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January 08 2014

Dakar Rally Coming to Tupiza, Bolivia

Many Bolivians are excited that the Dakar Rally off-road race will pass through their national territory. On her personal blog, journalist Fabiola Chambi showcases what tourists that may arrive to her hometown of Tupiza would want to see, as well as some of the prime watching spots along the route [es].

December 11 2013

Bolivians Protest Against Cochabamba Public Transport Price Hike

Un bus del transporte público en Cochabamba – Bolivia. Fotografía: Mijhail F. Calle Ruiz

A bus in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Photograph: Mijhail F. Calle Ruiz.

[All links lead to Spanish language web pages].

Public transport drivers in Cochabamba provoked widespread indignation after announcing that the price of a single journey would rise from 1.70 to 2 bolivianos (US $0.25 to US $0.29).

A few hours after the morning newscasts published the news, officials from the Unidad de Tránsito de Cochabamba (Cochabamba Transit Unit), in charge of public transport in Bolivia's fourth largest city, were on the streets making sure that drivers were charging the original price of 1.70 bolivianos. However, immediately after drivers announced the fare increase, locals were expressing their displeasure on social networks. On Facebook, for example, a campaign has been set up in opposition to transport drivers.

Imagen descargada de la revista Lamalapalabra (Compartida 83 veces)

Image downloaded from the magazine Lamalapalabra (shared 83 times)

The material that has been circulating shows the general discontent towards the public transport service in the city, indicating that locals would be willing to pay more if the service were of a higher standard. Among the demands made by supporters of the campaign are for drivers to:

  • Dejar de ver las calles y avenidas como una pista de Fórmula 1 y creerse el gran corredor (más aún cuando se enfrenta a un mismo chofer de la misma línea de transporte). Respetar la velocidad admitida.
  • Parar en acera derecha cuando yo le pida que se detenga y no parar a media calle obligándome a bajar con su “allí puedes aprovechar”.
  • Detenerse para que suban niños/niñas  y personas de la tercera edad. Tratarlos con el respeto que se merecen.
  • Quitar de sus micros las fotos de mujeres semidesnudas tomando en cuenta que también viajan niños y niñas en su movilidad.
  • Dejar de pensar que su movilidad es una lata de sardina y meter a cuanto pasajero entre bajo el pretexto de “están apurados, quieren entrar también”.
  • Stop regarding the streets and avenues as a Formula 1 track and yourself a champion racing driver (especially when you come across another driver on the same route). Respect the speed limit.
  • Stop by the side of the road when I ask you to, rather than in the middle of it and telling me to get off there.
  • Stop the bus so that children and the elderly can get on. Treat them with the respect that they deserve.
  • Remove your pictures of semi-naked women, keeping in mind that children also travel on your bus.
  • Stop believing your bus to be a sardine can and letting too many people on under the pretext of “they’re in a rush, they want to get on too”.

The images and messages that locals have been sharing on social networks also allude to the fact that bus drivers do not give the correct change, a problem that has dragged on since the last price increase in 2011. For example, after handing over 2 bolivianos (US $0.29), the drivers ought to give 30 cents (US $0.04) change. However, the lack of 10 cent coins means that the drivers regularly only hand over 20 cents.

Imagen capturada del perfil de un usuario que compartió la protesta. (Compartida 145 veces)

Screenshot from the profile page of Ming Rojas, a Facebook user that has been sharing protest material (shared 145 times).

The above chart explains how officials are able, in approximately 10 months, to “steal (…) 8,000 bolivianos or 1,149 dollars by not giving change”. Furthermore, it encourages people to photocopy and distribute the information so that more people join the campaign.

The response to this material has already had repercussions. In addition to commenting on and sharing material, locals have been protesting on their Facebook pages. Jessica Gilda Morales Bellot wrote that:

Como van a exigir si hace poco aumentaron los pasajes y el servicio q dan es pesimo en todo,aumentan asientos improvisados con tal de tener mas pasajeros para cobrar…

How can they demand this when only recently they increased the fares, the service they provide is terrible, they increase the number of make-shift seats so there are more passengers to charge…

Elsequiel Leonardo Martinez wrote:

Pero cuando a alguien le falta 10 cts. esos pelotudos le dicen bajate no?                                                                                                                                 

But when you’re 10 cents short they tell you to get off, eh?

Some on the internet have taken the issue on with a lot of energy, others with responsibility yet still identifying with the protests, whereas others, in different cities around the country, have taken a more humourous approach.

Imagen capturada del perfil de la revista Lamalapalabra, lleva el título: Mientras tanto, en una calle de La Paz... (172 likes y 74 veces compartida)

Image taken from the Facebook page of the magazine Lamalapalabra. It has the title: Meanwhile, on a street in La Paz… The above image, which has had 172 likes and been shared 74 times, says: “Push, the traffic light is green, push!!!”

Since the announcement by public transport drivers, Cochabamba residents have thus far been more active protesting on social media than on the streets. Nevertheless, drivers decided to halt services for an indefinite period after they were unable to reach an agreement about the price hike with the authorities.

When considering social network movements it is appropriate to remember the response given by the sociologist Manuel Castells in an interview with the journalist Horacio Bilbao for the Argentine magazine Ñ: 

¿Internet puede volver a crear ciudadanos político sociales?
La prueba está en que los movimientos sociales nacen en Internet. Se crean ciudadanos en todo lugar de agregación libre. Y como el único lugar de agregación libre que nos queda es Internet, pues allí están. Pero en cuanto pueden salir a la calle y crear espacios físicos urbanos en los que se tocan los unos a los otros lo hacen, porque somos humanos y el tocarnos es fundamental.

Can the internet create politically and socially minded citizens?
The proof is that social movements are born on the internet. Citizens are made wherever there is free association. And as the only place for free association left to us is the internet, well, that’s where they are. But as soon as they are able to get out onto the street and create urban, physical spaces in which they can touch one another, they do it, because we are human and physical contact is fundamental.

Avenida Blanco Galindo de Cochabamba – Bolivia. Fotografía: Mijhail F. Calle Ruiz

Avenida Blanco Galindo de Cochabamba in Bolivia. Photograph: Mijhail F. Calle Ruiz

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December 10 2013

Bolivian Feminist Organization is the ‘Little Rock in the Government's Shoe’

This is a very conservative government as far as gay rights and abortion or anything having to do with women or women’s rights. [...] This government doesn’t really see us as an enemy, but rather we’re like a little rock in the shoe, a constant irritation.

Benjamin Dangl and April Howard interviewed Julieta Ojeda of Mujeres Creando (Women Creating), “an anarchist/feminist organization in Bolivia that has been a radical voice for women’s rights before and throughout Evo Morales’ time in office.” Read the full interview on Upside Down World.

November 14 2013

PHOTOS: Humans of Latin America

“She laughed, laughed and laughed while she waited for inter-provincial transportation. Tiraque, Cochabamba”.
Photo by Mijhail Calle for Humans of Bolivia, used with permission.

Inspired by photographer Brandon Stanton's blog Humans of New York (HONY), professional and amateur photographers across the world have created blogs and Facebook pages where they collect images and stories of people from all walks of life –and Latin America has not been an exception.

Stanton's idea has inspired Latin American photographers who want to showcase their country or city through portraits of its diverse people.

This is a brief overview of some of the “Humans of…” projects in the region.

Humans of Buenos Aires

“Come and visit me whenever you want. I'm sorry I can't offer you mate [local beverage] but I have no place to heat up water.” Photo by Jimena Mizrahi, used with permission.

Freelance photographer Jimena Mizrahi started Humans of Buenos Aires in May 2012, and her Facebook page has attracted over 11,000 likes.

Her project also caught the attention of a city official, which resulted in the first Humans of Buenos Aires exhibition. The Argentina Independent reports that “the exhibition ‘Micro historias del Microcentro’ featured displays of portraits of individuals who live or work in the city’s central business district”.

Jimena told The Argentina Independent that she does Humans of Buenos Aires “not only because I simply love interacting with people, but because each of these interactions is a lesson. Every person is a world.”

“-I can't believe it! A woman cab driver!
-Of course, do you think that women can't be taxi drivers? It's time to stop being surprised when women do things that aren't common for their gender, there aren't things for men or women.”
Photo by Jimena Mizrahi, used with permission.

Humans of Colombia and Humans of Bogotá

“A Wayuu girl, daughter of a restaurant owner in Uribia.”
Photo by Gábor Szentpétery, used with permission.

Humans of Colombia was created by designer Maurent Roa and architect Gábor Szentpétery. During their travels the couple met Mauricio Romero, who has joined the project and contributed some photographs. While traveling, they also noticed that many people didn't know much about Colombia or had a negative perception of the country; with this project they aim to show a different side of Colombia.

“The idea is to represent Colombia through its people because ethnic diversity in Colombia is incredible. It is a mixture of Amerindians, Spanish and African descendants, and that's what we want to show the world,” Maurent explains.

“Carmen Lorena grew up on a coffee plantation estate about three hours from Bogotá, but she thinks the city life is not for her, she prefers the countryside where she will stay after finishing her studies.”
Photo by Mauricio Romero, used with permission.

