Saturday, September 27, 2008

McCain and Team Have Many Ties to Gambling Industry

Senator John McCain was on a roll. In a room reserved for high-stakes gamblers at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, he tossed $100 chips around a hot craps table. When the marathon session ended around 2:30 a.m., the Arizona senator and his entourage emerged with thousands of dollars in winnings.

A lifelong gambler, Mr. McCain takes risks, both on and off the craps table. He was throwing dice that night not long after his failed 2000 presidential bid, in which he was skewered by the Republican Party’s evangelical base, opponents of gambling. Mr. McCain was betting at a casino he oversaw as a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, and he was doing so with the lobbyist who represents that casino, according to three associates of Mr. McCain.

The visit had been arranged by the lobbyist, Scott Reed, who works for the Mashantucket Pequot, a tribe that has contributed heavily to Mr. McCain’s campaigns and built Foxwoods into the world’s second-largest casino. Joining them was Rick Davis, Mr. McCain’s current campaign manager. Their night of good fortune epitomized not just Mr. McCain’s affection for gambling, but also the close relationship he has built with the gambling industry and its lobbyists during his 25-year career in Congress.

As a two-time chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, Mr. McCain has done more than any other member of Congress to shape the laws governing America’s casinos, helping to transform the once-sleepy Indian gambling business into a $26-billion-a-year behemoth with 423 casinos across the country. He has won praise as a champion of economic development and self-governance on reservations.

“One of the founding fathers of Indian gaming” is what Steven Light, a University of North Dakota professor and a leading Indian gambling expert, called Mr. McCain.

As factions of the ferociously competitive gambling industry have vied for an edge, they have found it advantageous to cultivate a relationship with Mr. McCain or hire someone who has one, according to an examination based on more than 70 interviews and thousands of pages of documents.

Mr. McCain portrays himself as a Washington maverick unswayed by special interests, referring recently to lobbyists as “birds of prey.” Yet in his current campaign, more than 40 fund-raisers and top advisers have lobbied or worked for an array of gambling interests — including tribal and Las Vegas casinos, lottery companies and online poker purveyors.

When rules being considered by Congress threatened a California tribe’s planned casino in 2005, Mr. McCain helped spare the tribe. Its lobbyist, who had no prior experience in the gambling industry, had a nearly 20-year friendship with Mr. McCain.

In Connecticut that year, when a tribe was looking to open the state’s third casino, staff members on the Indian Affairs Committee provided guidance to lobbyists representing those fighting the casino, e-mail messages and interviews show. The proposed casino, which would have cut into the Pequots’ market share, was opposed by Mr. McCain’s colleagues in Connecticut.

Mr. McCain declined to be interviewed. In written answers to questions, his campaign staff said he was “justifiably proud” of his record on regulating Indian gambling. “Senator McCain has taken positions on policy issues because he believed they are in the public interest,” the campaign said.

Mr. McCain’s spokesman, Tucker Bounds, would not discuss the senator’s night of gambling at Foxwoods, saying: “Your paper has repeatedly attempted to insinuate impropriety on the part of Senator McCain where none exists — and it reveals that your publication is desperately willing to gamble away what little credibility it still has.”

Over his career, Mr. McCain has taken on special interests, like big tobacco, and angered the capital’s powerbrokers by promoting campaign finance reform and pushing to limit gifts that lobbyists can shower on lawmakers. On occasion, he has crossed the gambling industry on issues like regulating slot machines.

Perhaps no episode burnished Mr. McCain’s image as a reformer more than his stewardship three years ago of the Congressional investigation into Jack Abramoff, the disgraced Republican Indian gambling lobbyist who became a national symbol of the pay-to-play culture in Washington. The senator’s leadership during the scandal set the stage for the most sweeping overhaul of lobbying laws since Watergate.

“I’ve fought lobbyists who stole from Indian tribes,” the senator said in his speech accepting the Republican presidential nomination this month.

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Fears of Turmoil Persist as Powerful President Reshapes Bitterly Divided Bolivia

SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia — At first glance around this rebellious city, President Evo Morales seemed to have suffered a sharp setback this month. Mobs looted nearly every federal building, strewing offices with broken furniture and spraying walls with graffiti calling him a vassal of President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela in explicitly racist language.

The devastation is telling of the turbulence of Bolivia’s politics these days. But it belies Mr. Morales’s gathering strength in the country at large, and the stresses it has placed on Bolivia’s wobbly democratic institutions, which he has set about recasting amid rising violence by his supporters and opponents alike.

The election of Mr. Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, in 2005 was a watershed in South America, as long-marginalized native peoples took power for the first time — through the ballot box.

Increasingly, the question confronting Bolivia, a country of deep ethnic and geographical divisions, is how they will wield that power, and whether Mr. Morales can redress the historical grievances of Bolivia’s indigenous majority while keeping his country from descending into chaos.

“It’s been half a century since Bolivia has had a president with such power and public support,” said Gonzalo Chávez, a Harvard-trained political analyst at the Catholic University of La Paz. “Now we have to see how Evo proceeds with plans for a radical reconstruction of the state and with what methods.”

Mr. Morales now faces strong — and frequently violent — protests in lowland departments that are home to most of the nation’s petroleum reserves and a European-descended elite that sees its interests as threatened.

But Mr. Morales appears more and more likely to get the constitutional changes he wants to spread land reform, create a separate legal system for indigenous groups and allow him to run for re-election, proposals that have the potential to keep him in power for the next decade.

As violent as his opponents have sometimes been, they charge that Mr. Morales is achieving much of this by running roughshod over them. They say he has ignored court rulings that challenge his policies and used some of the same intimidation tactics he honed as a leader of the powerful coca growers unions before he was elected president.

As such tactics spread on both sides, fears are growing throughout the region that Bolivia’s crisis could produce, if not civil war, then pockets of fierce conflict across its rebellious tropical lowlands, which are an important source of natural gas and food for neighboring countries.

Last week, thousands of Mr. Morales’s supporters, some wielding dynamite sticks and shotguns, marched toward Santa Cruz to press leaders here to sign an agreement on a timetable for approving the new constitution. The marchers clashed with regional officials, beating them with sticks when they tried to persuade them to disarm, before relaxing their actions.

In a veiled threat, Mr. Morales said that “peace and tranquillity” would return to economically vibrant Santa Cruz if its leaders agreed in talks under way to create a framework for putting his proposed constitution to a vote.

Mr. Morales is also pressing the lowlands to share more of their oil and gas royalties, money he is already using to alleviate some of the crushing poverty found across Bolivia, one of South America’s poorest countries.

But as Mr. Morales asserts control over federal bureaucracies, which he and his supporters say were long engineered to serve the interests of the elite, his opponents fear those same institutions are being stacked against them.

The president’s supporters also are winning key victories in Congress. And as opposition has moved to regional governors and outlying departments, Mr. Morales has sought to preserve centralized power in La Paz.

Before traveling to New York last week for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly, Mr. Morales imprisoned a top opponent — Leopoldo Fernández, governor of Pando, a small Amazonian department where resistance to the central government has been strong — accusing him of ordering the massacre of more than a dozen rural workers.

At the same time, the president quelled concern about dissent in the armed forces by installing an admiral to run the department in the governor’s place during a state of siege.

Still, by adopting some of the same tactics Mr. Morales once used to destabilize previous elected governments in Bolivia, like road blockades and street protests, his opponents have found themselves on the defensive.

Mr. Morales has received the backing of neighboring governments, who fear Bolivia’s turmoil will threaten their energy supplies and want to see the conflict resolved. President Michelle Bachelet of Chile led a meeting of Unasur, a nascent political association of 12 South American countries, on Wednesday to discuss the crisis.

Without offering proof, Mr. Morales accused his critics of plotting a “civil coup” with the help of the American ambassador, Philip S. Goldberg, whom he expelled abruptly on Sept. 10.

Indeed, considerable ill will toward the United States persists in Mr. Morales’s government, particularly in relation to a United States agency called the Office of Transition Initiatives.

Washington ended the office’s operations in Bolivia last year, after dispensing grants aimed at strengthening departmental governments, which have taken the lead in opposing Mr. Morales.

“Our work with local governments — both pro-government and opposition — sought to help these governments improve their ability to deliver services to their population,” said Jose Cardenas, assistant administration for Latin America at the United States Agency for International Development, which oversees the Office of Transition Initiatives. “Any claims that our programs went beyond these purposes are baseless.”

A commanding force in Bolivian politics for decades, Washington still gives Bolivia more than $100 million a year in aid, much of it to fight the cocaine trade. Increasingly, it looks as if that money and other cooperation efforts may not survive the low point of relations between the countries.

In a move that could throw more than 10,000 jobs in Bolivia into doubt, President Bush said Friday that the United States was preparing to suspend preferences that allow Bolivian exports like textiles to enter without duties. citing a failure to cooperate in antidrug efforts.

Still, American officials, bracing for a further deterioration in ties, now seem relatively powerless to influence events here, even as Bolivia tips toward greater instability. As it moves further from Washington’s orbit, it shifts into the pull of Mr. Chávez.

“We see two revolutions playing out in Bolivia, one in the highlands that is indigenous-focused with a democratically elected leader, but at the same time with an antiglobal component,” a senior State Department official said in an interview, requesting anonymity because of the tense relations with Bolivia.

“The second revolution, in the lowlands, is for decentralized government, but quite frankly has to overcome racism,” the official continued. “What’s worrying to us is stitching these two processes together when the extremes on both sides are using violence.”

Concerns are growing over those caught in the middle of those clashes, particularly journalists covering the episodes and impoverished partisans on each side of the struggle.

Before the latest crisis, Mr. Morales was already benefiting from the opposition’s missteps, like its proposal for a referendum on his policies that was held last month. He emerged victorious with more than 67 percent of the vote, a significant increase from the 53.7 percent he garnered in presidential elections in 2005.

While governors in lowland departments emerged from the referendum with similarly strong mandates, voters recalled two of Mr. Morales’s opponents, in La Paz and Cochabamba.

Since then the intensity of the protests seems to have surprised even some opposition leaders, who now say they hope both sides can step back from the brink.

“I do not want Evo toppled in a coup,” said Branko Marinkovic, a wealthy landowner who is president of the Pro-Santa Cruz Committee, a group seeking greater autonomy for Santa Cruz from the central government. “I want Evo to finish his term while respecting our dignity in a unified Bolivia.”

Friday, September 19, 2008

On Rock Walls, Painted Prayers to Rain Gods -

TWO by two, the dozen or so people in my tour group took turns lying on our backs, hands at our sides, and slowly sliding ourselves into a narrow crevice under a rocky overhang, like mechanics sliding under a car. “Don’t touch the ceiling!” our guide implored.

“It’s better if you just wriggle and scooch yourself in,” someone said helpfully as one pair tried the maneuver.

A moment later a voice from inside called out, “Oh my God, amazing!” and another yelled, “Woooowww! Incredible drawings.”

We were in Hueco Tanks State Historic Site near El Paso, Tex., and the tiny dome-shaped niche was called Umbrella Cave. Inside, we gazed upward at centuries-old images that render it a sort of miniature New World Sistine Chapel — rust-colored, graceful, haunting outlines of human and animal forms, painted on the rock as much as 800 years ago or even more.

About 2,000 rock paintings, called pictographs, are scattered over the 860 rugged acres of Hueco Tanks, offering the visitor an experience of archaeology combined with adventure that conjures up Indiana Jones. Ancient artists, working with colored paints, hid the pictures in cavities, cracks and crevices. Seeing even a small part of this abundance requires clambering over rocky mounds, crab-walking down steep slopes, sliding into irregular niches and squeezing through narrow passages.

Whether the painters planned it or not, the locations they chose served to preserve their work, protecting it from centuries of sunlight, wind and rain. As if caught in a curious cultural slipstream, many of these images remain clear and bright, offering a vivid glimpse into the psyches of people long gone.

The park’s name comes from the bowl- and hot-tub-sized craters, called huecos (Spanish for hollows or recesses) strewn over its hillsides. Partly because the huecos are natural water catchments — or “tanks,” in Texas usage — and can hold water for weeks or months, they have attracted people living or traveling in this dry climate for at least 10,000 years. Hunters and gatherers were followed by early farmers and, more recently, Mescalero Apaches, colonial Spaniards and 19th-century settlers heading west.

Hueco Tanks park, well known to rock climbers, attracts thousands of boulderers and their ilk each year, but most concentrate on their journey over the terrain without paying much attention to the pictographs hidden in it. A smaller number of travelers come with the opposite intent — ready to tackle the rocks to see the art.

