Talk about Newsnight

A blog and forum.

Airport mayhem in Bolivia

  • Paul Mason
  • 31 Mar 06, 05:46 PM

Apparently there has now been a clash between airport workers in Bolivia and the police, followed by unconfirmed mayhem at various other airports. The issue is Evo Morales' attempts to resolve the bankruptcy of the airline LAB. A couple of links here: La Prensa, Democracy Center and Indymedia.

I am FOOC-ed, Evo is in the bag

  • Paul Mason
  • 31 Mar 06, 03:30 PM

Hi everybody - sorry for the hiatus in the blog but I have been "working from home" (why do we say "from"?) on the piece that goes out as part of Newsnight's Latin America week next Wednesday. The reason I could not blog is because BT Openworld went down and I could only talk to an automated voice about what was wrong with it. The automated voice has now put things right but only after 48 hours of sheer hell, having to do analogue stuff like reading books and watching TV. Anyway you will be pleased to know I've been FOOC-ed...

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Should the BBC bosses be elected?

  • Paul Mason
  • 28 Mar 06, 12:20 PM

LONDON. When I arrived back in the Newsnight office one of its most truculent producers dared me to write an article suggesting that, if the House of Lords can be elected, so could the BBC bosses. So here it is. The idea is that, since there is such flux in broadcasting, so much public debate, and so many options for what the licence-payers might want from a public service broadcaster, why not let them vote on it....

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Will Bolivia kiss the IMF goodbye?

  • Paul Mason
  • 26 Mar 06, 04:59 PM

Could Bolivia - indeed Latin America - be about to kiss the IMF goodbye? The answer is yes – according to a report this month from the Center for Economic Policy and Research. In Bolivia’s case we will find out next week: the IMF’s three-year standby facility runs out on 31 March and looks unlikely to be renewed...

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Day of the Sea

  • Paul Mason
  • 24 Mar 06, 01:51 AM


LA PAZ. Thursday. No big long entry from me tonight. We filmed El Alto's impressive march down to the main square. We had to keep explaining we were not Americans, or Goni supporters, or bombers. I am not kidding. We filmed in the main square with the multiple fancy uniforms. Evo called for a piece of Chilean coastline to be returned to Bolivia. Alvaro Garcia Linera had what we Brits call a "John Redwood moment" while singing the national anthem. A whole line of crusty old generals applauded Evo politely.

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Snapshots: Bolivia on the eve of a big parade

  • Paul Mason
  • 23 Mar 06, 03:05 AM


1600: Police Central Command, La Paz
There was a ripple of shock through the press pack when the accused were ushered in: he is an overweight American with a pony tail; she is the dark Uruguayan beauty whose snapshots, posed naked on top of two boxes of dynamite, will probably be Item One for the prosecution. All the evidence is displayed within touching distance on a small table: their passports; the box of dynamite; the naked photos, a length of fuse. Behind them are gruesome pictures of the victims: a Bolivian man and woman who had the misfortune to be living below the downtown cut-price hotel when someone set off 120 sticks of commercial dynamite in it...

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More on the bombs

  • Paul Mason
  • 22 Mar 06, 07:09 PM

The police have arrested two people - a US man and a Uruguayan woman - for the bombings. On TV here the foreign minister has accused the perpetrators of being neo-liberals and terrorists. Evo Morales, in Santa Cruz, has made a statement condemning the attacks as a provocation. Yet there is still a possibility that this could be the result of a drug war: it has not been confirmed by any police source that the explosive used was C4 (the military high explosive). However the scope of the damage to the hotel in the town centre suggests it was a big explosion...

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El Alto gets ready for the "Day of the Sea"

  • Paul Mason
  • 22 Mar 06, 04:49 PM


I have just visited the HQ of the Federation of Neighbourhood Assemblies (FEJUVE) in El Alto. They are getting ready to join the official parade tomorrow, which happens every year, to claim back the territory lost to Chile 127 years ago, and thus get themselves a coastline - and somewhere for their navy to sail apart from Lake Titicaca. Tomorrow´s march will be the first under Evo Morales...