“What is your perception of love, and your favorite way to love?”
-”I think that love is everything, it makes up everything that surrounds us and I'd say that my favorite way to love is…breathing”.
Photo by John Cardona, used with permission.

For more photos from Colombia, you can also visit Humans of Bogotá, a page created in August 2013 by John Cardona and Jonathan Arévalo.

John and Jonathan are motivated by the response they've received, and by the chance to meet new people and hear stories that they can show the world through their page. They say that this movement “shows how we can all identify with someone, no matter how far they live.”

“One wish?
-Safety in all of Bogotá.
-Tranquillity and peace”
Photo by John Cardona, used with permission.

Humans of Bolivia

“In Sipe Sipe – Cochabamba, the man said ‘take this abroad'. Then he began playing his charango.”
Photo by Mijhail Calle, used with permission.

Created on November 3, 2013, Humans of Bolivia is one of the newest Facebook pages to mirror Humans of New York in the region. Estelí Puente and Mijhail Calle want to create the same empathy they saw in the New York project and similar projects like Humans of Amsterdam, “the feeling that humanity is formed by individuals with their own stories.”

Although Mijhail takes most of the photographs, they are reaching out to other photographers who can share images from different parts of Bolivia. “This dynamic is also allowing us to create a space to share and discuss the role of the image and photography in the construction of our identities, so for now it looks like this will be more than a series of portraits. We want it to be a reason to reflect about ourselves,” Estelí explains.

“There are not many amauta women, it's hard to be one, but I am. Now I'm part of the union”.
Photo by Mijhail Calle, used with permission.

Humans of Honduras

“My biggest desire is for politicians to turn a blind eye to the colors of their parties, and for their focus to be solely on the betterment and unity of their country. This is the only way in which Honduras will be able to move forward.”
Photo by Claudia, used with permission.

Claudia Elvir and Daniela Mejía “invite you to get to know Honduras through its people” on their Facebook page Humans of Honduras.

Claudia started following Stanton's blog and was impressed by how he not only “captured impressive photographs, but also used them to capture the humanity behind each portrait, and how each photograph told a story that resonated in the hearts of the readers.”

Her friend Daniela conducts the interviews. Claudia and Daniela want to change the violent and negative image that the world has about Honduras, and they also want to change the way Hondurans see their own country.

Through their photographs and interviews, Claudia and Daniela hope to show that Honduras is a country “full of hard-working people, people with dreams, ambitions, joys and sorrows just like in every corner of the world.”

“I asked him to smile and very amiably he said, ‘I would like to, but in this job you have to be serious.’ and with that he demonstrated how appearances are deceiving.”
Photo by Claudia, used with permission.

Humans of Guatemala

“Slow but steady! Yes, it´s a long way to go, but I will make it.”
Photo by Elmer Alvarez, used with permission.

Elmer Alvarez had already been taking photographs of people around Guatemala before starting the Facebook page Humans of Guatemala in September 2013. Wendy Del Aguila, who now writes the captions, told Elmer about Humans of New York and he felt motivated to start a similar page about Guatemala.

Elmer and Wendy seek to capture “spontaneous moments of these extraordinary people reflecting their smile, passion, curiosity, hard work, shyness, kindness and most important their uniqueness!”

La Teacher-

La Teacher-”Let Your Smile Change The World”
Photo by Elmer Alvarez, used with permission

More “Humans of…” projects

“Every morning Don Pedro has opened his taqueria in this small village for two years. He has the usual clients and he gives out free tacos to all the minibus drivers who stop their minibus near his stand. “
Photo by Humans of Mexico, used with permission

The image above comes from Humans of Mexico, a page created in March 2010. Also from Mexico, Humans of Mexico City seeks to create a “photographic census of Mexico City. One street portrait at a time.”

Humans of Costa Rica, a page created in July of 2013, has more than 1,700 likes.

In Brazil, the Humans of Rio de Janeiro Facebook page is one of the most active in the region, and has over 9,000 likes.

Some Facebook pages -like Humans of Nicaragua, Humans of Panama, and Humans of Santiago, Chile- ask users to contribute photographs to the project. Others -like Humans of Quito, Humans of Lima, Humans of Peru, and Humans of Asunción- have been created less than a month ago.

Have we missed any “Humans of…” projects from South or Central America? Let us know in the comments!

November 12 2013

Bolivian Twitter Users Arrested For Photographing Historic Building

[All links lead to Spanish-language websites, unless otherwise noted]

Patricia Vargas (@arquitecta), an active and well-known Bolivian Twitter user, went to take photographs on the streets of her hometown of Cochabamba with photographer and filmmaker Roberto Lanza (@lobobs) on Sunday, November 3, but their outing was disrupted when both were arrested by the police.

Vargas immediately announced the incident on Twitter:

#Urgent they're arresting Roberto lanza and me for taking photos in the city, media help, they're taking us to FELCN (Special Force against Drug Trafficking)

Her message spread through the Bolivian Twitter community and various media and public figures responded.

The arrest occurred after she photographed the exterior facade of the Banco Mercantil Santa Cruz, a historic building in Cochabamba which was once owned by mining millionaire Simón I. Patiño [en].

Banco Mercantil Santa Cruz. Foto por @</a><a href=arquitecta compartida en Twitter." class=" wp-image-213243 " height="819" src="" width="542" />

Banco Mercantil Santa Cruz. Photo by @arquitecta shared on Twitter.

Despite being released without charge after five hours by the Special Force to Combat and Control Crime (FELCC), some suggested that they weren't allowed to photograph financial buildings for security reasons.

However, there is international legislation that makes clear the illegality of the event. Blogger and free culture activist Justin Duranboger published the rule supporting public photography on his blog:

La Decisión 351 Régimen Común sobre Derecho de Autor y Derechos Conexos (17 de diciembre de 1993) de la Comunidad Andina de Naciones de la cual Bolivia es miembro junto a Colombia, Ecuador y Perú, en su artículo 22, inciso h) reconoce la libertad de panorama:

Artículo 22.- Sin perjuicio de lo dispuesto en el Capítulo V y en el artículo anterior, será lícito realizar, sin la autorización del autor y sin el pago de remuneración alguna, los siguientes actos:
h) Realizar la reproducción, emisión por radiodifusión o transmisión pública por cable, de la imagen de una obra arquitectónica, de una obra de las bellas artes, de una obra fotográfica o de una obra de artes aplicadas, que se encuentre situada en forma permanente en un lugar abierto al público;

Decision 351 The Common Provision on Copyright and Related Rights (December 17, 1993) of the Andean Community of Nations of which Bolivia is a member, along with Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, article 22, paragraph h) recognizes the freedom of panorama:

Article 22: Without prejudice to the provisions of Chapter V and in the preceding article, the following acts shall be lawful, without the consent of the artist and without payment of any remuneration:

h) Reproduce, broadcast or transmit by direct cable, the image of an architectural work, a work of fine art, a photograph or a work of applied art, that is permanently situated in a space open to the public;

Alfonso Gumucio, a journalist, writer and filmmaker with an extensive career, also explained the arbitrary nature of the arrest on Twitter:

@pvargasj @payorivero @arquitecta That's not true Paul. What's prohibited is taking pictures of the interior, not the exterior.

The false arrest also took place under conditions that the two described and criticized as irregular and in violation of civil rights.

Roberto Lanza explained what happened on Twitter:

Two armed plainclothes officers approached us aggressively saying that we couldn't take photos there. We asked for their badges and they pulled out their guns.

For us in that moment we were being attacked, they demanded that we get into an unmarked vehicle.

There was no way we were getting into that vehicle and we asked for the police, that's when the personal attack started from the two offended officers

We shouted for help but nobody budged. We tried to prolong the tension until uniformed officers appeared. The police struggled with @arquitecta

In terms of the excessive aggression and dubious action by the police, Patricia concludes:

@locacomotumadre how is it possible that 2 people without uniforms display their guns when you request identification. What would you think?

Patricia and Roberto have received support from many in the artistic and cultural community. Well-known Bolivian filmmaker Marcos Loayza (@marcosloayza) says:

@LaMalaPalabra @arquitecta no one should be arrested for taking photos or filming anywhere in the country

After the incident, Patricia thanked those who supported them on the web and at the police station. She also stressed the effect of asking for help via social networks:

Never hesitate to ask for help on this medium, or another online medium, there will always be someone who will read it and spread your message with a RT.

November 06 2013

For the Love of Football and Bolivia

Bolivia vs. Peru at the Hernando Siles Stadium in La Paz - Photo by Eddie Avila.

Bolivia vs. Peru at the Hernando Siles Stadium in La Paz – Photo by Eddie Avila.

The year was 1994, and Bolivia had punched its ticket to take part in the first and only World Cup appearance in its history. As an added bonus, this invitation-only sporting party was taking place right in my own backyard. To see his national team make it this far was a Bolivian football fan's dream, right? Yet one problem remained: it wasn’t my national team…yet.

