Bolivia and Morales’s “socialism”

[UPDATE: Eduardo posts the data and a discussion of the departmental elections below. Thanks, Eduardo!]

I want to call readers’ attention to an excellent radio program on Bolivia. On Open Source, it aired on January 3, but I just now have had a chance to listen to it.

It features Jeffrey Sachs and Miguel Centellas. Sachs, of course, is an internationally renowned development economist and advisor on economic reform in Bolivia during the hyperinflationary crisis twenty years ago (as well as in post-Soviet Russia and elsewhere). Centellas is familiar to F&V readers from his many excellent comments here in various threads on Bolivia and MMP systems. Jim Schultz, of the Democracy Center and Blog from Bolivia is also on the program.

The program aired at a time when, as Centellas notes, it was not clear what Morales’s intentions were with respect to the gas reserves and foreign investment. On that point, I highly recommend Steven Taylor’s Poliblog post today regarding news on Morales’s nationalization proposals. (Sachs also discusses privatization and nationalization on the Open Source program.) I also weighed in at Poliblog with a comment on Steven’s post.

Also, I want to take the opportunity to comment about the Bolivian legislative outcome and the possibility of “autonomy” for the departments, whose governors were, for the first time, also elected in December. Miguel said on the program that Morales’s party, MAS, would not have a majority in either house. Perhaps he did not have the results available at the time, but MAS did win a majority of seats in the lower house (apparently 73 of 100 seats, or slightly better than thought when Miguel and Wilfred discussed the result here on January 5).

In the Senate, MAS has just 12 of the 27 seats. PODEMOS, the party of the runner-up Jorge Quiroga, won 13. Interestingly, one of the non-MAS, non-PODEMOS seat is held by the MNR, the party of the 1952 revolution. (Miguel, on the radio program, discusses Morales’s need to bargain for the support of those two senators.)

If Miguel or anyone has the breakdown of departmental governors, please post. Many, of course, will be controlled by parties (or independents) not supportive of MAS, which is significant, given that this is the first time those positions have been elected, and there are ongoing moves towards greater departmental autonomy, or potentially even federalization. Miguel Centellas also discusses this possibility on the program, noting the inherent conflict between the demands of gas-producing departments for control over revenues and the demands of gas-poor departments for more central control over these revenues–shades of Iraq’s federalization disputes, I might note.

The program is really good, and well worth a listen by anyone interested in current developments in Bolivia.

0 thoughts on “Bolivia and Morales’s “socialism”

  1. MAS and PODEMOS tied the number of departments won.

    Chuquisaca – MAS
    Oruro – MAS
    Potosi -MAS

    La Paz – PODEMOS
    Beni – PODEMOS
    Pando – PODEMOS

    Cochabamba – AUN (citizens’ group)

    Santa Cruz – APB (citizens’ group)

    Tarija – CAC (citizens’ group)

    I wouldn’t say that any non-MAS prefecture would automatically work against the central government. Already the new Prefect of La Paz, Jose Luis Paredes said that he no longer represents PODEMOS, but rather he represents La Paz, trying to distance himself from a party that was handily defeated in the Pres. election in that department. Prior to the election, Paredes appeared to regret his decision to run on the MAS ticket. He commented that he was more than willing to work with MAS, indicating that he really didn’t care who became President, much to the dismay of Tuto Quiroga, his own party’s candidate.

    In some parts of Cochabamba, Manfred Reyes Villa’s campaign was actively campaigning to inform voters that they could vote for Evo for Pres. and Manfred for Prefect. The majority of municipalities are controlled by MAS, as well, which would be a greater incentive to cooperate with the municipalities.

    All 9 Prefect-elects recently met over two days with Vice-President-elect Garcia Linera, in which a document was created announcing cooperation between the new political relationships. After all, a stable central government would benefit the departments and a stable departmental government would benefit the central government.

    As far as the question of autonomy, there is an assumption that any move by the central government to nationalize the hydrocarbons industry would chase out all investment in Bolivia. That is their reasoning, although I doubt that any of these newly elected Prefects are disappointed that the amount of royalties, especially to producer departments, that has increased due to the new Hydrocarbons Law. The new renegotiation of contracts, if they go through, would dramatically increase the amount of royalties to the departments. Would that mean that many pushing for economic autonomy are in the back pocket of the oil companies, who would stand to not earn as much profits with new rules? After all, there has been much speculation that the oil companies helped finance much of the autonomy propaganda.


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