August 23, 2016

The Deconstruction of the Morales Government (Continued)


In a prior post I speculated on the deconstruction of the Morales government on the grounds that 1) his (ama sua, ama qhella, ama llulla) government's credibility was seriously undermined through the Fondioc scandal, which revealed serious corruption cases in a special fund used to finance, of all, development projects for the indigenous peoples; and 2) the persona of Evo Morales, who personifies the ideals and values of this government was also under attack on the grounds that Morales' private life, especially the revelation that he had an illegitimate child with a business woman and that that woman used her connections to the government to weave business deals with a Chinese company.

I also cautioned, the deconstruction was in process and that, most likely, the post was going to end in a to be continued...

Well, the process is still evolving, i.e. to be continued, however, it can no longer be called a deconstruction process. The credibility of the government as well as the persona of Evo Morales have been seriously damaged, but the Morales government is still standing.

This begs the question: how have they managed to control such damage?

The Morales government has acted as it has been acting all along, it has taken the reins of the problem and has provided a solution benign to itself.

First of all, it has used the law to bring things into control. That is, the very law it has been passing with the help of its overwhelming support in Congress. Two moves are to highlight: 1) the defense lawyers have been legally cornered in to a situation where they themselves were being accused of some crimes. Both lawyers saw cases presented against them and, at least one of them, was in jail for some days. Now, both have left the case and Bolivia and have sought asylum in other countries. Number 2) the woman who has been in and out of jail, at times being for several weeks behind bars, has been placed in a situation where the crimes she was being accused, are slowly being dropped due to lack of evidence, and her new defense team has been less prominent and, perhaps more efficient?

The news reports have ceased to dominate the headlines. Above all, because no media outlet has been able to see the child, while other outlets have provided evidence that the whole thing was invented by the woman. A real telenovela.

With that, the scandal has been largely dropped aside and the government has been able to turn its attention to other issues. The government still seems to stand strong with the support of the people, however it has not been able to come out uninjured from the scandal. Now, the litmus test will be whether Morales, in spite of the negative results in the last referendum which asked whether Morales could run for another term, is able to gather enough support to once again try to get permission to run once more.

March 20, 2016

What Morales Should Do in His Remaining Time


It has come a time in which the Bolivian government should take a moment to seriously ponder what should it's next move be. This is a good moment for that because, after six consecutive and significant electoral victories, it has just experienced it's first defeat in the February 21 referendum on constitutional reform. A defeat, which will deny the continuation of Mr. Morales as president of the country, and which has shown the fallibility of the MAS as a party. Four years are left for Mr. Morales; years which may be devoted, not to find a way to stay in power in spite of the referendum results, but to instead consolidate his 'Process of Change'.

Morales' Process of Change

If you are a reader of this Blog, you have already seen the posts about Mr. Morales' Process of Change. If not, here is a post on that topic to read as a background.

The Process of Change is the big project the Morales government is trying to implement in Bolivia. According to Mr. Morales, it has basically meant a complete change, from a previous, undesirable neo-liberal state to a 'new' more desirable, inclusive, socialist state, where the state is at the center of everything. The most distinctive characteristic of that process has been the creation of a new political culture, which was achieved through the active and actual inclusion of the indigenous people's in the political process. Forms of inclusion have not only included the access of individuals with indigenous backgrounds to the highest political posts in the nation, but also the regular exchange between the government and indigenous groups. At least with the groups with better connections. The participation of indigenous groups has changed Bolivia in different ways.

Yet, before going into the types of changes, let me remind you this has not been the only time in which the government has tried inclusion. If we go back to the aftermath of the 1952 revolution, which created what is in Bolivia known as the 52 State (El Estado del 52), we can recall a concept introduced by the MNR (the party which took the revolution's leadership): co-government (co-gobierno). That meant, simply put, shared government. Within this system, the most politically powerful workers organization, the Bolivian Workers Central (COB) together with the mining unions, would have an integral role in government. That meant, alongside government officials, COB and union leaders would take part in the governmental decision-making process. Just to clarify, back then, most indigenous people were organized in form of syndicates and unions. Furthermore, in the early 70s, during the Torres military regime, the co-government was partially re-established and the Popular Assembly (Asamblea Popular), a legislature made up of politically relevant corporatist groups, was introduced. Once again, here is necessary to highlight that most indigenous groups had been organized as unions, syndicates and social groups.

While inclusion has not been a new objective, the Morales government has experienced the largest and deepest inclusion of indigenous peoples in Bolivian history. At this point in time, I am, for simplicity of the argument, attributing the government what has been a long, arduous, well planned and better executed plan. The arrival of the MAS was started by the social movements back in the mid-1980s, when in a conference they decided to create a political instrument which will make it possible for those groups to gain political relevance by playing with the rules of the game. Evo Morales, has had, both the skill and surely luck, to become the principal figure and thereby a type of symbol of this, what I call, process.

The result of this process, which arrived its highest point through the Morales government, has been the fact that the political elite was virtually replaced by a new, more indigenous, elite. Once again, not only the government began with a more indigenous face, but the majority of the seats in Congress held individuals of indigenous descent. Furthermore, this happened at all levels of government. So you had, and still have, in Bolivia a situation where the departmental governments and the municipal governments have a majority of individuals of indigenous descent.


Nevertheless, in order to make a profound change, it is not just enough to change the entire political elite. It is a good start, but it is not enough. In this regard, the Bolivian government, taking an active role, began a process of institutionalization of the Process of Change. This however did not only mean the complete reform of the government, i.e. ministries, agencies, public administration, and so on. This institutionalization went beyond that.

For that reason, one of the government's first moves was to rewrite the constitution. In 2009, the newly rewritten Bolivian Constitution was approved by a national referendum and, as a result, the Plurinational Bolivian State was born. Furthermore, according to the government, since it was a new state, it needed new laws. That was the reason why the government and the new legislature wrote and passed again the most important laws. These laws replaced their earlier versions. In this post you can read about some of the most important laws of the time. Since 2010, the Legislative has passed almost 500 laws. In this blog you can see a comprehensive list since 2010, albeit it is all in Spanish.

But why was this type of institutionalization important? The answer was, and still is, the Morales government needed a new legal environment to proceed with the Process of Change. In the years following Morales' first election, he repeatedly complained he wanted to do things but his lawyers did not allow him much room for action. After the Plurinational State was created and the laws began to be activated, his government could finally begin with the next steps, such as with nationalization and the transformation of the economy from a more or less liberalized system to a system where the state would play a central role. The new laws also allowed the government to bring a bit of political stability by passing, for example, the decentralization and autonomy law, which had the convenient effect of pacifying the opposition.

The defeat: why it happened and what it means for the government and it's party?

Considering the above explanation, it seems the Bolivian government's Process of Change has come a long way. Indeed, the current stage of this process would be, if you listen to the government, the industrialization phase. The government is investing important sums of money in the creation of value added industry, such as factories producing sugar or refineries to produce diesel or even thermo-electrical plants to turn Bolivia the center of clean energy in the region.

The question almost everyone was asking me when the referendum results were being reported was why did Morales lose? Indeed it seemed a contradictory outcome. However, what many forgot was the fact that the referendum was not about evaluating Morales and his administration. Most people are still supporting Morales' policies. The referendum was about reforming the 2009 Constitution to allow Morales to run a fourth time for the presidency. Let us remember, it is not too long ago, when Bolivia was led by a military dictator. It might be that democracy meanwhile is over 30 years in practice, but many citizens can very well remember those days of dictatorships. It very well may be that Morales thinks no one else can do the job, but for many Bolivians when some one wants to change the constitution to stay in power, does not leave a good impression. It does not matter how well Morales is doing.

What should Morales do?