I admit it. Growing up in the United States the son of Bolivian immigrants, the sport of football—or soccer, as it’s known in the US—never really interested me as a youngster. I preferred to play playground basketball pick-up games with my friends after school. On Sunday afternoons, while my dad was watching Mexican league matches on Spanish-language television with the familiar broadcaster's call— “GOOOOOOOOOL!!!”—resonating throughout the house, my brother and I would be watching “American” football on the other TV. On our street, nobody set up a pair of rocks to a make makeshift goal to kick around a black-and-white ball on lazy Saturday afternoons. We were the only Bolivian family in our Kansas town, so it was only natural that football didn’t figure much in my early life.

When tickets went on sale for the World Cup in the United States, my dad was already well versed in the ticketing process. He knew which times and travel routes to take in order to see as many matches as possible in Dallas, Texas, the city closest to us. Countless times he asked if I wanted to come along, but I had better things to do. I finally relented for one of the last matches in the First Round, curious to see what the fuss was all about, and with tickets in hand, we made our way to Dallas to see Argentina vs. Bulgaria.

The majority of football fans packed into Dallas’s Cotton Bowl stadium that day were first- or second-generation immigrants, taking full advantage of the opportunity to see their national teams so close to home. For them, football was a gateway to have a little piece of familiarity in their new home. Before, during, and after the match, I craned my neck to soak up as much as I could of the color and rhythm emanating from the multicultural crowd. By the time the whistle sounded with a 2-0 victory for Bulgaria, the so-called “beautiful game” had gained a new fan.

Over the next ten years, my trips to Bolivia became more frequent and lasted a little longer each time, eventually becoming a kind of crash course in being Bolivian, making up for lost time. I met members of my extended family for the first time, pored over old photographs, and heard stories about my grandfather's time as a soldier in the Chaco War. And I started making connections between foods and other cultural references that were commonplace in our Bolivian-American household in the middle of Kansas, and their place of origin.

But ultimately, it was football that best helped me make sense of my bicultural and transnational existence. It also played a major role in my coming to feel like Bolivia was my country too, when I finally moved there permanently in 2007, even though my childhood experiences were quite distinct from those of my local family and friends.

Many of my recent memories from those years travelling back and forth are directly related to football. Since most of the national team’s matches are played at 3,600 meters above sea level in the city of La Paz, I would often take a quick trip from Cochabamba, my family’s city of origin, to see the World Cup qualifying matches. This meant taking an overnight bus, watching the match, and returning on the next overnight bus. All in the name of rooting for the home side hoping to see them return to the footballing world's biggest stage.

These trips were an echo of the ones taken by my father when he was my age. An often-told story is of him taking the back-to-back overnight bus to La Paz to catch a glimpse of the—arguably—greatest player of all time, when Brazilian titan Pelé‘s Santos team played against the Bolivian club Deportivo Municipal.

I also have memories of city residents pouring into the streets to celebrating a national championship by Jorge Wilstermann, my local club team, which is named after Bolivia’s first commercial pilot. I can only imagine what the scene was like when Bolivia clinched its World Cup spot in 1993 following an away tie in Quito. My only reference for that wondrous moment comes from my cousins, who speak of the days of jubilation and the national holidays that followed this accomplishment. And most recently, witnessing Bolivia’s 6-1 drubbing of powerhouse Argentina—complete with stars like Messi and Tevez—provided the short-lived sensation that anything was possible.

Some of the less savory aspects of Bolvian football, such as the violence between rival fans and anger towards referees and poor-performing players, remain foreign to me. But even so, I can't imagine what the transition and assimilation to life in Bolivia would have been like without football.


“I can't imagine what the transition and assimilation to life in Bolivia would have been like without football.”

In 2010, good fortune allowed me to travel to South Africa for the World Cup. Here again I followed in my father’s footsteps, maneuvering my way smoothly through the ticketing process in order to catch as many matches as I could. In South Africa, I savored the experience of being among fans from all around the world who share similar feelings of pride for their country through sport. But I did have to content myself with daydreams of what it would have been like to see the Bolivian squad emerge from the tunnel, or hear the goosebump-inducing national anthem play over the stadium loudspeakers.

Another World Cup qualifying cycle nears completion, and Bolivia was eliminated months ago for its poor results. We must now set our sights a few years forward, when qualification matches begin for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

If and when Bolivia reserves a place in another World Cup, I’ll definitely be using my ticket-booking prowess to secure a front row seat. And even if we never make it back in my lifetime, I’m still grateful to the sport that allowed me to establish new roots and find commonalities with the millions of other Bolivians who hold onto the same hope, not only for our national team, but for our country.

Eddie Avila lives in Cochabamba, Bolivia and is hoping to plot out his trip to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup.

Global Demand for Quinoa Takes Toll on Andean Farmers and Consumers


Varieties of Peruvian quinoa. Photo posted by ApegaPerú on flickr and used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license)

Quinoa has captured the attention of consumers from around the world, but the growing international demand has caused problems in local consumption in the Andean countries where it is produced, additionally affecting poor populations who used to consume it regularly.

The year 2013 was declared as the ‘International Year of Quinoa’ by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). FAO additionally named [es] Nadine Heredia, wife of Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, as special ambassador for the International year of Quinoa, together with Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia.

This declaration by the FAO is a recognition [es] of the great nutritional value of quinoa, a pseudocereal originating from the Andean region of South America which contains eight basic amino acids for human nutrition; in addition to proteins, carbohydrates, and minerals, it is relatively low in fats.

These nutritional qualities have, little by little, made the rest of the world interested in this ancestral Andean product. From rather low levels [es] of exportation a few years ago, Peru, the second world producer of quinoa, exported [es] 7,600 tons in the year 2012, from a production [es] of 43,600 tons; while Bolivia, the first world producer [es] of quinoa, exported [es] some 26,000 tons of its total production which was a little more than 44,000 tons.

The Peruvian gastronomic boom has also contributed to the spread of quinoa on a global scale, since several typical Peruvian and international dishes have been reinterpreted [es] by chefs using quinoa. It's use, which before was not very widespread outside of Andean homes, has arrived in force [es] to gourmet restaurants in Lima.

The following promotional video (with English subtitles), produced by FAO and uploaded to YouTube, explains more about quinoa:

However, this promising panorama has its negative side: the international demand for quinoa, which causes Bolivia to dedicate more than 50% of its quinoa production to exportation, has caused prices within the domestic market to rise and therefore is now not accessible [es] to the poorest populations.

The level of unsatisfied international demand [es] for quinoa is also currently causing the United States and Chile to research its cultivation in non-Andean lands.

With regard to this issue, in the blog All about Quinoa they republish an article by the anthropologist Mauricio Mamani Pocoaca which previously appeared in Bolivian newspapers, where he says [es] that in this time of globalization farmers must adapt to agricultural production chains or resign themselves to losing their crop lands. Mamani adds that the hope for income from exportation is a fallacy:

Habrá muchos pedidos desde el exterior y los países andinos no podrán responder; entonces los países industrializados producirán con alta tecnología y con fines industriales. Los subproductos de la quinua llegará desde el exterior a nuestro país, en enlatados, en sobre, en diferentes preparados, con conservantes. Nuestra quinua formará parte de la comida chatarra y nosotros seremos los consumidores dependientes: razón por la que lloran los campesinos en silencio y saben que, en el futuro, nunca más serán los dueños de la semilla de quinua y además están conscientes que, en el futuro desaparecerán algunas variedades que desde su origen, tuvieron distintas aplicaciones en su uso. Antes de la época de la siembra, todos los años comprarán a comerciantes (semillas transgénicas) con el denominativo de “semilla certificada”.

There will be many requests from overseas and the Andean countries won't be able to respond; so industrialized countries will produce with high tech equipment and by industrial means. Quinoa subproducts will come from overseas to our country, in cans, in envelopes, in different preparations, with preservatives. Our quinoa will form part of fast food and we will be dependent consumers: this is the reason why farmers are crying in silence and know that, in the future, they will no longer be the owners of the quinoa seed and they are also aware that, in the future, some varieties that were originally used differently will disappear. Before the time of sowing, every year they will buy will buy transgenic seeds with the name “certified seed” from businessmen.

In the same blog post, Rubén Miranda writes in response:

Lo mejor sería que el productor además de venderla la consuma mucho más, el intermediario pague y venda a un precio justo el grano adquirido y las empresas beneficiadores y transformadoras inviertan en el mercado nacional y también la exporten porque deben recuperar sus inversiones, además de mejor sus procesos.

De quien dependa que las variedades no se pierdan, de los mismos productores, de quien depende conscientizar sobre evitar las semilla transgenicas [...] (d)e todos nosotros, los interesados en mantener nuestra variabilidad genética.

The best thing would be for the producer, in addition to selling it, to consume it much more. The middleman should pay and sell the acquired crop at a fair price and benefited and transformed businesses should invest in the national market and should also export it because they must recover their investments, in addition to improving processes.

Not losing the varieties of seeds depends on the producers; raising awareness about avoiding transgenic seeds[...] depends on all of us, those of us who are interested in maintaining our genetic variability.

