Quiet Final End to the Computers for Bolivia Project

Over 3 years ago i went to Bolivia and started a long, frustrating attempt at technology solidarity. It turned out to be just too big a project, too difficult, too unrealistic, too crazy, and without the support of enough people at either end.

Last September the computers we'd gathered over the years were finally cleaned out of the storage space, the rent for which was sucking money down a drain. They were donated to another group, World Computer Exchange, which does simliar work. Then last month the bank account I'd set up to hold the funds, which I and a colleague in Oregon had raised over the years, was closed, and the money given to her. She and some techies from Portland Indymedia will use the money for a continuing related goal, a smaller scale project to get smaller numbers of newer computers to Bolivian media activists, hidden in luggage rather than packed into huge expensive cargo containers.

A wistful sigh, but a relieved sigh as well. Past follies and crazy dreams, dissolved into a few digital traces and memories.

Stretched Too Thin

If my blogging software permitted, this post would be marked not only in the personal category but in every other category that I've defined, and more. That's because this entry is about how many different things I'm involved with and how that's a problem.

But before I get too far into that I will link to a post i just published on another blog that I seldom use, on the delete the border site, relating recent news about arizona border crossing deaths and stuff.

Now I move on into saying this: I'm doing too much and I need to figure out how to jettision some stuff if i intend to feel better about myself and stay sane, because very little of it is getting done in a quality way. Here's the list, or everything i can think of now:

  1. dry river
  2. no more deaths media work
  3. arizona indymedia
  4. panleft (i've just agreed to be a board member! argh! what am i thinking!?)
  5. Root Force
  6. new Tucson "border radicals" group
  7. my juarez film - setting up the tour in july
  8. War Tax Resistance video projects
  9. editor of Indymedia Newsreal
  10. bolivia computer project
  11. a newish relationship that's very important to me and needs lots of care.
  12. work, for a new job with lots of annoying bueaucratic obstacles to being paid what i'm supposed to be, not to mention lots of work that requires my creative and thougtful input.
  13. green scare - at least this will be over after the event we're having this saturday.

The most important things are 2, 7, 11, and 12. A few other things are impossible to get rid of right now. The rest I need to just tell people "sorry, I can't be there." Sigh.

The nice thing, though is that, as usual, just making a list of everything makes it seem like a lot less of a problem. so, yay....

Invisible Hands

I haven't had time to read it, but here's what looks like a really good report called Invisible Hands. Tracing the Connections Between the Policies of International Financial Institutions and Country Budget Policies (a PDF file). Written by Jim Schultz of the Democracy Center. It's the result of a conference where people trying to make budget processes more transparent in their countries met up with people who are working to make financial organizations like the World Bank more accountable. I've skimmed it, looks great, don't have time to read it. If you do, let me know what you think. [embarrassed shrug]

On 2 Horses at Once

James Petras write for Counterpunch about Bolivia's Evo Morales and some decisions he's taken already that seem to go against the interests of the nation's people. Mainly this is evident through the cabinet appointments he's made, many of whom are conservative politicians or business leaders. In summary:

Sooner rather than later, polarized differences of interest between Morales' foreign and local business allies and oligarchs and the masses who struggled and sacrificed to elect him to power will lead to a new round of confrontations and conflicts. Morales is riding two horses going in opposite directions. The photogenic traditional Andean rituals, the color and pageantry of the electoral inauguration will quickly fade in the face of the continuing poverty, inequality and gross concentrations of wealth. Over time a profound disenchantment will spread with a President who spoke to the people but works for the rich, including the foreign rich.

Bechtel Finally Gives Up in Bolivia

Finally, Bechtel drops its suit against the Bolivian government for not letting them charge insanely high prices for water to poor people in Cochabamba. They go out swinging, though, their PR department trying to spin things and not getting very far. Jim Schultz of the Democracy Center counters with some free PR advice for them.

New "Socialism" in Latin America, and Reacting to Childhood "Traumas"

I have about 12 more hours in cold, wet, grey, Michigan and then I head back to Tucson. While you wait eagerly for more news from Project Steev, listen to

this radio show
about Bolivia, Evo Morales, and the new leftist wave in Latin America, and also read the interesting comments thread for the show. Here's what one thoughtful listener/reader said:

Angela Merkel grew up under socialism in East Germany, but she embraces the more capitalist ways of West Germany (especially as she is pushing for more dramatic labor policy changes than the Social Democrats are to help improve her country's economy). On the other hand, Gerhard Schroeder grew up in poverty in capitalist West Germany, and he has chosen to embrace socialism. Each wants what they did not have growing up. Why is this? Unfortunately, I would argue that Latin Americans have not had the opportunity to fully experience capitalism like Schroeder did. This does not give them the proper perspective to truly understand capitalism. Thus, their push for socialism is done half-blind, at least.

The position of this writer of the above is unclear, to me, at least, but it does bring up something I think about a lot, and that is that people are so, SO often really a product of their upbringing and childhood background, and people very often react to what they experienced as children, for the rest of their lives. You see it all the time, not just in someone's politics, of course.

More About Bolivia's 'Election Stunner'

I just have to post a link to Jim Schultz's morning-after take on the Bolivia election, and quote this great little anecdote: October when I spent five days in a small Quechua Indian village three hours off into the mountains. On a sunny afternoon I sat with the village leader, Lucio, a man I have known for almost a decade. I asked him if the coming elections were big on people

Morales Wins! Already!

This is incredible. Everyone predicted that the Bolivian election would end with no one possessing a majority of the vote, sending Evo Morales and his U.S.-educated rival Quiroga to a vote in Congress, as mandated by their constitution. However, it appears that Morales has gone ahead and won 51% already. Amazing!

Of course as some experts have noted repeatedly, being president of Bolivia is pretty impossibly difficult. There were even theories that Evo, if he got into the congressional runoff, which always results in party coaltion-building, would have arranged to NOT be president in exchange for more power for his party, so that he wouldn't crash and burn as president.

Now he has to prove himself. Let's see if he's any different than other great leftist hopes of recent times in South America, like Kirchner and Lula. I j ust read that both Argentina and Brazil have finally buckled under and agreed to pay all their IMF debt in full.

Of course one of the first things in the corporate press about Evo's victory will be how unstable and unattractive to investors this will make Bolivia:

Morales's victory may ``add new risk to investments in many emerging markets that lack political consensus,''

Leftist Vision in Latin America

Everyone's favorite mainstream english-language paper to read while abroad, the International Herald Tribune, brings us an interesting sweeping look at the leftist tide sweeping Latin America, concentrating on the likely victory of Evo Morales in Bolivia.


Petition to Have Goni Served

After he ordered the military to use force to crack down on street protests in October 2003, causing many deaths, then-president of Bolivia Gonzalez Sanchez de Lozada fled the country with his cronies and has been comfortably ensconced in Miami ever since. Human rights organizations and the Bolivian government have been trying to get him extradited to give testimony and possibly be tried, but the U.S. is not cooperating so far.
Now there's an online petition you can sign, asking the U.S. to serve the subpoena.

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