He should do instead concentrate on the formal institutionalization of his political organization/party, the MAS.

Let us remember the MAS is not a classical political party. With that I mean, it does not rely on an ideological tradition, it is not organized as such and it does not seek to aggregate (at least a part of) society's political preferences to translate them into policies.

The MAS is more of a political organization; one which is constituted by a diversity of groups with a diversity of interests, each of which have at least two levels that separate those interests. At the meta level the issues are broad and, at least in that context, generally applicable. Examples are indigenous interests such as inclusion, political participation, rights, and identitarian processes. At the more particular level, each one of these groups have their own interests that shape their agendas, which they seek to implement. These can be from border issues, to infrastructure needs, jobs, to education and health.

While the MAS, it can be argued, is already institutionalized, its institutionalization is still weak. The MAS has a pretty rigid vertical structure that goes from the local level of leadership directly to Morales, and vice versa. The MAS is a heavily personalistic organization. That is, most decisions rely on the weight of Evo Morales, as a leader and symbol of the movement. In that sense, it has until now been visible that most decisions have been made at the top and carried out by the, what Morales calls, bases. Howver, decisions are also discussed at the local level in discussion groups, cabildos, ampliados (assembly meetings), etc. The decisions are then transported to the top according to each organization's structure. It is usual that such organizations making up the MAS' bases have different levels of decision-making, for example, there are those that have departmental or regional levels. Other organizations have stronger local structures that might even reach the individual or family.

What should Morales do instead in the remaining of his term?

He should concentrate some efforts at institutionalizing the political process inside the MAS. He (or they) should establish a process by which the next MAS leader can emerge. Building up a structure of institutional offices and roles where the aspiring future leaders can acquire experience and prove themselves can be of advantage. At the same time, he (or they) should establish a mechanism to regularly elect the emergent leaders. In addition, he (they) should implement mechanisms to make decisions, as democratic and as transparent as possible. Lastly, he (they) should perhaps think on adopting an ideological tradition, one which can provide guidance in the future.

February 28, 2016

The Deconstruction of the Morales Government


Observing from afar the political events taking place in Bolivia, namely, a series of corruption revelations that reach the highest levels of government, even Evo Morales, it seems these same events have started a slow but fulminating process of the government's deconstruction.

While the government has been experiencing a relatively stable political period, from the time of its consolidation in power around 2009 up to the February 21, 2016 referendum on Constitutional reform, we can observe slowly but surely, the Morales government has come increasingly under pressure.

The process begins with a series of revelations about corruption in the Indigenous Fund for the Development of Indigenous, Originary and Campesino People (Fondo Indigena para el Desarrollo de Indigenas, Originarios y Campesinos, Fondioc). In the mean time, the fund has been intervened and currently is being wound up, having the charges reached the highest posts in the fund. In the weeks up to the February referendum, more corruption revelations were published. A regime-critic journalist, Carlos Valverde, revealed that President Morales had had a relationship with a business woman, and that the couple even had a son, who passed away. Adding insult to injury, the journalist also revealed irregularities in the adjudication of public projects in favor of the woman's company. This case has been, and still is, a very damaging case for Morales personally. This is an ongoing process, therefore, this post will most likely end in ... to be continued ...

The Fondioc

The Fondioc was created in 2010 by President Morales to specifically fund development projects in favor of the indigenous population in rural areas. It was designated 5% from the hydrocarbons tax (i.e. natural gas sales tax).

How has this happened?

November 11, 2013

The newspaper Pagina Siete starts a series of revealing reports about alleged corruption in the Indigenous Fund, known in Bolivia as Fondioc. Over the course of a month, the allegations revolved around some projects not having been executed, which pointed to the waste of public money.

December 2013

On December 11, 2013, as a result of these revelations, Morales was already in an uncomfortable place because he had been pointing to the indigenous values of not stealing, not lying, and not being lazy (in Aymara, ama sua, ama qhuella, ama llulla) as being the culture of the MAS. Morales then order the Comptroller to start an investigation of the Fondioc.

