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Bolivia: Morales eyes $2 billion investment for state industries

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Independent Online, April 24, 2011

Bolivia’s president proposed on Saturday tapping the impoverished nation’s currency reserves to invest $2 billion in as yet unspecified state industries.

Saying he would seek approval of the South American country’s voters in a referendum, President Evo Morales said: “of the $10.6

billion in hard currency reserves, which are the savings of the Bolivian people, I would like to use about $2 billion.”

“I have asked myself, why not spend that money on cement factories, and on food-related industries and factories,” Morales explained at an event in Potosi.

Morales, a close leftist ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, noted that when he took office, reserves stood were at $1.7 billion but have since risen to $10.6 billion, largely on the back of his nationalisation of oil and gas related industries.

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Written by peripheralrevision

04/25/2011 at 9:12 am

Posted in Bolivia

Bolivia to produce lithium carbonate this year: Morales

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FOCUS News Agency, April 19, 2011

Bolivia will produce lithium carbonate for the first time this year, President Evo Morales said Tuesday, a sign his country is making economic strides thanks to its key reserves of the mineral used in electric car batteries, AFP reports.

Bolivia has an estimated 70 percent of the world’s reserves of the mineral also used in industrial ceramics and pharmaceuticals. It is most prominently used at the moment however in electric car batteries.

“This year we are going to have lithium carbonate already, and the most important thing is that that is a first step toward industrialization,” Morales, a leftist who leads South America’s poorest nation, said in Uyuni next to the salt flats where the mineral is present.

Morales is keen on having Bolivia actually produce batteries but there has been no agreement ironed out on that at this stage; it would require major capital input from an international partner, something Morales is courting.

Bolivia estimates that south of the salt flats there are 100 million metric tonnes of the mineral.

Lithium is widely used in rechargeable batteries for laptops, mobile phones and electric cars.

Written by peripheralrevision

04/20/2011 at 1:53 am

Posted in Bolivia

We should look to Bolivia for inspiration

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Bolivia under President Evo Morales is seeking a radical development model based on equality and environmental sustainability – and there are lessons we can all learn

Johnathan Glennie, The Guardian, April 19, 2011

In 2006, I was working at the UN in Mexico City, which happened to be hosting the World Water Forum that year. On the large civil society march (which the risk-averse UN security team had advised staff to stay away from) one sovereign government was represented: Bolivia. The message was that water was a public good, not a private commodity.

Water was the emblematic issue at the core of the peaceful revolution in Bolivia that had swept a new and radical government to power just two months earlier. Packed with new ministers who had been at the heart of the mass demonstrations in rejection of the privatisation of urban water, the new administration became one of the first governments in the world to enshrine the right to water in its constitution.

Bolivia has got used to standing alone in the international arena. In last year’s climate talks in Cancún, in Mexico, it was the only one of the UN’s 192 member countries to vote against a deal it – along with most scientific experts – considered insufficient to tackle critical levels of global warming.

Bolivia is the conscience of the world on climate change and sustainable development. Global warming is not a theoretical issue in Bolivia. One-third of its Andean glaciers have melted, and a further third are expected to melt in the next 10 years. Rather than compromise in international forums, it is sticking to its guns, buoyed by mass meetings such as the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba in 2010.

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Written by peripheralrevision

04/20/2011 at 1:03 am

Posted in Bolivia

Peru election: No country ‘left’ behind

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If Ollanta Humala wins a run-off vote in June, he could align Peru with Latin America’s political left.

Greg Grandi, Al Jazeera, April 15, 2011

Last week, in Peru’s presidential election, Ollanta Humala, a 48-year old former military officer, pulled off a stunning come-from-behind victory.

Beating his four main rivals with over 30 per cent of the vote, Humala, who has called for a fairer distribution of Peru’s enviable economic growth, scares Washington and Wall Street.

Peruvians have committed “political suicide”, declared a former US ambassador to the country following the vote.

Equally unnerved is Peru’s Noble Laureate, Mario Vargas Llosa, who often uses his considerable descriptive talents to render in subtle hues the anxieties of Lima’s upper-class whites.

Since Humala didn’t get 50 per cent of the vote, he will face Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of jailed ex-president Alberto Fujimori, in a June run off – a choice Vargas Llosa describes as akin to one between “AIDS and terminal cancer”.

Many Peruvians, though, have worse fates in store for them than those two diseases. Despite Peru’s impressive macroeconomic performance, including low inflation, over the last decade, well over thirty per cent of Peru’s thirty million people live in poverty, and eight per cent in extreme poverty.

In the countryside, particularly the indigenous countryside, more than half of all families are poor, many desperately so.

Chavez soup

Central areas in Lima, the capital, are booming. Profits skimmed off the high price of precious metals – silver, zinc, copper, tin, lead, and gold make up sixty per cent of the country’s exports and finance the rise of luxury condos and malls.

But the city is also sprawling outward. Mining and other high-capital, low-labour export industries – among them, logging, petroleum, natural gas, and biofuels plantations – are ripping up the Andean highlands and Amazonian lowlands, throwing a steady number of families into Lima, where they add block after block to its perimeter.