In the virtual magazine PuntoEdu from the Catholic University of Peru, the Peruvian anthropologist Carlos Eduardo Aramburú shares an article [es] which explores the dilemmas between the exportation boom [es] and the shortage for the domestic market. Aramburú explains that in a field study in Ayacucho and Puno he found that:

los pobladores han dejado de comer quinua porque prefieren exportarla y han reemplazado este alimento por los fideos que son más rápidos de cocinar y llenan pero tienen muy poco valor nutricional. En conclusión, tenemos el boom de la gastronomía en un país donde, si bien la malnutrición crónica infantil ha caído, todavía los índices de anemia son altos. No comemos menos pero si comemos mal

the people have stopped eating quinoa because they prefer to export it and they have replaced this food with noodles which are quicker to cook and fill you up but have very little nutritional value. In conclusion, we have the gastronomic boom in a country where, although chronic childhood malnutrition has decreased, anemia indexes are still high. We don't eat less but but we eat badly

Confirming the above, Peruvian areas with a traditionally high consumption of quinoa, like Puno, have reported a shortage of the product. The Peruvian Society of Environmental Law blog reports that this is worrying, since Puno has 80% of the quinoa production in Peru, and adds [es]:

desde julio la región Puno sufre de escasez de quinua, debido al incremento de la demanda en más de 143% entre los años 2008 y 2012. Otro factor sería la promoción que se le ha dado a este producto en mercados importantes como China.

since July the Puno region has suffered from a shortage of quinoa due to the increased demand of more than 143% between the years 2008 and 2012. Another factor may be the promotion this product has been given in important markets like China.

Some citizens complain about the rise in price of quinoa in Peru, where Bolivian quinoa can be cheaper [es] than Peruvian kind:

And that will lower the price? :) RT @Capital967: Peruvian Pride: They declare quinoa a flagship product

Half a kilo (about one pound) costs 10 soles ($3.60 US dollars) on average – the price of quinoa is through the roof at the markets

Thanks @NadineHeredia for promoting quinoa. And for making the price rise unbelievably!!! Thanks? #OkNo

Finally, the website Carro de Combate shares an article [es] about the risks of the quinoa boom:

Ninguna moda, por muy ecológica o sostenible que pueda parecer, está exenta de riesgo. El consumo masivo puede traer consigo desequilibrios para las comunidades locales e impactos ecológicos, incluso si la planta que se cultiva es el “alimento de los dioses”.

Nothing which is in style, no matter how ecological or sustainable it may appear, is exempt from risk. Mass consumption may bring with it an imbalance for local communities and ecological impacts, even if the plant which is cultivated is the “food of the gods.”

Original post published in the blog Globalizado [es] by Juan Arellano.

October 30 2013

100% Bolivian: Video of Life as a Migrant in São Paulo

Denílson and other teenagers meet one Sunday at the Kantuta fairground, a meeting point for the Bolivian community in São Paulo. Photo: Agência Pública

Denílson and other teenagers meet one Sunday at the Kantuta fairground, a meeting point for the Bolivian community in São Paulo. Photo: Agência Pública

[This article, written by Alice Riff and Luciano Onça, was originally published by Agência Pública, on 27 September 2013, with the title 100% Boliviano, mano [100% Bolivian, buddy].

Denílson Mamami, aged 15, lives in Bom Retiro, a central district of São Paulo. Like all young men of his age, he dreams of going to university, having a good career, making his mother proud, getting married and having children. He is studying at the João Kopcke state school, also in the centre, a few metres away from the Júlio Prestes station. He likes hanging out with his girlfriend and meeting his friends to listen and compose romantic and hip hop songs. But Denílson – known as “Choco” – along with one-third of the pupils at his school, was born in Bolivia. He has lived in Brazil since he was 9 years old. Like him, thousands of Bolivian teenagers, or children of Bolivian immigrants, currently live in São Paulo.

The association ‘Pastoral do imigrante’ estimates that the Bolivian population of São Paulo is between 50,000 and 200,000 (a figure which cannot be confirmed as many are in an irregular situation). The vast majority work in sewing workshops located throughout the city, but which are concentrated in central districts such as Brás and Bom Retiro. The Bolivian community is considered to be the biggest community of Latin-Americans resident in Brazil. In 2010, when the Lula government granted an amnesty to the country's irregular immigrants, of 42,000 requests for naturalisation, more than 17,000 came from Bolivian citizens.

Choco's parents came to Brazil 15 years ago in search of job opportunities. During his childhood he was cared for by his grandmother in La Paz, Bolivia's capital, while his parents sought to establish themselves in São Paulo as seamsters. When he was just 9 years of age, his mother, now separated from his father, went to bring him from Bolivia to live with her in the Bom Retiro district, where they live and work in the same room of an old multi-story house which they share with other Bolivian families. In the house's living room there is a sewing workshop, where the adults work very long days.

São Paulo's Bolivian seamsters have achieved visibility in the media following various complaints of workshops which kept immigrants in conditions akin to slavery. But the mini-documentary 100% Boliviano, mano sought to investigate the way of life of the second generation of Bolivians who live in the city. Against a backdrop of daily prejudice – pejoratively called “Indians” or “Bolivias”, they describe a day-to-day life of physical and verbal attacks – they share their desire to remain in Brazil and to avoid working in the sewing industry.

Watch the video, with Portuguese subtitles, which was produced by Pública, a partnership with Grão Filmes, and shown in the 4th series of the programme Sala de Notícias on Canal Futura.

October 24 2013

This Weekend at Developing Latin America 2013 Apps Challenge (Part II)

Foto obtenida del set en Facebook de Desarrollando América Latina.

Photo from Desarrollando América Latina Facebook page.

We continue the virtual tour of the countries participating in the third edition of Desarrollando América Latina [Developing Latin America]-#DAL2013. (See the first part here.)

Bolivia's [es] envisioning meeting took place a few weeks ago and they were also preparing for Demo Day. And although the organizers have not been very active on social networks, [es] they have been virtually supporting participants.

Learn about social issues to be worked on in Bolivia during #DAL2013

Tired of your work being a machine?

The people of Chile [es] are among the most enthusiastic about #DAL2013:

Preparation for #dal2013 in Chile :)

Learn more about the first #DAL2013 Chile workshop on Flickr

Days from hackathon #DAL2013 Chile! Check out what we've done so far

In Chile, preparations for the close of a successful day. #DAL2013 participants creating real solutions!

We share the Dynamic Management workshop at #DAL2013. Don't forget Oct. 26 is the end.

In Argentina [es] there have been a couple of preparatory meetings, but the actual hackathon will be the 25th of this month:

This Thursday at 19:30h will be the preview of #DAL2013, join in to think about technological solutions with social impact

And so we start Argentina's #DAL2013.  Crazy photos

The presentations of the projects begin

Argentina presents the projects for #DAL2013. Follow it live here

Click here to see the #DAL2013 Argentina projects

#Dal2013 Argentina is the hackathon where there are more girls than programmers

It is the first time [es] that Paraguay [es] is participating in a DAL event and expectations are high:

The day has arrived! #DAL2013 in Paraguay is a reality! Thanks to all for the support and effort, now all that remains is….

Paraguay. Day 1. Just started

In Paraguay #DAL2013 is not over! The teams continue developing!

There is still enthusiasm and will for @dalparaguay. The second day of #DAL2013 has been amazing!

talking about the environment in Paraguay :)

In Uruguay [es] there is once again a month dedicated to open data and the following tweets are only part of all the activity going on in Montevideo:

In Uruguay, the expedition is in development. The data is an unknown universe!

Subgroups present the results of the Data Expedition at the #OktoberDATAFEST

Thank you for the beautiful note about the #OktoberDATAFEST

Starting the #OktoberDATAFEST

This goes to show that anybody can participate in a hackathon!

And Brazil [es] is fulfilling its schedule of activities with a view towards Demo Day on this October 26.

The schedule of activities for the Brazilian edition of #DAL2013 has been published. Check it out, share it, and sign up!

This is #DAL2013 Brazil. Tomorrow 10 other countries have their turn.

We are on the third day of #DAL2013. Developers energetically brewing up ideas!

DAL Brazil 2013 Day 1 video

Prototype Saturday at DAL2013 Brazil

This has been a quick panorama of the activities in 12 Latin American countries participating in #DAL2013, but this isn't all that has happened; the central organization of #DAL2013 has been organizing and coordinating workshops for the participants, and many have had thoughts about Developing Latin America:

Open government isn't just transparency, it's openness to prioritize, create and implement policy and tools WITH its citizens

In a few minutes, a presentation of @EscuelaDeDatos, #DAL2013 and data scraping will begin. There will be a hangout 

What's cool about #DAL2013 is the interest generated by developers to create social solutions, hopefully it will be a success!

This October 26 at our Demo Day you can find out the results of #DAL2013. Stay tuned for more details!

We will soon bring you more updates about this year's Developing Latin America.

September 27 2013

Developing Latin America 2013: An ‘Apps Challenge’ for Social Impact


“Developing Latin America”

Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente is about to launch a new edition of their regional initiative entitled Developing Latin America [es], which brings together the efforts of developers, social specialists, and others to use open data to create applications that serve the Latin American community. In their own words [es]:

Impulsamos aplicaciones innovadoras, sustentables, escalables y de alto impacto social. Celebramos a la comunidad de emprendedores, tecnólogos, desarrolladores y diseñadores, desafiándolos a trabajar en conjunto con sus gobiernos y organizaciones locales para co-crear soluciones que generen un cambio positivo para los ciudadanos. Fomentamos una cultura de creatividad, innovación y emprendimiento en América Latina.

