Este artículo también está disponible en español en el sitio Blogs de Bolivia.
Much of Bolivia’s most fertile land lies in the eastern part or Orient of the country. Without a doubt, most of the economic growth has centered around this part of the country, especially in the agricultural sector of Santa Cruz. As is the case in many Latin American countries, the majority of land is often controlled by a minority of people, families and companies. In order to allow more people to become small landowners, President Evo Morales’ government announced a decree that would distribute up to 4.5 million hectares of land, with the majority of this land located in the Orient. Such a move would require a modficiation to the existing National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INRA for its initials in Spanish) law No. 1715. Even though this new move would look to redistribute land that is not fulfilling a social or economic function, or in other words, land that is not being productive, there are a lot of questions regarding who will exactly benefit and what consequences such an act would bring.
Alvaro Ruiz Navajas wonders in his blog Off Topic, whether the specification that the indigenous populations will have preference and priority to these new lands will leave other non-indigenous, but otherwise poor Bolivians on the outside looking in. President Morales is also looking to add social movements to the list of recipients, which would bring about a new group of landowners, union leaders. There is also a concern regarding the state that will begin to set the price for the land, as it has with interdepartmental transport. In his renamed blog, Business and Politics in Bolivia, Jonathan Olguin provides two aerial images taken 15 years apart, which clearly shows the population expansion in the lowlands of Santa Cruz. This land redistribution will spur even more internal migration and could lead to greater deforestation and possible food shortages.
No week can escape talk of the repercussions of the nationalization of the hydrocarbons earlier this month. Each day, a new development seems to surface. It was reported that some of the gas sold to Argentina has been turned around and sold to Chile, which places the government in a unique predicament. Bolivia Eclipse’s [ES] Briegel Busch recalls the famous line of former President Carlos Mesa, who vowed that “not a single molecule” of Bolivian gas will reach Chile. The proposed sale of gas to and through Chile was one of the factors in the October 2003 social unrest, which led to the resignation of Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada. In order to make the policy clear cut, the topic was even introduced as a question in the 2004 Hydrocarbons Referendum, in which the Bolivian people clearly decided that the sale of gas to Chile would only be based on gaining a sovereign access to the sea. However, as it was discovered, more than a single molecule is reaching Chile through Argentina, Sergio Molina Monasterios presents three scenarios in which the Bolivian government can take in respect to this contradictory occurrence. He writes in his blog La Columna Robada [ES], that Bolivia could continue to sell gas to Argentina at the higher renegotiated price, but at the same time, turn a blind eye to this resale to Chile. It could also suspend any sale to Argentina, which would mean a loss of a huge market. Finally, the third scenario and the one he describes as “the most rational, simple, but very improbable” would be for Bolivia to sell directly to Chile and bypassing Argentina’s price markup.
Finally, with the 2006 World Cup fast approaching and for the third straight tournament that Bolivia did not qualify, the blogger called Angel Caido (Fallen Angel) may have come across some reasons why Bolivia is home again. In his new blog called Poco Comun [ES] , he draws attention to the mini-scandals in which Bolivian footballers have been caught farreando (drinking), yet seem to show up in the starting lineup anyway, as if nothing had happened. Many of the cases seem to be very unbelievable, such as the case of the manager of the club “The Strongest” who criticized many of the players for adopting such behavior, but in the end, it was the coach who was let go from the team, and not the players. However, some of the clubs has started to become stricter with such public displays of intoxication, but it may come a little too late in creating discipline among the football players in Bolivia.