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Two Universities square up to the future

  • Paul Mason
  • 21 Mar 06, 06:00 PM

LA PAZ, BOLIVIA. I don’t know if there is a word for “gilded youth” in Spanish but if there is, a fair selection of them are here tonight at the Catholic University of La Paz. They’ve called a conference about the role of youth in the forthcoming Constituent Assembly, which will rip up 50 years of traditional governance and hand power to Bolivia’s regions, workers and peasants. “What will it mean for you?” I ask Mariane Balderrama, one of the student TV team covering the event. “We don’t know – that’s why we want to hear this guy: we know nothing about what’s going on”...

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A pewter world of fear and comradeship

  • Paul Mason
  • 21 Mar 06, 03:33 PM


The pit head of the Dorabella mine is just a line of single-storey sheds, bricked-up into the mountain side. There’s a first aid post, a police cell and then the barred gate, decorated with plastic flowers, which leads to the mine itself. It is always open – they work a three-shift system, seven days a week. There are no managers: this is a pit the mining companies abandoned when the tin price collapsed in 1985. “President Hugo Banzer gave us this mountain to buy votes in 1985,” says our guide “and we’ve worked it ever since”...

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Dynamite on the highway - I meet the miners

  • Paul Mason
  • 19 Mar 06, 12:23 PM


The line of trucks and tankers runs like a white scar across the altiplano: the blockade is four kilometres ahead along a road spattered by rain, strewn with plastic bottles corn husks and a couple of hundred stranded vehicles. Even from here you can feel the thud of the dynamite. 3,000 miners from Huanuni have set up roadblocks on the southern altiplano paralysing commercial traffic. We’ve taped the letters “TV” all over our 4x4 so, as we timidly edge forward towards the picket line, the miners greet us by lobbing a couple of friendly sticks of TNT into the road, about 30 yards ahead...

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On the road with the "Cocaleros"

  • Paul Mason
  • 17 Mar 06, 03:06 PM


Never, ever, will I diss the Toyota Land Cruiser again. I have just driven 460km from Santa Cruz to Cochabamba, taking from 6am until 8.30pm. The last third of it, time-wise, was through some of the most spectacular mountainous tropical forest I have ever seen – and not a tourist trail in sight. In fact, in some parts of it, there is not a road in sight – hence my newfound respect for the big beast we are driving. What was in sight was clouds – below us, above us, around us; landslides – ditto. And lightning. And the pitch black dark..

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Just an ordinary day in Santa Cruz

  • Paul Mason
  • 17 Mar 06, 02:50 PM


Great steak, checked shirts, coiffured wives, the odd Stetson on display: it could be Texas, or (minus the Stetsons)Norfolk – but this is Santa Cruz, Bolivia, and it is defying all stereotypes about the poorest country in the Americas.
The city’s middle class – feasting in force on filet mignon at the Chalet Le Suisse restaurant – is living a different dream. It grew rich on those three great addictions of the late 20th century – neo-liberal economics, World Bank money and cocaine: but that was just the start. Santa Cruz is the centre of a massive agribusiness sector producing soya and beef for export. And there is gas – one trillion cubic metres of it, sitting right here under the scrub and pasture.
It is the gas that pays for the Toyota Land Cruisers, the obligatory status symbol in this town. The gas pays, too, for the private schools and the private university, the prom-queen lifestyles of the teenage girls who flirt their way along humid, palm-lined streets at night-time. Now Bolivians have voted in favour of doing something different with the gas – namely using it to develop the rest of the country...

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How this weblog works

  • Paul Mason
  • 16 Mar 06, 05:50 PM

Hello - and welcome to my blog. I'm the business correspondent on Newsnight, the BBC's flagship nightly current affairs programme - which means I cover just about anything where money changes hands or there's an organisation doing something. And that's just on the programme.

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Technorati bureaucrati

  • Paul Mason
  • 16 Mar 06, 01:12 PM

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