We promote innovative, sustainable, and scalable applications with a high social impact. We celebrate the community of entrepreneurs, technologists, developers and designers, challenging them to work together with their governments and local organizations to co-create solutions that generate a positive change for citizens. We foster a culture of creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship in Latin America.

For its third edition, Developing Latin America (DAL) is transforming and is going from being a Hackathon to what they call an Apps Challenge, meaning a longer event with the goal of developing better ideas, obtaining more concrete solutions, and, as such, achieving applications that are more sustainable and scalable.

But, what is an Apps Challenge? [es]

Un Apps Challenge es una competencia entre aplicaciones. En el caso de DAL, es una competencia colaborativa que se realizará a lo largo de tres intensas semanas de desarrollo. Esta etapa está diseñada para dotar a los equipos de las herramientas que permitan desarrollar una aplicación innovadora y disruptiva. Realizaremos varias actividades con el objetivo de generar aplicaciones de alto impacto social.

An Apps Challenge is a competition between applications. In the case of DAL, it is a collaborative competition that will be held over the course of three intense weeks of development. This stage is designed to give teams the tools that will allow for the development of an innovative and disruptive application. Various activities will take place with the goal of generating applications of high social impact.


“Let's share idea and work together to develop Latin America!”

DAL officially launches on October 5 of this year, and we say officially because in reality the coordination of DAL and the different teams in charge of the event in the participating countries (now 12) have been working on preparing for it for several weeks. In fact, each team has planned various activities [es] to take place in their country during the month of October and, on October 26, there will be a Demo Day in addition to the selection of the three best applications per country.

But that is not all. After this phase, in association with Socialab, a project accelerator specialized in high impact social projects, will choose five teams among the winners to build up their projects for three months, helping them construct a business plan and find funding, among other things:

  • Co-creación “en terreno” con sus potenciales usuarios y clientes.
  • Definición de áreas de impacto que el proyecto tendrá en la sociedad, estos son co-creados con la comunidad y usuarios en trabajos en terreno.
  • Capacitarse en metodología de innovación y emprendimiento (Lean Start-Up, Canvas Business Model, Design Thinking, etc.)
  • Búsqueda de financiamiento para la sustentabilidad de sus proyectos a través de distintos medios: inversionistas, crowdfundings, fondos concursables, entre otros.
  • Generación de redes con distintos actores relevantes para el proyecto.
  • Planes comunicacionales y financieros elaborados.
  • Co-creation “in the field” with their potential users and clients.
  • Definition of areas of impact that the project will have in society, these are co-created with the community and users in field work.
  • Training in innovation and entrepreneurship (Lean Start-up, Canvas Business Model, Design Thinking, etc.)
  • Finding funds for sustainability of their projects through various means: investors, crowd funding, competitive funds, among others.
  • Generating networks with various stakeholders relevant to the project.
  • Elaborating communication and financial plans.

To learn a bit more about what DAL will be like this year and familiarize ourselves with the Apps Challenge process, our collaborator, Elizabeth Rivera, met with Anca Matioc, Regional Coordinator of Developing Latin America. Below is a video [es] of the interview:

In the interview, Matioc expanded on DAL's decision to go from a Hackathon, typically 36 hours, to an Apps Challenge, which will span a period of three weeks. As a response to DAL's growth over the past two years, Matioc highlighted the desire to have participants go beyond making prototypes for applications by giving them the opportunity to create more efficient and finished apps for social change. With the Apps Challenge, which she described as an “extended hackathon”, each of the twelve participating countries will have its own agenda of activities and workshops, culminating in the Demo Day and Socialab nominations. Currently, DAL is continuing its preparations for the event and meeting with its stakeholders to discuss their roles as mentors for each team of participants.

DAL has already generated interest in the region. For example, ALT1040 reports on the event and says [es]:

Este tipo de programas son ideales para impulsar pequeñas startups que pretenden resolver problemas comunes de la región. Lo interesante es que las aplicaciones pueden estar enfocadas tanto en solucionar un problema de tu país como hasta solucionar uno de Latinoamérica en su totalidad. Un reflejo de que podemos y queremos cambiar el mundo en el que vivimos, aunque tengamos que hacerlo una aplicación a la vez.

These types of programs are ideal for inspiring small startups seeking to resolve common problems in the region. The interesting thing is that the applications can be focused on solving a problem in your country as well as solving one in Latin America as a whole. A reflection on the idea that we can and want to change the world we live in, even if we have to do it one application at a time.

El Becario from the Código Espagueti blog reflects [es]:

Sin duda, un gran reto para países en los que no todos tienen un smartphone o una tableta, aún así se trata de un gran esfuerzo que bien podría ayudar a mejorar las condiciones de vida en la región.

Without a doubt, a big challenge for countries where not everyone has a smartphone or tablet; still, it is a great initiative that could really help improve living conditions in the region.

If you are a developer and are interested not only in a professional challenge but simultaneously having the opportunity to help solve social problems in your city or country, such as education, health, public safety, and transportation, among others, you can sign up [es] until October 4 and participate in this event on a regional level.

On our behalf, we will be providing coverage of the details of this great initiative.

Other related posts:

Developing Latin America – 30 hours of technology and society [es]
“Developing Latin America”: Open Data Projects

Developing Latin America 2012
What Exactly is a Hackathon? And What is Open Data?
Developing Latin America Draws Near!
Day 1 of Developing Latin America 2012
Day 2 of Developing Latin America 2012
Winning Applications From Latin America's Biggest Hackathon

September 19 2013

Global Voices Partners with InfoAmazonia

A new form of visualization of Global Voices stories about the Amazon rainforest is now available in the shape of a map of the website Through the established content partnership, Info Amazonia's special interactive map is being updated with the latest citizen media stories by Global Voices about the Amazon in English, Portuguese and Spanish.

The platform, a project by Internews and Brazilian environmental website O Eco [pt], was launched in June 2012 at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. It intends to “help broaden the understanding of the global impact of this important region in the world” by aggregating articles and data on the environmental changes in the Amazon rainforest:

InfoAmazonia logo. Follow them on Twitter for updates: @InfoAmazonia.

Follow InfoAmazonia on Twitter for updates: @InfoAmazonia.

InfoAmazonia provides timely news and reports of the endangered Amazon region. A network of organizations and journalists deliver updates from the nine countries of the forest. The data used will always be freely available for download and will be renewed frequently. The comparison between stories and data aims to improve public’s perception of issues in the Amazon region.

The Amazon region is one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, keeping in check climate change by absorbing CO2. Yet in the light of its importance, the region has faced acute environmental challenges.

As Global Voices reported in the special coverage page Forest Focus: Amazon created for the United Nations International Year of Forests (2011):

In the Amazon rainforest region, deforestation impacts around 30 million people and 350 indigenous and ethnic groups. Yet the Amazon, and other forests like it, are fast-becoming major casualties of civilization as growing human populations increasingly threaten these important biomes.

A platform to serve the community

“Use us as a tool”, Project Coordinator and Knight International Journalism Fellow Gustavo Faleiros told Global Voices team when offering to serve the citizen media community in terms of maps and visualization of data in the Amazon:

We want to be your desk of maps and visualization.

We took on the challenge and invited InfoAmazonia to draw us a map with the boundaries of Amazonia Legal for a Global Voices story from last July about the approval of a bill in Brazil that has opened the door to the cultivation of sugar cane for the first time in that area, which comprises the geographical regions of the Amazon forest, the tropical savanna Cerrado, and the swamp land Pantanal.

Five more Global Voices stories have already been mapped in the InfoAmazonia platform since June, representing a step forward for our community on data journalism from Latin America.

InfoAmazonia invites anyone to participate by sharing data, stories and geographic coordinates through the website's submission tool. Existing maps, organized by publisher or categories such as protected areas and indigenous lands, deforestation, oil & gas, among others, can also be embedded in other pages using a sharing widget.

August 15 2013

Bolivia's President Morales vs CNN: A Controversial Interview

Bolivia’s president Evo Morales likes to keep his distance from the international television network CNN. President Morales, a left-wing peasant leader who has ruled the country since 2006, has accused CNN of being the “the spokesman of imperialism” in the region.

However, Ismael Cala, a popular TV presenter from the network's Spanish-language channel CNN en Español, somehow managed to arrange an interview with President Morales.

Public opinion was divided after the interview was aired on August 13, 2013.

Initially scheduled for August 8, 2013, the interview was unexpectedly cancelled at the last minute. Cala had already arrived at the Presidential Palace in La Paz, Bolivia's capital:

Three months ago my team arranged an exclusive interview with president Morales for August 8. They confirmed. We travelled there and inside the Palace [the interview] was cancelled.

Later the same day, Cala stated in local media [es] that “in [his] career, [he would] never arrange a meeting with President Evo Morales again”.

His statement provoked a public reaction [es] from President Morales:

“A veces usan nuestro nombre para figurar en los medios de comunicación como ese señor Cala, habría que averiguar de dónde viene y porque se escapó de Cuba [...] que actitud tan cobarde la de ese periodista”.