On my recent trip, my group, including travelers from New Mexico, California, New Jersey and Alberta, climbed and crawled up, down and around protruding rocks, eager to see the artifacts. Our guide was Ed Woten, a volunteer who lives in Cloudcroft, N.M.

A typical guided hike (made by reservation, as the number of visitors allowed in the park, rock climbers or archaeology buffs, is limited) can last two to four hours, depending on the group’s enthusiasm. Some spots, like a rock wall at Comanche Cave, are chockablock with paintings, while others harbor a single image.

WHILE no one is certain about the type of tools used to create the arts, it’s possible that paintbrushes were made from yucca leaves or human or animal hair. Minerals served as pigments: hematite, an iron oxide, for shades of red, for example; white clay and gypsum to produce white. Binders for the paints may have been water, animal fat, egg yolk or plant juices.

However it was done, the effect is pure magic, whether it’s the expressive splendor of a starry-eyed man as he gazes down at you with greenish-blue eyes outlined in reddish brown, a conga line of chalky-white figures with arms raised in dancelike poses, or a black-and-white figure of Tlaloc, the wide- eyed Mesoamerican rain deity, with his intricate geometric-patterned torso.

“I have seen rock art before, but this is more than I’ve ever seen in one place — layers upon layers,” said Susan Doering, of Auberry, Calif., a violinist who was in the El Paso area to play several concerts with the El Paso Opera. “And, so much of it looks so fresh and bright like it was painted yesterday. It’s unbelievable.” For her, the athletic demands of the tour were a plus. “It’s great actually,” she laughed, “because I need the exercise.”

Hueco Tanks is notable not only for its sheer numbers of pictographs but also for its abundance of painted mask art designs, about 200 in all, thought to be the largest concentration of these stylized facial images in North America. At Cave Kiva, located on North Mountain, the visitor must slither like a snake over cool, smooth rock for several feet before gaining entry into the chamber. Inside, eight exquisitely painted masks, in reds and yellows, decorate the high ceiling.

“That one looks like a motorcycle guy — I love him,” someone said, pointing to a mustard-colored visage made up of thick and thin bands of paint.

“The real thing to think about is what were they thinking,” Susana Mincks of San Lorenzo, N.M., said in a hushed voice. “Were they enshrining deities, or just having a good time?”

Curious to learn more about the people who made the paintings, I paid a visit to Polly Schaafsma, an archaeologist who has studied American Indian rock art for more than 40 years and who wrote the textbook “Indian Rock Art of the Southwest” (1980). She and her husband, Curtis Schaafsma, an archaeologist, and their two dogs, Tiwa and Tewa (named for two American Indian languages) live about an hour north of Albuquerque near the rural town of Cerrillos. Both Schaafsmas are affiliated with the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe.

Different groups of Indians spanning a variety of periods and cultures left artwork at Hueco Tanks, Ms. Schaafsma told me, but a good deal of it, including the masks, is believed to have been created between A.D. 1200 and 1400 by the Jornada Mogollon (hor-NAH-da mo- goy-OWN) people.

In general, when it comes to rock art, it’s hard to know exactly why they did it. “It’s like a big puzzle, and you try and figure it out and sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t,” Ms. Schaafsma said. But at some sites researchers can identify clues.

The Jornada Mogollon were maize farmers dependent on rain for their crops, and it is believed that in their worldview, all water, rain and moisture came from underground, where deities or supernaturals lived. For these people, the overhangs, caves and catchments at Hueco Tanks would have had symbolic, religious significance.

“The fact that many pictographs were painted in secret spots is no accident,” Ms. Schaafsma said. “A lot of them are symbolically situated as communicating with the underworld.”

Much can also be gleaned from the motifs themselves. Many contain what appear to be references to clouds and lightning. And the presence of the rain god Tlaloc — when considered in the light of what is known about Kachinas, the masked supernaturals associated with contemporary Hopi and Zuni tribes — helps to bolster the notion that the mask icons were most likely prayers, perhaps petitions for rain.

Theorizing aside, Ms. Schaafsma took a moment to talk about her admiration of the masks. “I am still really astounded by their abstract sophistication,” she said. “Many people think they are stenciled, but they are not. They are very precisely painted.”

