‘Carnaval’ time in La Paz Bolivia

carnaval_ban17Here in La Paz #Bolivia the last few days have been #Carnaval time, just like everywhere else in Latin America! So there’s been days of music, dancing, costumes, and of course drinking…and the Bolivians do love a beer or ten! Bolivia’s most famous Carnaval city is Oruro, upon which thousands descend, but everywhere gets into the mood.

carn_floatWhat has made this years Carnaval across Bolivia a little different (and less messy) is that the ongoing drought has led to a ban on ‘water bombs’ (& water pistols) & the use of water generally at carnaval in every major city except Santa Cruz. So instead of everybody getting a complete soaking, you just get covered in aerosol foam/string! And sprayed with beer…
and deafened by the incessant firecrackers being let off all around.
Continue reading


After #21F in La Paz (Bolivia), Morales and MAS have a crisis

satire or dream?

satire or dream?

Tuesday 21 February, #21F, or ‘#21FDia de la Mentira’ (Day of the Lies), in La Paz, showed clearly the massive problems faced by President Evo Morales & his MAS movement if they continue to deny that they lost last years Referendum on the Constitution, when they tried to amend Article 168 to enable Morales to run for a further Presidential term in 2019. This is now a massive constitutional & political crisis for Morales & MAS. Whilst MAS & supporters held a large midday march & rally, it was ultimately dwarfed in the evening by the size of the protests by those demanding last years NO vote be respected. These protests were replicated around the country – reports & pics national, pics La Paz marches, report MAS march La Paz, report NO march La Paz (all in Spanish). And see our pics below.

In La Paz on the #21F this issue was just a part of the problems facing Morales & MAS. The protesting Cocaleros (Coca farmers) from the Yungas, who’d surrounded Plaza Morillo for several nights, were needlessly and violently dispersed by riot police on Monday night. But they returned with a vengeance on Tuesday morning with a series of actions/protests, that included an attack on the stage of the MAS rally whilst it was being prepared (several hours before the marchers arrived), and lasted for much of the day. Some 188 Cocaleros were arrested, with over 70 still help overnight – see early report/pics and detailed report in Spanish. Meanwhile other Cocaleros from other coca-producing areas have also initiated protests, including a blockade of the main El Alto to La Paz road, and a vigil outside the La Paz main bus terminal – see report in Spanish. Unsurprisingly, the Govt has reopened negotiations with the Cocaleros…direct action gets the goods! Continue reading

Resident Evil – a night out in La Paz’s Zona Sur with Alice

re_aliceThe chance to see the final ‘Resident Evil’ film, in English (Spanish subtitles), the other week, was enough to tempt us into the posh suburb of Zona Sur, to the south of La Paz. We’ve been fans of Alice ever since she ran around some laboratory walls to drop-kick a zombie dog in the first film, and some more of that would be the right antidote if Zona Sur was as bad as we’d been told.

hilltopZona Sur is down the valley from La Paz, although the spread of the city means there is no real gap between the two anymore. Some 50+ years ago it barely existed, being just a few large country mansions of the La Paz elite, and some small indigenous hamlets.  These days it’s big and spreading fast, both further south past Mallasa, and east or west wherever any space in the mountains can be safely found to build a property. Zona Sur sits in a number of valleys/canyons, on flat spaces created on mountainsides, and anywhere else you can build – and thats quite a challenge in these parts. It’s a few hundred metres lower than La Paz and a bit warmer. It is made up of a number of neighbourhoods (barrios) such as CotaCota, San Miguel & Calacota, along with some seriously exclusive & gated urbanizations tucked away from the crowds. Continue reading

Bolivia’s constitutional crisis may explode onto the streets on #21F

21fdiadelamentiraThe deepening constitutional crisis in Bolivia may just get worse this week, as both sides of the argument take to the streets on the 21 February, or #21F (or #21FDia de la mentira), exactly one year after the Referendum result that initiated the crisis. At the same time, President Evo Morales, arguably Bolivia’s finest President, seems to have lost his magic touch, becoming increasingly known as ‘Ego’ Morales.

conevosiOn 21 February 2016, in a Referendum organised by Morales & his MAS controlled Govt (MAS – Moviemento al Socialismo, or Movement towards Socialism – history or in brief). People were asked to vote Si (Yes) or No to a proposal that would allow any President a 3rd five year term of office. And MAS made it clear that Morales, elected President in late 2005 & already elected twice more, would be their candidate in 2019 (Morales first term in office has already been discounted under a previous constitutional change, so technically he’s only on his 2nd term now!). To the surprise of many, the NO votes won, by a vote of approx 51.3% to 48.7%, on a turn out of approx 85%. Continue reading

Coca farmers surround Govt. buildings in La Paz, Bolivia

cocaleros1A major dispute has broken out in Bolivia between the Coca farmers, or ‘cocaleros’, of the Yungas region, and the Government of President Evo Morales. On Friday 17 February Cocaleros from this region arrived in La Paz and have occupied the streets surrounding Plaza Morillo where key Governmenta buildings & the Presidential palace are located. When we visited yesterday at least 5000 farmers were sleeping out in the streets, whilst Bolivian riot police blockaded the entrances to the Plaza. See Bolivian media reports here and here and here (in Spanish). Continue reading

An hour with Crazy Dave outta San Pedro prison

crazy_daveMost days at 1pm you can catch ‘Crazy Dave’ in Plaza San Pedro/Plaza Sucre, right outside La Paz’s infamous San Pedro prison – where he spent the last 14+years of his life before coming out on parole. Dave’s appearance is part-performance storytelling, part-rant, with some music thrown in. It is a tragi-comedy in many parts, and the tragedy at the centre of it all is Dave himself, just one of so many victims of state sanctioned brutality, conspiracy, corruption & abuse. Living proof indeed that prison really doesn’t work.

Anyone can roll up for free and listen to Dave as he recounts his story whilst throwing in some juicy titbits about the realities/horrors of San Pedro, and some of those he met inside – such as the author & subject of the famous book ‘Marching Powder’ (do read the book by Rusty Young, 2003 – possible free download – nearly all of it’s true according to Dave, or see this wikipage – although from what Dave said it may be rather outdated now). Our interest though is in Dave’s story, not the juicy tibits, and we are aware Dave’s facts may have a degree of artistic licence (see these other blogs for example 1, 2, 3, 4). So this is his story, as taken from our notes of his ‘performance’…. Continue reading