Amigos de Sucre

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Archive for May, 2008

Where to stay when the roads are blocked

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

When I visited Bolivia I was lucky for two reasons:

1. The trip had been organised by people who had been there before

2. I had friends there who helped me with any difficult situations

This was important, as part of the trip had to be brought forward by a day due to a possible strike or road-block.

Quite what the reason was I don’t remember, but I was lucky because using our connections we were able to re-arrange travel to and accommodation in Potosí at short notice.

But what do you do if you’re travelling on your own and don’t know who to ask for help? What happens if, as often happens in some parts of Bolivia, there is a sudden strike and the roads get blocked? What happens if your flight gets cancelled and you have to stay in a town like Santa Cruz or La Paz for another night when all your friends live in Sucre?

Bolivia is not exactly a mainstream tourist country, so many online booking sites do not give much coverage to it. One that does, however, is called Hotels Combined.

Hotels Combined is a site that allows you to search for hotels in a particular city, although you do not actually book the hotel through them. They are collating the information from different booking systems to give you a one-stop search system – and this gives them the advantage of being able to give more comprehensive cover for Bolivia.

I wondered what would happen if I was stuck in Sucre this evening and looking for a room for tonight. Not only did they find me one – at a hotel called “Cruz de Popayán” – but it would only cost me $17!

Of course, I could have used the official Sucre website – but this only gives a list of hotels with telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and some websites. No prices, and no availability. Oh, and it’s all in Spanish too – which doesn’t worry me too much, but I’m sure not every visitor to Bolivia can speak it.

So Hotels Combined would have saved me both time and money (and is available in 12 languages)! Now I’d just have to find my way to the hotel, check-in and sit down for the evening with the local newspaper to see how long those road-blocks are likely to last…



The Santa Cruz referendum

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

The answer to my last post is “yes”, there was as referendum in Santa Cruz last Sunday.

The results vary depending on which source you read, but it is safe to say that over 80% of those who took part voted for more autonomy in the region.

This overwhelming majority may not come as a surprise to many – there are strong feelings in the region about how the area is treated by the national government. It probably didn’t surprise many people either, that President Morales announced that he would not be recognising the result. In fact, he called the referendum “illegal”. His supporters allegedly burnt ballot papers in some areas and even destroyed one polling station.

At the end of the day, he may have to power to stop the result taking effect at national level, but – although the vote had been announced well in advance – doesn’t seem to have taken action to stop it being held.

Was he relying on his supporters in the region to create enough disruption so as to make polling impossible?

Or did he want to avoid a conflict, knowing he could wipe away the result with one speech later?

I would almost describe it as a “Bolivian solution” – let the people have their say, and then tell them afterwards “it’s good that you think that, but I’ll be ignoring it anyway”.

Other countries would have either banned (and blocked) the vote, by force if necessary. On the other hand, in other countries the fight for local independence has often taken more violent forms.

But perhaps some other countries could be a model for a future Bolivian political solution, and perhaps President Morales should take a look at those countries in order to take a leading role in finding a solution for Santa Cruz.

The Scottish and Welsh assemblies, for example, give those regions of the United Kingdom more independence in running their own affairs, whilst leaving decisions of national importance to the national Government in London. This solution may not be popular with everyone – especially those in Scotland who would prefer to see full independence – but it works for a large majority.

The German “federal” solution would be even more radical: give every area control over their own affairs, but keep national decisions on a national level, and make the areas agree on some of their decisions so that they are more or less uniform across the entire country – just with regional variations.

If President Morales was to go to Santa Cruz and say “let’s talk about it”, the question has to be – would they listen?  Would one of those solutions work?

On the other hand, does anyone except him to go there and say that now?



 

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