For those who don’t get enough at Hueco Tanks, about two hours north of El Paso lies another trove of ancient art, the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site not far from Alamogordo, N.M. The site contains an astonishing number of rock carvings — more than 20,000 — largely attributed to the Jornada Mogollon. Unlike the art at Hueco Tanks, these are not paintings, but were formed by scratching or pecking through the dark weathered surface to expose a lighter inner layer of rock, and they are not hidden but out in the open, decorating rock faces of all shapes and sizes. Wander off the beaten path (which is encouraged) and who knows what you’ll come across: fantastical animals, curious faces, a trail of footprints or intricate geometric patterns.

Petroglyphs like these are more common in the Southwest than painted pictographs like those at Hueco Tanks. Nevertheless, they are enchanting.

On the weekday I visited, a small crew of students and a few teachers from Colorado Springs School in Colorado were spread out along the ridge, on a two-week field trip concentrating on rock art and the cultures that created it. Part of the students’ assignment was sketching the petroglyphs.

“There are definitely some very cool ones,” said Alex Dragten, 15. “I enjoyed one of a buffalo with two arrows in its back.”

The group had been at Hueco Tanks the weekend before, and all agreed that Cave Kiva was a favorite spot. “I think the kids enjoyed Cave Kiva the most not only for the masks that were inside but for the adventure of getting there,” said their teacher Jennifer Hedden.

At Three Rivers, the experience was the opposite — a profusion of petroglyphs, readily accessible. “Rock art is just everywhere here,” she said, looking around. “It was so fun to come up the main trail this morning and hear the kids saying, ‘Look at that one’ and ‘Come over here and see this.’ ”


Hueco Tanks State Historic Site (6900 Hueco Tanks Road No. 1; 915-849-6684; is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday to Sunday May through September; 8 to 6 daily October through April. Admission is $5, and picnic and camping facilities are available.

Guided pictograph tours — there are three tours, varying in difficulty — are offered at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Because the number of visitors is limited to protect the site, reservations are strongly advised. The areas West Mountain, East Mountain and East Spur are open only to those with guides; North Mountain offers limited self-guided access. All first-time visitors are required to watch a 15-minute orientation video.

For reservations made 24 hours or more in advance, call the Austin Service Center at 512-389-8900. For next-day reservations, camping or tours call the Hueco Tanks office directly at 915-849-6684.

Three Rivers Petroglyph Site ( is about 24 miles north of Alamogordo, N.M. on U.S. 54. Turn east onto County Road B30 and drive five miles following signs. The site is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; admission is $2 a vehicle. A camp host is on the site. Information: Las Cruces District Office of the Bureau of Land Management at 575-525-4300

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Crisis Highlights Divisions in Bolivia -

Published: September 14, 2008
LA PAZ, Bolivia — President Evo Morales is facing the most acute crisis of his presidency as deaths from violence in rebellious northern Bolivia increased to almost 30 over the weekend. Supporters of Mr. Morales said Sunday that the death toll could rise with dozens of people caught up in the violence and still unaccounted for.

Supporters of the president stood guard at a road blockade on Sunday about 30 miles from Santa Cruz in eastern Bolivia.
Relative calm returned to the northern department of Pando on Sunday after Mr. Morales declared martial law there and troops dispatched from La Paz seized the airport and other facilities in Cobija, the departmental capital. But the threat of unrest persisted in other parts of Bolivia, and political leaders in the tropical lowlands bordering on Brazil said they would resume protests if killings in Pando continued.

Mr. Morales said that the violence was a massacre carried out partly by “Peruvian and Brazilian mercenaries” hired by the governor of Pando, Leopoldo Fernández, who went into hiding to avoid arrest. In comments to a local radio station, Mr. Fernández denied that accusation, asserting that the deaths resulted from clashes between antigovernment protesters and the president’s supporters.

On Sunday, Juan Ramón Quintana, a top aide to Mr. Morales, told a local radio station that Mr. Fernández had been arrested, The Associated Press reported.

The violence points to renewed tension over Mr. Morales’s attempts to redistribute petroleum royalties and to overhaul the Constitution to speed land reform and create a separate legal system for Bolivia’s indigenous majority. Most of Bolivia’s natural gas and food is produced in the eastern lowlands, and those departmental governments have chafed at the president’s proposals.