Sometimes they use our name to appear in the media, like Mr Cala has done. We will have to check where he comes from and why he escaped from Cuba. [...] That journalist has such a cowardly attitude!

President Morales also explained why the interview was initially cancelled:

“Porque yo he suspendido una entrevista quejándose publicamente, a mi no me pueden obligar a hablar en cualquier medio de comunicación, quiero que sepan compañeros porque suspendí la entrevista, cuando nos entrevistan ese periodista quería editar, entonces cuando editan, direccionan a su antojo”

Complaining publicly because I have cancelled an interview… I cannot be forced to speak in any media outlet. I want you to know why I cancelled the interview: after the interview that journalist wanted to edit us. When they edit, they change the meaning at will.

In spite of the many twists and turns, the interview eventually took place on August 10 and was broadcast on August 13 during the prime time evening show Cala on CNN en Español (the show can be watched in full via this link [es]).

Photo of President Evo Morales and CNN presenter Ismael Cala, shared on Twitter by @CNNEPrensa

Photo of President Evo Morales and CNN presenter Ismael Cala, shared on Twitter by @CNNEPrensa

National media followed the interview closely and shared fragments during night shows. CNN is only available for cable TV subscribers, which reaches 25% of Bolivian households according to a recent poll. Nevertheless, Bolivian netizens were very active and commented via social media during and after the TV show.

The first part of the interview was very tense, with President Morales visibly irritated and Mr Cala trying to defend himself. As the show went on, the tension decreased and the questions flowed more smoothly towards topics of national interest and non-controversial issues.

Netizens from Latin America were divided in their opinions after the show.

For some, like blogger Esteban Morales, the interview was a wasted opportunity by President Morales to display a different image in the region. He states on his blog [es]:

Más allá del libreto repetitivo del discurso oficial, por el que no nos hemos enterado de absolutamente nada nuevo, hubo algo que me ha llamado poderosamente la atención. Evo estuvo, desde el principio hasta el final de la entrevista, a la defensiva. Pasivo agresivo a ratos, quiso quince minutos después de iniciada la entrevista ganar la posición dominante – demasiado tarde, una entrevista no es como el fútbol, o se gana la mano superior desde el arranque o se está condenado – y, aunque Cala fue muy respetuoso incluso cuando fue insultado por su entrevistado, el Presidente dio la sensación permanente de comportarse como un niño caprichoso, fatigado, impaciente y dispuesto a patear el tablero en cualquier momento. Su lenguaje corporal fue especialmente elocuente: incómodo, cambiando de postura en una silla que parecía muy dura, con señales claras de agotamiento.

Beyond the repetitive script of the official speech, from which we have not learned anything new, there was something that caught my attention. From the beginning to the end of the interview, Evo took a defensive stance. Passive-aggressive at times, he wanted to gain the dominant position fifteen minutes after the interview started- too late, an interview is not like a football match [...]- and, although Cala was very respectful even when he was insulted, the President gave the constant feeling of behaving like a petulant child: tired, impatient and ready to step out of the box at any time. His body language was particularly eloquent: uncomfortable, shifting positions in a hard-looking chair, with clear signs of exhaustion.

On the other hand, many blogs such as La Voz de San Joaquin see the interview from a different angle [es]:

La televisora norteamericana CNN en español, bautizada como Cadena Más Mentirosa (CMM), quedó en ridículo en entrevista que le realizó al presidente de Bolivia, Evo Morales, quien obligó a su interlocutor Ismael Cala a no poder manipularlo, como acostumbra a hacer ese medio de prensa. [...]
[Evo Morales] expresó además claramente que la citada televisora siempre ha representado los intereses imperialistas de Washington, no solo en Latinoamérica, sino internacionalmente.

The American broadcaster CNN en Español, baptised as “Most Untruthful Channel”, was ridiculed in the interview with the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, who did not allow his interlocutor Ismael Cala to manipulate the show, as that media outlet tends to do. [...]
[Evo Morales] also stated clearly that the TV channel has always represented Washington's imperial interests, not only in Latin America but internationally.

In a rather less militant position, Twitter user Andrei Millán (@AndreiMillan) [es] backs up President Morales:

Interesting interview by Cala with Evo Morales, who acts with great suspicion against American media, and rightly so.

Some praise Cala's patience and moderation, while others celebrate Morales’ determination and authority against “imperialist” media.

However, Bolivian journalist Mery Vaca (@meryvaca) [es] argues what could reflect the general perception after the show:

Evo and Cala: Two egos of that size will not fit on a screen as small as a TV.

This post was proofread in English by Georgi McCarthy.

July 26 2013

Finding Everything and Anything at Bolivia's 16 de Julio Fair

What are you looking to buy? If you need a new bed, vintage books, or a used car, then chances are you will find that and much more at the 16 de Julio (July 16th) Fair in the city of El Alto, Bolivia.

Every Thursday and Sunday, thousands flock to this bustling open-air market to find a much-needed object or to stumble upon an unexpected item to purchase at a reasonable price.

Starting at the early hour of 5 a.m., tens of thousands of vendors set up their stands waiting for customers to file by their goods. The saying goes that a buyer can find anything at the Fair, everything from a “pin to a tractor” [es].

Vendor setting up his booth at the July 16 fair. Photo by Carlos Sanchez, copyright Demotix.

Vendor setting up his stand at the July 16 Fair. Photo by Carlos Sanchez, copyright Demotix.

Some have stated that there are currently 500,000 vendors that are registered and eligible to set up shop [es], but at any one time, there may be 10,000 stands. Electronic goods, furniture, agricultural and construction tools are just some of the items on display at the Fair.

The Fair is an important part of the commercial side of El Alto, which attracts many residents from nearby La Paz for this informal marketplace.

Stretching for 100 city blocks, one of the Fair's primary attractions is the vehicle market. Used motorcycles, cars, and transport trucks are parked near and around Pacajes Plaza. The sale of these motorized vehicles led to the sale of related products such as replacement parts. There has even been the establishment of mobile legal offices, where lawyers can process and legally register your new purchase in no time.

The Fair has been the subject of a series of sociological studies, and Simón Yampara shares some of his findings on the Pukara online newspaper. He connects some of the phenomena seen within the Fair with Andean culture [es]:

El orden y desorden de la exposición de los productos, que en función de algún producto principal complementan los otros productos, por ejemplo la venta de automóviles, automáticamente ha abierto espacios para la venta de variedad de accesorios de auto-partes así como los bufetes-abogados de transacciones legales, pero también la serie de servicios complementarios como comidas, heladeros, refresqueros y hasta cervezas para la ch’alla de las transacciones de compra y venta. Eso tiene implicancias de lógicas: donde una cosa es el orden occidental y otra el orden andino que se guía más por complementaciones interactivas.

The order and disorder of the display of products, which in relation to a primary product, complements other products. For example, the sale of automobiles automatically opened spaces for the sale of a variety of accessories such as auto parts, as well as the offices of lawyers for legal transactions. There are other complementary services such as the sale of food, ice cream, drinks, even beer for the ch'alla (blessing) of the newly purchased items. This means logical implications: where one thing is in the Western order the other in the Andean order, which is guided more towards the interactive complementation.

The variety of items available for purchase also includes some that are not to everyone's liking. The ongoing controversy surrounding the availability of used clothing that arrives from abroad vs. new clothing made locally continues with supporters on both side of the issue. While the used clothing is generally cheaper and more accessible to families with limited incomes, the sale of new clothing creates jobs in El Alto and other parts of the country.

Other critics of the Fair cite the low control of products, such as natural medicines, that are sold without oversight and without expiration dates.

Animals are also a major seller including illegally obtained wildlife and domestic animals that may come from mills or bred under poor conditions. Facebook groups [es] have been created to bring together people against this practice.

The colorful sights and diversity of sounds is an attraction not only to potential buyers, but also foreign tourists who read about this attraction in their guide books [es]. Local blogger Ronald Vallejos Durán wrote about his experience arriving from nearby La Paz [es].

En el ambiente de fondo los sonidos son variadísimos. Cumbias nacionales, peruanas, todo al son de la moda actual; voces nasales que anuncian curas contra la diabetes, el cáncer, en base a antídotos milenarios y naturales.

En el sector autos pude constatarme que el precio de los vehículos están elevados; y otro dato curioso es que la industria china en automóviles se ha incrementado considerablemente.

Un poco más adentro me esperaban cuadras y cuadras de ropa americana a medio uso. Ropa que por cierto más de una vez fue prohibida su venta, bastará recordar que un par de años atrás hubo muchas movilizaciones y polémica en torno a éste tema.

The background ambiance was quite varied – Bolivian and Peruvian cumbias [type of music], all the latest hits; nasal voices that announce the cure for diabetes and cancer, made from ancient and natural remedies.

In the automobile sector, I found that the price of vehicles was high; and that the availability of Chinese cars were on the rise.

Advancing a little more inside the Fair, blocks and blocks of used American clothing were waiting for me. Clothing that was once prohibited from being sold reminded me that a couple of years ago there were a lot of protests and controversy around this product.

