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April 13, 2009

Morning Coffee: Bolivian president on hunger strike

Bolivian president Evo Morales is about four days into a hunger strike to pressure minority legislators to stop stalling a vote on an elections act that would give more representation to poor and indigenous people and set the date for the next federal election?

The bill passed in outline last week, but the details have yet to be ratified. Opposition members blocking the vote by denying the legislature a quorum.

Morales has used hunger strikes as a tactic before. The Bolivians must be more compassionate that American legislators who would happily let the president starve himself to death.

Check Morning Coffee, for details, plus news of witches, pirates, nuclear arms control, a massive anti-government protest/waterfight in Bangkok, and more.

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A more accurate way of describing Morales' situation is that he's trying to push for changes that will further concentrate power in his hands, and the opposition is trying to stall them.

That's true, too.

Bolivians recently approved a new constitution by a 60% margin. They're waiting for the legislative branch to finish ratifying it. It already passed the lower house and now the upper house is doing the Bolivian equivalent of a filibuster. It's kind of an inverse filibuster where they just don't show up, instead of showing up and talking indefinitely like American Senators do.

The new constitution provides more representation for Bolivia's indigenous minority. Morales has campaigned on a platform of rights for indigenous people. So, yes, giving the indigenous majority more representation tends to strengthen Morales' power in the short term because his core constituents get more votes. But indigenous people deserve more representation. Bolivia's old system was a relic of colonial times where European-descended minority ruled over the indigenous minority. Morales is instituting major reforms and the right wingers in the upper house don't like it.

No, the constitution also provides for other issues that increase Morales's power, like abolishing term limits. And what I've read about the indigenous rights issue is that it runs along the lines of greater federalism, giving the Quechua and Aymara more autonomy, rather than one man one vote, which already exists.

I wouldn't concede a thing more to someone on a hunger strike than I would to someone not on a hunger strike, especially if that someone keeps pulling the stunt.

I wish the guy no ill personally, and think its great that indigenous people there have someone in the top office, but there comes a time when you stop listening to the " I'll starve myself if you don't give me what I want "

It's great there's a non-white President in Bolivia, and I can only hope that there will be many more who don't rant about the inevitable fall of capitalism. No country deserves communism foisted on it.

Segue

The Brit in Brooklyn blog has just come to my attention.

Worth digging into for anyone who loves photography ( liking NY won't hurt either )

This guy, like Lindsay, sees things and captures images that the rest of us don't.

61% of the voters decided to support the referendum.

The majority of the legislature support the proposals.

Those who oppose the proposals oppose democracy.


Bolivia is completely about colonial laws.

It happens in most ex colonies, usually the laws that used to protect colonial power get taken over by status quo or group in charge to continue the power imbalance.

If one would to look around, it's pretty amazing the amount of laws in most places (majority of countries in the world) that still rooted in colonial power structure.

Entire south east asia, Africa, latin america. And strangely, there is no big research about this. (the effect of colonial law, and what steps to take it away.) This usually result in: who can vote/makes law, property ownership/economic participation/land registration, civil registry, high education, access to capital, (same old stuff)


The closest US experiance, probably is the southern voting and property laws. It was rigged for decades against particular people, and it didn't completely change long after late 60's.

I for one think, the next step in "human right", is not simply talk directly about torture, war, free speech, etc. Because it turns out one has to fix the "system". How laws are created, inter-relationship between nation, etc. Systematic analysis, instead of piety/grand talk.


for eg. US still tortures. There is war on terror, but also massive prison system that is out of control. Not to mention police training. Or persistence use of war of aggression against other country. The question is why? Why does it take so little to degenerate back to everything that modern international community has fought? Obviously US constitution, legal apparatus, and the people are not adequate to prevent such major crimes.

Luke, if you'd polled Americans in December of 2001, the vast majority would've supported officially shredding half the Bill of Rights.

Squashed, there is research about the effects of colonialism - for example, there's research that shows countries that were colonized by Britain are both more democratic and better developed than countries that weren't. Very few ex-colonies have retained the colonial era hierarchies - Hong Kong, Singapore, and Zambia are the only ones that come to mind. Botswana has extreme inequality, but is democratic and well-governed. India has strong democratic infrastructure that enables even illiterates to make informed votes, Western European levels of economic inequality, and affirmative action for low castes. In Vietnam, Burma, China, Zimbabwe, Egypt, and Iraq, the worst abuses came from regimes that seized power in anti-colonial revolutions inspired by nationalism, communism, or both (Venezuela is undergoing the same process now).

I'm sorry, the President is on a hunger strike? Seriously? This is not Ghandi civil disobedience here. This is the guy in charge of the entire country. He's got obligations to attend to, and throwing a hunger strike isn't the smartest thing to do when you're leading a country through difficult times.

Besides, it strikes me as a little temper-tantrumy for a world leader to go on a hunger strike. I mean, he's popular, he holds most levers of power, he mostly gets exactly what he wants when he wants it. He has most of the shiny toys. But when he doesn't get all of the shiny new toys fast enough, he throws a fit.

Give me a break.

It's political theater and Morales isn't playing to a US audience. It seems like a bizarre gambit to me, too. But from what I can tell from the English language news, this gesture is resonating with the electorate. People are going on their own hunger strikes in solidarity with the president. I know it seems weird to us, but in Bolivia, it's smart politics. If you think maturity is essential to political success, think again!

Maturity? Did you really live in the US for the past eight years?

Precisely, my point Alon. A lot of politicking would be considered immature coming from a non-elected official. That's true everywhere. In politics, you don't get points for being mature or reasonable. You're judged by getting your own way. Just because Morales' brand of political theater doesn't make a lot of sense to Americans doesn't mean it's not a smart move in Bolivian politics.

I'm not aware of anything in the Bolivian election law that is blatantly anti-democratic. A lot of countries have made constitutional changes to give aboriginal/indigenous groups special representation or greater autonomy in governing certain regions. Canada has been doing stuff like this for years, a good example being the newest territory, Nunavut. There's nothing sacrosanct about term limits. Some democracies have them and some don't. They were a relatively recent addition to American democracy.

There's also a lot of very progressive stuff about individual sexual and reproductive rights in the new constitution. RH Reality has been reporting on those aspects a lot lately.

If 60% of the Bolivian people think the new constitution is a good idea, I'm prepared to trust their judgment. I'm not saying that anything the majority approves is automatically defensible, but what I've seen of the Bolivian constitution/election law seems well within the bounds of democratic self-government.

There's nothing sacrosanct about term limits, but I'd be cautious whenever someone tries to abolish them, especially when his stated goal is a complete overhaul of the country. It's the same with judicial review - not all democracies have it, but when American conservatives try to abolish it, it's never for the benefit of more civil liberties.

The Bolivian people may have voted for the constitution, but consider the converse. The Venezuelans voted against a similar constitution by a small margin; Chavez's response was to put another constitution abolishing term limits on the ballot, which he eventually won. His supporters didn't argue abstractly that more presidential power is good or that term limits are bad, but instead gave their reasons as "Chavez can do us no harm" and "Chavez loves the country and the people." The other side isn't willing to accept popular judgment when it loses; it declares rematches and starts cults of personality.

I think this guy is doing nothing but making a power grab under the guise of self-flagellation which seems rediculous. I think this sort of tactic only succeeds when countries are going through a stage of ultra-nationism, which seems to be the case in Bolivia.

FUCK EVO MORALES,he is a paranoid murdering B~"*!:%.

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