The polarization of the country intensified in August after Mr. Morales won 67 percent approval in a nationwide referendum over his policies, reflecting intense support for him in the rural highlands and in large cities like La Paz and Cochabamba. But governors in the eastern departments who urge greater political and economic autonomy from Mr. Morales’s government were reaffirmed in their posts with similar margins.

“You have a conflict between a constitutional national power and a de facto regional power that can only be resolved by constitutional force,” said Heinz Dieterich, a Mexico-based political analyst who writes widely on leftist movements in Latin America. “If Evo does not use the judiciary and the military, there is no way he can govern.”

Loyalty within the Bolivian military itself has been called into question, however. Gen. Luis Trigo, the top commander of the armed forces, bristled at an assertion last week by President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, Mr. Morales’s top ally, that Venezuela could intervene militarily in Bolivia if Mr. Morales were toppled.

On Saturday, Mr. Chávez taunted the Bolivian military further, saying it seemed to be on strike while instability reigned in some areas. Mr. Chávez said he hoped a meeting of South American leaders convened for Monday in Santiago, the capital of Chile, could alleviate the tension.

The crisis also illustrates waning American influence in Bolivia. Last week Mr. Morales expelled Philip S. Goldberg, the American ambassador, accusing him of supporting groups seeking greater political autonomy in the lowlands. In a show of solidarity, Venezuela expelled the American ambassador in Caracas, and Honduras declined to approve the arriving American ambassador.

In Bolivia, the expulsion order came after supporters of Mr. Morales, a former coca grower, accused the American Embassy of fomenting rebellion through antidrug projects financed by the United States Agency for International Development, or Usaid, and cooperative intelligence operations established by the previous government.

“The accusations that were made against me, against the embassy, against Usaid, against my country and against my people, are completely false and unjustified,” Mr. Goldberg said Sunday before boarding a plane for the United States.

Bolivia’s neighbors are increasingly looking to Brazil to mediate between Mr. Morales and his regional opponents, even though leaders in the eastern lowlands are irked by the Brazilian president’s support for Mr. Morales. Shipments of Bolivian natural gas to Brazil were interrupted last week after saboteurs caused a pipeline explosion in the southern department of Tarija.

Santa Cruz, a lowland department that is Bolivia’s most prosperous region, was a focus of the protests last week. The most intense violence, however, flared in Pando, poor and sparsely populated in the Amazonian lowlands bordering Brazil.

Security forces sealed off air access to Pando after declaring the state of siege. Residents and travelers who managed to get out reported sporadic gunfire on the streets of Cobija even after martial law was imposed.

On Sunday, little definite was known about the killings that took place in recent days about 20 miles outside Cobija. Defense Minister Walker San Miguel said on state television that the government was working with Brazil to capture armed assailants seeking to flee across Pando’s border into the Brazilian Amazon.

The unfolding crisis reflects a polarized Bolivia with vastly different hopes and interests.

Mr. Morales’s efforts to enfranchise the long-neglected Aymara and Quechua Indians who populate the highlands depend on his ability to wrest control of petroleum royalties from the lowlands. But that more richly endowed region has shifted its attention away from the government centralized in La Paz and eastward to Brazil’s turbocharged capitalism as an inspiration for development.

In Santa Cruz, the tension appeared to ease on Sunday. Antigovernment road blockades were lifted and cars circulated freely in a city that had been immobilized for days by shortages of gasoline and diesel.

A more volatile picture emerged from Pando of the fractious Bolivia that Mr. Morales is struggling to hold together. In Filadelfia, another community rocked by violence — the town hall was burned down over the weekend — three students were reported killed.

Adriana Jurado, whose son, Wilson, was among the dead, pleaded with authorities to view his body. “I want to see my son,” a crying Ms. Jurado said in comments broadcast on the radio. Addressing Pando’s missing governor, she asked, “Leopoldo Fernández, where is my son?”

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Street fights, gas disruptions assail Bolivia - International Herald Tribune

LA PAZ, Bolivia: Anti-government protesters fought backers of President Evo Morales with clubs, machetes and guns and seized natural gas fields, as Bolivia and the U.S. traded diplomatic salvos over the crisis.

At least eight people were killed Thursday and 20 injured in street fights, authorities reported.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials angered by Morales' decision to expel Washington's ambassador for allegedly inciting opposition protesters responded by kicking out Bolivia's top diplomat. Bolivian officials, however, have told U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice they wanted to maintain ties.

In a show of solidarity with his ally Morales, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez gave the U.S. ambassador to his country 72 hours to leave and announced the recall of Venezuela's ambassador to Washington.

A two-week protest against Morales' plans to redo the constitution and redirect gas revenues turned violent this week as demonstrators in the country's energy-rich eastern provinces stormed public offices, blocked roads and seized gas fields.

Protests have disrupted natural gas exports to Brazil — Bolivia's No. 1 customer — and apparently Argentina, as opposition groups in the provinces — Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija — fight Morales' leftist government for control of Bolivia's lucrative gas revenues.

Government opponents also are demanding Morales cancel a Dec. 7 nationwide vote on a new constitution that would help him centralize power, run for a second consecutive term and transfer fallow terrain to landless peasants from Bolivia's poor indigenous majority.

"We're going to tolerate only so much. Patience has its limits," Morales told supporters on Thursday. The Aymara Indian and former coca growers' union leader has so far hesitated to mobilize the military, fearing major bloodshed.

The eight deaths occurred in Pando outside the capital, Cobija, in a rumble between pro- and anti-government bands in a jungle region, a deputy minister for social movements, told the AP.

Argentina announced its support of the Morales administration.

"It's a government elected by popular will and you have to respect that," Argentine Justice Minister Anibal Fernandez said Friday.

The European Union has appealed to Bolivian authorities to move quickly to defuse political tensions, offering to mediate between opposing parties.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon implored Bolivians to end the violence and seek consensus, and also offered to assist in talks.

"He urges all concerned to act with restraint and to prevent any further confrontation," U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said Friday in New York.

Half of Bolivia's natural gas exports to Brazil were halted for nearly seven hours on Thursday because of sabotage by anti-Morales activists, according to the affected Transierra pipeline company.

And Bolivia's finance minister said gas deliveries to Brazil would be curtailed by 10 percent for up to two weeks as workers fix a pipeline ruptured by protesters. Bolivia supplies Brazil with 50 percent of its natural gas.

Brazilian state energy company Petrobras said it has adopted a contingency plan to decrease natural gas use in its units and replace gas with other fuels.

As protesters also stormed the Pocitos gas installation that supplies neighboring Argentina, plant technicians shut off gas as a precaution, an engineer there said. But the Argentine pipeline company that receives the Bolivian gas said its flow was unaffected.

The protests forced the closure of some regional airports, and American Airlines canceled all flights to Bolivia through Saturday. Company spokeswoman Martha Pantin said it expected flights to resume beginning Sunday.

Morales accused U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg of conspiring with Bolivia's conservative opposition as he ordered the envoy to leave. Goldberg met last week with Santa Cruz Gov. Ruben Costas, one of Morales' most virulent opponents.

Washington then declared Bolivian Ambassador Gustavo Guzman "persona non grata." Diplomats declared "persona non grata" are generally given 72 hours to depart.

Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca told reporters Thursday that he wrote to Rice to say that Bolivia "wishes to maintain bilateral relations."

In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez threatened military intervention if Morales were to be overthrown. "It would give us a green light to begin whatever operations are necessary to restore the people's power," he said.

Chavez expelled U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela Patrick Duddy, accusing the U.S. of "trying to do here what they were doing in Bolivia." The Venezuelan leader on Thursday accused a group of current and former military officers of trying to assassinate him and topple the government with support from the Washington, detaining several suspects for interrogation. He did not offer evidence.

U.S. officials have repeatedly denied Chavez's accusations that Washington has backed plots against him.


Associated Press writers Marco Sibaja in Brasilia, Brazil; Bradley Brooks in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Frank Bajak in Bogota, Colombia; Ian James in Caracas, Venezuela; and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Sarah Palin's Record on Alaska Native and Tribal Issues

1. Palin has attacked Alaska Native Subsistence Fishing

2. Palin has attacked Alaska Native Subsistence Hunting

3. Palin has attacked Alaska Tribal Sovereignty

4. Palin has attacked Alaska Native Languages

Follow the link on the title for details on these issues.