While the items for sale at the Fair are the draw, there are interesting characters whose work makes the day run smoothly. Blogger Mario Durán of the blog Palabras Libres arrived to the fair with “an open mind” following the saying “seek and you shall find.” He recounts two of the interactions with key characters of the fair [es], including Pedro the taxi driver and Juan the porter:

Juan es parte de la asociación de carritos de transporte, que llevan cosas hasta los puntos de parada de taxis, tiene uniforme único con bordado de la asociacion, sombrero de ala ancha y … tarifa única, por trasladar cosas te cobran 10 Bs. Mientras carga los muebles adquiridos y los transporta, empezamos a recorrer la feria, va pidiendo permiso, atropella a una persona, blasfema quedito con la trancadera que se arma cuando vehículos empiezan a ir en contraruta. En cierta esquina me dice: ¿a cual lado, joven?, donde los taxistas cobren mas barato – le respondo. Me ayuda a cargar las cosas en el taxi. Pago la tarifa.

Juan is part of the Association of Cart Transport, which carries items [from the market] to the taxi stands. He has a unique uniform with trim of the Association, a wide brimmed hat, and… a fixed fare. To transport items, they charge 10 Bs. (about US$1.45) While he carries the purchased furniture, we begin to cross the Fair, excusing himself asking for space, he runs over someone. When we reach an intersection, he asks, “where to, young man?” I answer by saying to where the taxis charge less. He helps me carry the items into the taxi. I pay the fare.

Whether you are looking for a pin or a tractor, surely someone has it for sale at the 16 de Julio Fair; you just need a little patience to find exactly what you are looking for.

You can see more photographs of the Fair on Cesar Angel Zaragoza's Flickr set.

July 12 2013

The State of the Internet in Bolivia

In Bolivia we have 1.4 million Internet connections. [...]

82.5% of Internet connections are concentrated in the ‘axis’ departments (La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz).

Global Voices contributor Pablo Andrés Rivero worked with blogger and Internet activist Mario Durán Chuquimia [es] on a report regarding the state of the Internet in Bolivia. Pablo shares their findings and audio of a related presentation in his blog [es].

July 04 2013

Snowden Air Search: “Be Strong” Morales, Latin American Presidents Tweet

One of the most complicated diplomatic scenes of recent years occurred when the airplane of Bolivia's president, Evo Morales, had to make an emergency landing in Vienna, Austria due to the alleged air transit denial [es] by Spain, France, Portugal and Italy under the suspicion that he was helping whistleblower Edward Snowden exit Russia.

The head of state was on his way back from Moscow, where he was participating in the Gas Exporting Countries Forum.

It is still uncertain what caused the plane in-route to the Atlantic on Tuesday, June 2, to make a U turn and land in Vienna's airport. On one side, Bolivian officers declared that France, Portugal, Spain and Italy revoked the permit for the airplane to cross their airspace and denied its petition to refuel; all because said countries thought Snowden could be on board.

Evo Morales. Foto de usuario de Flickr Alain Bachellier (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Evo Morales. Photo by Flickr user Alain Bachellier (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Meanwhile, French and Spanish authorities said that the plane was free to cross their sky borders. Also, adding to the controversy, there's an audio recording allegedly taken from a conversation between the airplane and air control where you can the pilot asking for permission to land thinking he hadn't enough fuel.

Heads of State from several Latin American nations reacted immediately, many of them expressing their opinion of the unfolding events on Twitter.

Argentinean president, Cristina Fernández (@CFKArgentina) [es] tweeted her conversation with several rulers – including Evo Morales – in her account. Here are some of her tweets:

@CFKArgentina: ”Qué? Evo? Evo Morales detenido?” Inmediatamente me viene a la mente su última fotografía, en Rusia…

@CFKArgentina: “What? Evo? Evo Morales detained?” His last picture, in Russia, immediately came to mind…

@CFKArgentina: Definitivamente están todos locos. Jefe de Estado y su avión tiene inmunidad total. No puede ser este grado de impunidad.

@CFKArgentina: They are definitely all crazy. A Head of State and his plane have complete immunity. I can't believe this level of impunity.

In this tweet she refers to the reaction of Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa:

@CFKArgentina: Rafael me dice que va a llamar urgente a Ollanta Humala para reunión urgente UNASUR.

@CFKArgentina: Rafael told me he'll immediately call Ollanta Humala to set up an urgent UNASUR meeting [Union of South American Nations]

Also, Rafael Correa tweeted [es]:

@MashiRafael: ¡Increíble! ¡Niegan ingreso a espacio europeo de avión de Evo Morales! ¿Y despuės nos hablan de cumbres EU-AL? ¡A reaccionar Patria Grande!

@MashiRafael: Incredible! They deny Evo Morales’ plane access to European airspace! And then they talk about EU-AL [Latin America] summits? Wake up Great Nation!

Afterwards, Cristina Fernández shared the opinion of Uruguay's president:

@CFKArgentina: Hablo con Pepe (Mujica). Está indignado. Tiene razón. Es todo muy humillante. Me vuelve a hablar Rafa.

@CFKArgentina: I spoke with Pepe (Mujica). He's outraged. He's right. This is all very humiliating. Rafa [Rafael Correa] is calling again.

Finally, the dignitary reported that Peru's president, Ollanta Humala, was going to call for an extraordinary UNASUR meeting:

@CFKArgentina: Me avisa que Ollanta va a convocar a reunión de UNASUR. Son las 00:25 AM. Mañana va a ser un día largo y difícil. Calma. No van a poder.

@CFKArgentina: Ollanta told me he'll call a UNASUR meeting. It is 00:25 AM. Tomorrow will be a long tough day. Be calm. They won't succeed.

And President Rafael Correa declared:

@MashiRafael: Horas decisivas para UNASUR: o nos graduamos de colonias o reivindicamos nuestra independencia, soberanía y dignidad. ¡Todos somos Bolivia!

@MashiRafael: Decisive hours for UNASUR: either we graduate as colonies or we revindicate our independence, sovereignty and dignity. We are all Bolivia!

Venezuelan president, Nicolás Maduro, also reported he was in contact with Evo Morales:

@NicolasMaduro: Estoy en contacto con Evo, se han violado todas las inmunidades internacionales que protegen a los jefes de Estado por la obsesión Imperial.

@NicolasMaduro: I am in touch with Evo, all international immunities that protect Heads of State have been violated due to the Imperial obsession.

Then he added:

@NicolasMaduro: Ratifico toda la solidaridad con Evo y desde Venezuela con dignidad responderemos esta agresión peligrosa, desproporcionada e inaceptable.

@NicolasMaduro: I ratify my complete solidarity with Evo and from Venezuela, with dignity, we will respond to this dangerous, disproportionate and unacceptable aggression.

According to a statement by the Interior Ministry of Austria that referred to the incident as a “routine inspection”, once on the ground, Austrian authorities entered the plane searching for Snowden and checked the passengers’ passports. All this, in spite of what president Morales had told his Argentinean peer:

@CFKArgentina: ”Y no voy a permitir que revisen mi avión. No soy un ladrón”. Simplemente perfecto. Fuerza Evo.

@CFKArgentina: “I am not going to allow them to check my plane. I am not a thief”. Simply perfect. Be strong Evo.

After thirteen hours detained in Austria, local officials allowed Evo Morales to leave, just after the Austrian government informed that Snowden was not found on the Bolivian dignitary’s plane. It was only then that Spain opened its airspace so that the Bolivian president could make a stop at the Canary Islands and then proceed to Bolivia.

Nonetheless, Bolivian authorities denied the search [es] took place at all, as Bolivia's vicepresident, Álvaro García Linera, declared:

No hemos permitido que se hiciese registro al avión presidencial 001 y que ningún tipo de fuerza hiciese revisión al avión presidencial porque no corresponde. Ese avión tiene inmunidad y por derecho internacional no puede ser sometido a requisa.

We haven't allowed a search inside the presidential plane 001 and no special force went into the plane because it is not right. This plane has immunity and by international law, it can't be submitted to a search.

Morales [es] concluded:

Tengo la obligación de defender la dignidad y la soberanía de mi puesto. No es una ofensa al presidente sino a todo un pueblo, a toda un región como Latinoamérica.

I have the obligation to defend the dignity and sovereignty of my office. It is not an offense to the president but to a whole country, to a whole region like Latin America.

Finally, the Bolivian government announced it will call in the French and Italy ambassadors and the Portuguese consul in La Paz to explain the reasons why they denied the crossing and landing of President Evo Morales’ airplane.

May 29 2013

VIDEO: How Two Men Worlds Apart Fought Injustice and Won

Mkhuseli “Khusta” Jack is from South Africa and Oscar Olivera is from Bolivia; they come from different continents but they share one common story: they both challenged injustice and won.

In 1985, Khusta helped end racial apartheid by organizing a consumer boycott in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Fifteen years later, in 2000, Olivera played a key role in a resistance movement that stopped the privatization of water in Cochabamba, Bolivia.

These two struggles, years and continents apart, are a testimony of the power of strategic organizing and non-violent civil resistance.

This year, Khusta and Olivera met in Mexico at the School of Authentic Journalism. A group of scholars and professors from the school produced a video with their stories, which was recently released by Narco News TV.