Terminal cancer might be a concern among Vargas Llosa’s condo constituency, but these economic refugees, particularly their children, are more likely to suffer shantytown diseases, including malnutrition, protein deficiency, dysentery, and drug-resistant tuberculosis. Peru ranks 23rd out of 26th in Latin America for access to waste treatment.

While all the other candidates offer variations on a theme of “more of the same”, Humala promises mild reform. He pledges to improve health care for the poor and implement a means-tested pension plan for the elderly.

To pay for it, he said he will raise the taxes on mineral exports. This is hardly a radical program, but those who have grown fat off of Peru’s unsustainable model of economic development view it as catastrophic.

News of Humala’s first-round victory sent Peru’s currency and bond prices sharply down. Opinion and policy makers in Lima and the US rushed to their keyboards to warn of “class warfare”, as did the former US ambassador cited above.

The “outcome”, he said, “could not have been worse”. There is a saying in Latin America to describe the hysteria that overcomes elites when they hear someone suggesting a more equitable distribution of wealth: “when they sit down to dinner, they see Hugo Chavez in their soup.”

Power relations

Can Humala win in June? According to The Economist, polls taken before last week’s election found that “more than 77 per cent of voters expressing an opinion wanted to modify the country’s development model”. And 37 per cent wanted radical change.

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Written by peripheralrevision

04/16/2011 at 10:15 am

Posted in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela

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Obama Continues Right-Wing Latin America Policies

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America’s ‘backyard’ has never been so united and independent of U.S. influence.

Steve Ellner, In These Times, April 14, 2011

In his State of the Union address in January, President Obama pressed for quick passage of a free trade agreement with Colombia, and since then has followed up on the proposal. In doing so he has delighted Republicans who had been accusing him of failing to prioritize the issue. In his January speech, Obama made no reference to his unequivocal concern over human rights violations which he had raised in his third presidential debate with McCain.

Since 2008, little has improved to justify Obama’s reversal. Human Rights Watch has reported a 41 percent increase in the number of victims in 2010 over the previous year, including the murder of 44 trade unionists. In the first six weeks of 2011, death squads assassinated three more labor activists.

In an attempt to assure members of U.S. Congress that progress is being made, on April 7 Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Obama announced from the White House the approval of an “Action Plan,” whereby the Colombian government pledged to take stringent measures to curb abuses. Many Colombian trade union leaders, however, refused to buy into the arrangement and expressed skepticism about their government’s resolve. Tarsicio Mora, president of the Unitary Workers Confederation (CUT), objected by saying, “It just can’t be that respect for a basic right established in the constitution, such as the right to life, has to be required by a commercial transaction.”

Obama’s new stand has also failed to win over U.S. trade unionists. In January, Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen argued against the agreement by pointing out that 15 million Colombians representing 82 percent of the working population are not recognized as workers and thus under the law “have no rights.”

Obama’s change–from opposition to the free trade agreement with Colombia, to lukewarm endorsement of it, to vigorous support–is just one example of his turnabout on Latin American policy. His modified stand distances Washington from an important bloc of Latin American governments and contributes to the decline of the U.S. leadership position in the hemisphere.

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Written by peripheralrevision

04/15/2011 at 4:08 pm

Bolivia To Spend US$100 Million For Water Projects, Meet Millennium Development Goals

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Bernama, April 14, 2011

Bolivia’s Minister of Planning and Development Viviana Caro said US$100 million will be allocated this year for irrigation and drinking water projects in municipalities.

Caro said that more than 300 Bolivian rural municipalities will benefit from the new government programme – “More investment for water, my water”.

By the end of the year, Bolivia should also meet its commitment of facilitating access to drinking water under a Millennium Development Goals (MDG) plan, a government official said.

Part of the goal is to ensure 78.5 percent access to drinking water till 2015 and the country is close to 77.5 precent now, said Vladimir Sanchez, executive director of the National Fund for Productive and Social Investment.

The government is working hard to assure universal rights such as access to water, as established in the Constitution, Sanchez added.

Written by peripheralrevision

04/14/2011 at 8:42 pm

Posted in Bolivia

Bolivia’s Morales Congratulates Peru’s Humala For 1st round election success

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Robert Kozak, Dow Jones Newswires, April 11, 2011

Bolivian President Evo Morales has sent a letter congratulating nationalist president candidate Ollanta Humala for his first- round lead following Sunday’s elections in Peru, according to official Bolivian news agency ABI.

Left-leaning Morales applauded the decision of Peruvians “to advance with the transformation of their nation and its institutions,” ABI said.

Humala, 48, a former military officer, is promising a “grand transformation” in Peru.

The latest data from Peruvian government elections agency, ONPE, while still incomplete, shows Humala with 28.69% of the vote for president and Congresswoman Keiko Fujimori in second place, with 22.69%. A run off will take place on June 5.

“Receive in my name, from the government and from the Bolivian people, a fraternal and revolutionary salute,” Morales said.

Morales, elected in 2005, has given the state greater control over natural resources.

In Peru, Humala wants to increase taxes on mining companies, stop natural-gas exports, and increase state control over certain sectors of the economy, among other things.
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Written by peripheralrevision

04/11/2011 at 10:21 am

Posted in Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela