 and usually work till 5:30 or 6. Nighttime activities vary. At least once a week, I stay in and try to get some things accomplished for school/jobs. Some nights I go out, but usually don’t stay out late. On Mondays, everyone in the house cooks together, and on Wednesdays we all go out for dinner.

The first couple of weekends on Saturday I tried to make it to the countryside around Cochabamba. Last Saturday I played soccer with my coworkers and am planning on doing that tomorrow as well. Weekend nights I usually go out with my friends to some of the bars downtown or to a party. All in all, I can’t complain about things down here.

Old school bug (they’re a common car here), the micro I take to work everyday, ice cream man:

203 and ice cream man.jpg
What I Do Most Days