End of 2014

The Office of the Comptroller determined several irregularities, which were all listed in its report. Above all, the auditors found ghost projects, underfunded projects, unfinished projects and other already finished projects. All in all, the auditors saw a total damage to the Bolivian state in the order of hundreds of millions of dollars.

February 2015

The case was transferred to the office of the Attorney General, who then started an official investigation. The result was cases filed against some 250 people directly involved in the individual cases.

During 2016

The Fondioc has been in the news almost permanently. It has evolved into a conflict between some groups and the government because the government does not want to implicate the former Rural Development and Lands Minister, Nemesia Achacollo. The other groups, mostly in favor of many officials already in prison, have been demanding Achacollo take responsibility for what happened in Fondioc.

As the Fondioc case was evolving, other revelations hit the government as well.

On February 3, 2016, Carlos Valverde accuses the government of drug trafficking in favor of Gabriela Zapata (Morales ex-girlfriend) and a Chinese company, CAMC. This company, it was reported, benefited with the signing of some 7 publicly funded projects with a value of over 500 million dollars.

The journalist also reveals that Zapata was Morales' lover and that they had a child.

On February 5, 2016, Evo Morales accepted he had had an affair with Zapata and that out of that relationship a child was born. At the same time, he said the son had died and as a result they had grown apart.

On February 12, 2016, the Fides News Agency, reported the Vicepresident, Alvaro Garcia, did  not have an academic title, whereas he had given them impression, in various occasions and had stated in some instances, he did have a degree. Days later other news outlets revealed he had been lecturing in the La Paz University and even had been the director of the Sociology Department.

On February 17, six people died as a result of a demonstration turning violent against the El Alto government building. Especially, damaging for the MAS was the fact that several MAS leaders and former candidates had been agitating the mood, which resulted on braking of doors, the occupation of the first floor and the installing of fires within the offices.

As we stand, there are more damaging revelations coming out.

On Friday 26, 2016, Gabriela Zapata was arrested with a direct order from the Ministry of the Interior, most likely from Minister Carlos Romero.

It turned out this order was  not all that legal because the Attorney General's office, the instance in charge of issuing aprehension orders, had not issued any against Zapata.

However, on Saturday 27, the charges of illicit enrichment (and others) were formally brought against Zapata. It was then when the aprehension papers were issued.

At the same time, Zapata had to be discretely delivered to the AG's aprehension facilities, but she was forced to face the news crews and the cameras because the door did not open soon enough.

On Sunday 28, 2016, the Zapata's aunt makes more revelations. She implies Zapata is being silenced by the government. She also reveals the son did not pass away, but is alive and living in La Paz.

As you can see, the drama continues ...


March 1, 2016

The National Coordinating (Organization) for Change (Coordinadora Nacional para el Cambio, Conalcam), the umbrella organization grouping all social organizations supporting Morales' Process of Change, but at the same time functioning as a type social control, has expressed its support for the referendum's results.

After having met with President Morales, the leaders of Conalcam, made declarations in favor of respecting the decision taking by the Bolivian people in the February 2016 referendum. Evo Morales and Alvaro Garcia will not be the MAS candidates for the general elections in 2019.

The deconstruction

1. The government has been put under pressure by the corruption scandal in the Fondioc.

This case, is specially damaging, because it contradicts directly Morales' claim the indigenous culture is not like 'other' cultures. Which ones are these, is not defined. Morales has been pointing to the already mentioned Aymara principles of ama sua, ama qhuella, ama llulla.

The fact that the corruption happened in the Indigenous Fund, which was created for the Indigenous people and was administered by Indigenous people, has negatively affected the credibility of the government.

The implication would be that the indigenous culture is not much different from 'other' cultures.