Lawyer and human rights advocate Rumbidzai Dube, who helped produce the video, adds more detail about the two struggles:

Young and energetic, Khusta led an economic boycott of downtown white-owned businesses in Port Elizabeth to leverage black people’s demands for better treatment -humane treatment by the apartheid government of South Africa.

In the dizzying heights of Cochabamba, Bolivia, in 2000, Oscar Olivera together with others waged a popular resistance that came to be known as the Cochabamba Water Wars- a struggle against the privatisation of Bolivia’s water; including its rain water.

She concludes:

Both men mobilised, they rallied their people to take a stand, they stood their ground. They took a risk; their activities were daring, after all they were dealing with life and death matters. But what choice did they have? Was a life without water a choice? Was a life without freedom, dignity and justice a choice? And so they sacrificed; not only their time and energy but their lives; and they both won.

Journalist Arzu Geybulla also met Khusta and Olivera. She writes in her blog that both men are “inspirational just like their story.”

Mexican blog Hazme el Chingado Favor [es] posted a short commentary encouraging their readers to share the video:

Este video no es una comedia como las otras que hemos hecho, pero creemos tanto en su mensaje que estamos motivados para compartirlo con todo el mundo y quisieramos pedir su apoyo con su difusión. El tema del video se explica por si solo.

This video is not a comedy like the others we've done, but we believe in its message so much that we are motivated to share it with the world and would like to ask for your support in spreading it. The theme of the video is self-explanatory.

May 18 2013

Bolivia's Evo Morales Approved for Re-Election Bid

Amid a strike by workers seeking better pensions, Bolivian lawmakers approved legislation that allows President Evo Morales and his Vice-President Álvaro García Linera to seek another term in the December 2014 elections.

The country's Constitutional Tribunal (TCP for its initials in Spanish) had cleared the way for Morales’ re-election at the end of April 2013, when it declared [es] that four of the six articles in the law -including the article that allows for Morales’ and Linera's re-election- are constitutional. As Emily Achtenberg explained in the NACLA blog Rebel Currents,

The court ruled that Morales could seek a third consecutive term, even though the 2009 Constitution allows only two, on the grounds that his first election (in 2004) took place under a previous constitution. The ruling dismissed a clause in the new Constitution stating that any prior mandate must be taken into account in computing the allowable term. This transitional provision, the court reasoned, does not apply to Morales because his original mandate did not carry over into the new Constitution (instead, Morales cut his first term short by one year and was re-elected in 2009 under the new Constitutional regime).

Emily also pointed out that critics say the President “should have sought a Constitutional amendment before running for a third term.”

President Evo Morales taking office in La Paz on January 22, 2010. Photo shared on Flickr by Presidencia de la República del Ecuador (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

President Evo Morales taking office in La Paz on January 22, 2010. Photo shared on Flickr by Presidencia de la República del Ecuador (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

While Morales’ supporters celebrated the court's decision, others, like Bolivian bloggers Andrés Gómez Vela [es] and Eduardo Bowles [es], criticized it. Andrés said that the court's judges have failed the test in this key issue, while Eduardo wrote that from a legal point of view the decision to accept a third presidential bid is one of the biggest setbacks in the process of the country's democratic constitution. Furthermore, Eduardo warned that the decision could trigger a new period of instability.

Emily in Rebel Currents added,

Based on current polls, which give Morales 60% support in the departmental capitals and 76% in rural areas, a referendum in favor of a constitutional amendment would likely have prevailed. In avoiding the constitutional route, critics argue, Morales deceived not only the then-political opposition, but the Bolivian people, who voted to support the consensus Constitution, including its term limits compromises, by a margin of 61%.

For the upcoming election, Morales has publicly announced that he hopes to achieve an ambitious mandate of 74%, topping his previous votes of 54% in 2005 and 64% in 2009.

However, Bloggings by boz argued that despite his popularity Morales shouldn't run:

Should he run? Probably not. Mistakes or simply bad economic luck in his third term will tarnish his legacy and harm the changes he has already made. Additionally, in running for this third term, Morales is making the same mistakes as Hugo Chavez. He is relying on his personal leadership instead of building up institutions and other ideologically-similar leaders to carry on his work. Any movement or country dependent on a single individual lacks resiliency.

Bolivians will go to the polls to elect a new president in December 2014. In the meantime, netizens are worried about the escalating tension caused by the current strikes and protests, a conflict that could affect President Morales’ chances of winning his third presidential election.

May 17 2013

First Latin American Congress of Living Cultures

Rituals, reflections, poetic “assaults”… From May 17 to 23, 2013, the first Latin American Congress of Community Living Cultures [es] will invade the streets of La Paz, Bolivia. The city will host government representatives from Brazil and Colombia, along with more than one thousand activists.

May 16 2013

Bolivian Workers Protest Seeking Better Pensions

Tension is growing in Bolivia as miners, teachers, health service workers and public university staff -all affiliated to the Central Workers Union (Central Obrera Boliviana, COB, in Spanish)- are on strike demanding an increase in their retirement pension scheme.

A number of strategic streets remain blockaded in La Paz and neighbouring El Alto, with limited public transport circulating their usual routes. Road blockades also impede the normal transit to other regions.

As protests escalate, on May 14 teachers and miners detonated dynamite in the streets of La Paz during demonstrations.

Teachers blockading Hernando Siles Ave., the main road between the south and the Town Centre in La Paz

Photo by @tIrA_pIEDRAs via Twitter

COB representatives demand an increase in their retirement pensions from the current 70 percent to 100 percent of the their salary. They are asking that the increase of 30 to 50 percent in their compensation come from public funds saved in the Solidarity Fund (Fondo Solidario in Spanish). Government officials rejected this demand as they consider that it compromises the sustainability of the “Fondo Solidario”.

Negotiations are intermittent as the Government requests COB representatives to suspend demonstrations and blockades. Moreover, low-rank Police Unionists and their wives have threatened to join the general strike [es] demanding better pension schemes, arguing the same conditions that Army officers enjoy: retirement with 100 percent of their contributions.

Clashes between police and demonstrators were reported via Twitter under the hashtag #ConflictosBo. In spite of the conflictive climate, and although blockades and demonstrations continue, dialogue between Unionist and Government representatives is expected to resume.

Police after using tear gas between Ingavi and Yanacocha streets (La Paz).
Photo by @jesus_alanoca via Twitter

Blogger and Analyst Raúl Prada comments on his blog Horizontes Nómadas [es] (Nomad Horizons):

La COB se encuentra movilizada por reivindicaciones salariales, en defensa de una jubilación digna, que no es otra cosa que salario diferido, en contra los métodos monetaristas de transferir la solidaridad a los trabajadores, desentendiéndose el Estado de apoyar con un fondo adecuado en la perspectiva de una jubilación digna para todos.

The COB is mobilized for wage demands in defence of a dignified retirement, which is nothing but deferred salary, they are against monetarist methods of transferring Solidarity Fund responsibility to workers, while the state avoids providing support with an appropriate fund to provide a dignified retirement for everyone.

On the other hand, Minister of Economy Luis Arce stated [es] that the government does contribute to the Solidarity Fund and “guarantees the payment of the 70 percent in regards to wages.” He added that the government's proposal ensures the sustainability of the Solidarity Fund for about 30 years and supports payments to current and future pensioners”.

According to Government radio station Patria Nueva [es], “the [same] authority explained that COB representatives are pursuing a ‘political decision’ rather than a technical one in order to increase pensions, which is not possible because it would jeopardize the income of all pensioners”.

In his blog [es] Boris Bernal shares the analysis made by the Centre for the Study of Labour and Agrarian Development (“Centro de Estudios para el Desarrollo Laboral y Agrario” in Spanish, or CEDLA [es]):

El actual sistema integral de pensiones no garantiza el pago de rentas de jubilación dignas que
alcance a los trabajadores para cubrir sus necesidades básicas cuando pasen a ser trabajadores pasivos y las fuerzas físicas y el mercado de trabajo no les permita continuar trabajando

The current Pension System does not ensure a decent retirement income for workers to satisfy their basic needs when they become passive workers, and when physical strength as well as the labour market does not allow them to continue working.

Further down, the same analysis predicts harder conditions for young workers in the future:

El panorama para los jóvenes trabajadores y para todos aquellos que vienen aportando al actual sistema así como al que estuvo vigente hasta el 2010 (sistema administrado por las AFP) es más crítico, porque a diferencia de los aportantes antiguos [...] dispondrán de una sola fuente, sus aportes, que hará aun más insuficiente el monto requerido para jubilarse.

The scenario for young workers and for those who are contributing to the current system, and the one that was in force until 2010 (administered by the AFP system) is more critical, because unlike older contributors [...] they will have a single source, their own contributions, that will make it even harder to reach the amount required to retire.

April 27 2013

#FLISOL 2013: Hundreds of Latin Americans Installing Free Software

Flisol 2013 Banner.

Flisol 2013 Banner.

From the Patagonia to Havana, hundreds of computer users across Latin America are choosing freedom over control by installing free software on their computers. On April 27th, groups of free software enthusiasts will be installing free software in dozens of cities across Latin America as part of FLISOL [es], the Latin American free software installation festival.

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