Saturday, October 18, 2003


I need a new piece of luggage. The overnighter is not quite big enough to accomodate the inevitable purchases for the trip home and my old bag finally died on the way back from Mexico last winter. It was a hideous nylon Totes bag that I got for five bucks in 1990 because I needed an extra one on the way home. It was filthy and torn but it had travelled with me halfway around the world and had become a kind of good luck piece. I'm going to miss it.

Meanwhile, I've been trying to decide what part of town to stay in. I spent a night in the Las Olas sector a couple of years ago, it's close to my friends and I could do the water taxi thing but it's a little upscale trendy for a longer term stay. I'm thinking of trying what the guidebooks tout as a quaint little fishing village about ten miles up the road. It sounds a more likely venue to catch some authentic local color. They call it a walking town and having checked out the bikini worthiness of my butt today, I'm thinking a little walking could only do me some good.


The weekly newsletters have all arrived and the hot topic is the almost miraculous empowerment of the indigenous poor in Boliva. Highly charged reports have been flooding in from all camps and former President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, trying to drown out the clamor of his people demanding accountability, was still spitting out his bilious US-supplied disinformation as he fled to the exile isle of choice these days for the Latin America oligarchy - Miami, Florida.

It used to be that models and actors were the mainstay of the South Beach scene. I suppose it's only a matter of time until the new cachet will be around having drinks with deposed world leaders. There could be more coming soon. Latin America is a political powderkeg and the sparks of popular dissent are flying as the people who bear the brunt of IMF and US Policy and foreign corporate privitizations rebel against these entities that benefit most by the perpetration of the US imposed drug war.

The WODSU is after all, against them as well, the producing countries whose crops mainly exist to supply US demand. We consumers in the US should be ashamed that we sit and watch as hundreds of thousands of Latinos fight our battles. It's an embarassment that 200,000 Bolivians are willing to suffer great deprivation to march for days to make a point and the US reform movement can barely get one tenth that many people to pick up their cell phones and take 10 minutes a week to call their legislators and demand political reform.

The dynamics of this region are complicated and one of the best summaries I've seen on the current state of unrest in the Americas, courtesy of the Drug Sense Weekly, is this piece on LATIN AMERICA'S SEASON OF DISCONTENT .

The protests began against government plans -- since put on hold -- to export natural gas to the U.S. But they have evolved into a locus for widespread dissatisfaction with the government's pro-U.S. policies, including the eradication of coca plantations as part of Washington's war on drugs, and the adoption of economic policies prescribed by the International Monetary Fund.

The protesters came not only from the streets but also from the ranks of the nation's professionals with doctors, nurses and teachers joining in the action. The literate Latin Americans have a much healthier skepticism about proganda there and even in the more developed cities there are fewer outlets that carry the spin. People debate more, are more engaged in the process. I would guess they don't watch FOX News there either.

Many Latin Americans believe that Washington has become so obsessed with the fight against terrorism that it has disengaged from the hemisphere. Meanwhile, the U.S. message of free trade is interpreted in the Latin American street as cover for a ripoff of the region's riches.

It seems fitting somehow that these momentous events would occur just as Narco News suspends publication. In many ways, that site and its still emerging authentic news force lit the fuse of dissent in this place called America. At least they ended up with some fireworks.

Speaking of the autenticos, Carola Mittrany's COAV newsletter carried an archived story on a staged photo op in Boliva that quoted Alex Contreas. Alex, a frequent contributor to Narco News, was recently illegally detained by men identified as 'narco-officers' on re-entering Boliva his native country. After filming all his belongings, including his notes, they released him.

I know Alex personally from the J-school session. He gave an knock-out presentation featuring the already impressive body of his work. He's a prolific writer of great integrity and high-caliber journalist who literally puts his life on the line to fulfill the public trust that the profession once demanded. He's certainly not a narco trafficker and you can't convince me he wasn't detained for his politics. I'm glad he's safe. They shoot journalists there, don't they?

The article posted some five day before Goni's hasty departure is prophetic.

When the government cannot find peaceful solutions to a problem, it seeks violent ones. To do so it must create a good pretext to justify repression, said political analyst Alex Contreras, who also said that the supposed guerrillas were filmed by only one station, ATB.

According to the analyst, the existence of the armed groups is the pretext that the government requires to carry out repressive measures. “In Bolivia there are no guerrillas, much less in the region of Lake Titicaca, due to its geographic and demographic characteristics. There is, however, a very strong social movement with archaic weapons given to them by the MNR (governing party) during the revolution of 1952.”

* * * * *

Whenever there is conflict, the government plays the guerrilla card. When the social movements block highways, the press reports terrorist acts, attacks and armed insurgency. The reality is different,” said Contreras.

In April, a “media show” organised by the US embassy showed the capture of a Colombian citizen and four Bolivians accused of carrying out terrorist activity linked to the National Liberation Army (known by the Spanish abbreviation ELN) of Colombia, that country’s second largest guerrilla group. Contreras said that police captured Colombian citizen Francisco “Pacho” Cortés and two Bolivian coca growers and two underage relatives of one of the growers.

Alex goes on to debunk the announcement with details of the contradictions in the ensuing coverage. The Bolivian Interior Minister admitted US involvement in the capture. I'm not surprised. It sounded like just our kind of bungled operation.

Speaking of our own government, this quote from US government spokesman, Richard Boucher contained in a comminque from the Andean Information Network.

US Government Support

Sánchez de Lozada, who won the presidential election a little over a year ago with less than 23 percent of the vote, now has next to no backing from the citizens of Bolivia. However, the US government has pledged their support of his presidency. In a press statement on October 13, Richard Boucher, US government spokesman, said that, "The American people and their government support Bolivia's democratically elected president, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, in his efforts to build a more prosperous and just future for all Bolivians. All of Bolivia's political leaders should publicly express their support for democratic and constitutional order. The international community and the United States will not tolerate any interruption of constitutional order and will not support any regime that results from undemocratic means."

On October 17, the U.S. announced that it would evacuate its employees out of the country.

If Boucher thinks he's speaking for this American person, let me say yeah, I support democratically elected presidents. Let me know when you find one.

Photo by Susan T. Wehren

Howard Wooldridge's cross country odyssey is over after three years, 3 pairs of boots and six pairs of horseshoes. He and Misty are probably resting up in Fort Worth right now. I expect Misty may retire but Howard will soon be back on the trail in his relentless campaign to instill some common sense into drug policy. He believes that more than half of the police he has talked with in each of the states would vote secretly for LEAP.

Last word, to a man who has much to say on the criminlization of a plant.

"In the 15 years I was a cop, I never took a call for an accident, suicide or assault resulting from use of marijuana,"


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