2. Evo Morales has been, for the first time under his presidency, under pressure as well.

It is much less, the fact that he had had relations with a woman. That much, I would like to guess, his supporters were willing to look over. However, the fact that his government had been giving unfair advantage to the woman's company when it came to adjudicate publicly funded projects was what affected support for Morales.

The fact that even Morales himself could be acting corrupt is very disenchanting for people and undermines the support for the MAS and Morales.

3. Furthermore, if things keep the way they are going and Zapata starts to reveal what she knows, it could be affecting not only the government, but above all, the character of Morales.

If it turns out the son is still alive, it would release a very ominous and dark shadow over the person, Evo Morales. Granted he can say, I was lied to, who can say who is telling the truth? I would come to his word against her word.


4. The support for his candidacy in 2019 is seriously diminishing. The fact that Conalcam has come out so early with the decision not to have Morales as candidate for 2019 is really something to pay attention to. This points to a significant decrease in the support for Morales' candidacy. Later, it will be very difficult for him to want to change his mind.

As I said it earlier, this post is bound to be continued...


March 1

For those of you who are really interested and can read Spanish, in this link you will find a detailed chronology of the Evo-Gabriela case. As usual, thanks to our friends from Pagina Siete.


The Referendum on Re-election of February 21, 2016


Bolivians headed to the ballot boxes once again on February 21, 2016 to vote in a referendum, which asked them to decide whether the government could amend the 2009 Constitution to allow President Morales to run again for President in 2019.

At the core of the matter was the amendment of article 168, which would allow a one time re-election of Evo Morales and his VP for a period 2020 - 2015. His current period should be coming to an end on 2019, however with this amendment it was going to be set to begin on 2020 and last the five years the Constitution allows.

This is the second time Evo Morales tries to amend the constitution to stay in power. The first time, back in April 2013, he was practically backed up by the Supreme Court, which ruled the first time Morales was elected in 2005 did not count towards his number of terms because it happened before the new Plurinational State founded in 2009.

All in all, Morales is in his third presidential period, even though the constitution has only allowed for two consecutive periods. He was first elected in December 2005 and was then re-elected in 2009, when the Plurinational State was created. His last re-election was in 2014.

The results of the February 21 referendum were:

Source: Elections Office (OEP - TSE)

The No option won with 51.29 % of support against a 48.71 % support for the Yes option.

A clear, yet a narrow win.

However, a look at the international and subnational levels reveals a bit more about the vote.

At the international level, according to the electoral office, Bolivians could vote in 33 countries. The yes option won with yet another narrow margin 51.37 % to 48.63 % for the no option. However, the bulk of this support came from Bolivians living in Brasil, Spain and Argentina. These three countries host the largest Bolivian communities from all countries where Bolivians live. Contrasting this picture, the majority of Bolivians living around the world voted for the no option. Especial mention has to be made for all those Bolivians living in Europe and of course, in USA. Coincidence? Your call.

At the subnational level, La Paz, El Alto, Cochabamba and Oruro departments gave their support to the yes option. These departments have been traditional regions of support for Morales and the MAS. The rest of the departments, Pando, Beni, Santa Cruz, Potosi, Chuquisaca, Tarija, supported the no option. A bit surprising here are Potosi and Chuqisaca, which have more or less tended to side with Morales. However, the government has had various problems with civic organizations in these two cities. Potosi, in particular, has felt neglected by the government. In similar manner, the results show support for the no option in all capital cities around the country. In some cities the support even went beyond 60 %.

In my opinion, the results should not be read as a vote against the Morales government. In this case, it is important to differentiate between support for the government and its administration and support for an amendment of the constitution to allow a politician to stay longer in office. It also should not be read as an victory of the political opposition, because it is not. Granted there were some overlapping points during the campaign, such as the opposition to Morales staying in power for longer time, the victory was for Bolivians opposed to the changing of the constitution. Not more and not less.

In addition, the result was a show of Bolivia's democratization process where democracy seems to be on its way to consolidation. More on this on my post here.