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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Feast of the Great Power

LA PAZ, Bolivia — Bolivia's mix of Roman Catholic and indigenous traditions are on display across La Paz as thousands of costumed dancers perform during the annual feast of the Great Power, a raucous street party that celebrates a rendering of Jesus Christ with native features and outstretched arms.
Brass bands marched and onlookers cheered over the weekend as the dancers performed elaborate routines in their quest for prizes.
The gathering of faithful fun-seekers traces its origins to a religious painting from the 17th century that depicts the Christian savior — El Senor del Gran Poder, or The Lord of the Great Power — with indigenous Andean features.
Religious believers began parading the image through poor neighborhoods in the upper reaches of Bolivia's capital in the 1930s. The quiet, candle-lit processions eventually morphed into a full-blown dance festival that spilled into the wealthier valley below.
Today, the weeklong celebration is the city's largest festival and a major showcase of Andean folklore. It has become so big that Bolivia is offering the Carnival-like event as a candidate for recognition by UNESCO.
The 62 dance troupes that began performing last weekend reflect Bolivia's mix of traditions. Women in traditional bowler heats pounded down the street alongside people dressed as conquistadors, men prancing in brightly colored ponchos, and dancers with painted faces performing ceremonial Inca steps. The most prestigious troupes boast foreign diplomats and local politicians as members.
As many as 20,000 performers prepare for months, practicing moves, searching for flashy jewelry and embroidering elaborate outfits worth as much as $20,000 apiece. After the festival begins, hired bodyguards watch over the dancers to prevent robberies.
The individual troupes are often financed by a single leader. This year, Jose Gabriel Nina sponsored a group of men who wore giant masks and heavy handmade suits covered in pearly beads. They paraded down the street performing a traditional dance that is supposed to evoke the slaves who toiled in Andean mines under Spanish masters.
"The Lord of Great Power has given me blessings. I've spared no expense here because this is an act of faith," Nina said.
In the poor neighborhood where the festival was born, street vendors compete for attention, offering food as well as herbs, potions and llama fetuses to be used as offerings to the Pachamama, a pre-Colombian native Earth mother figure revered in Bolivia.
The festival rumbles on until Sunday.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Warning of attack in South America

This post is not about Bolivia, save for mention of one person who passed away there in 2012; Antonio Escobar, an Argentine diplomat. He, like Ivan Heyn, died in what some doubt was a suicide that winter. Heyn's death was more well known, as he was a finance minister accompanying the president to a conference in Uruguay. The press in the West ignored both. The public quickly moved on.

One person who had doubts about their deaths stayed around to look at his own list of suspects, one of whom is a British citizen. And quite a few Argentinians might not have a problem believing that a Brit could be behind such a move.

A couple of years prior to their demise, a Brit was behind some shenanigans in Bolivia and its neighbours - and in 2009 there was discovered a plot to kill Evo Morales, president of the country. Again, not much doubt that a Brit could be involved in something against the country that is supposed to have stripped their ambassador and sent him packing on a mule.

But there is much more to this than the nationality of two ne'er-do-wells who happen to get involved in intel attacks on Latin America; the most famous of which is the Bay of Pigs, led by one spoiled brat named Richard M. Bissell of the CIA. Bissell trained Hispanics to attack Cuba to spite Russia, and this might have worked but for the sheer stupidity of just about everyone involved. They overrode advice from military men and cost the lives of many on both sides, along with Cuban civilians. What they thought was genius was the fact that it was supposed to look like it was Hispanic in origin and the real perpetrators could, using 'plausible denial', escape any responsibility while getting what they wanted out of it.

Fast forward to today, and the same things are planned. But having made such a pig's ear of the Cuban invasion, the powers that be in the US are not quite so stupid. Give them some credit; they do learn from their mistakes.

Presently, we have gotten wind of plans to attack Britishers and Falkland Island/Malvinas residents using Hispanics with Argentine accents, with the result that all hell breaks loose, the Brits and Argentinians going at it full force. And thus certain people step in and take advantage - people who have been hearing rumours of an accord between Whitehall and the Pink House that would give Argentina a percentage of the petroleum from the Falklands while giving Britain use of Argentine ports. Both sides could save a lot of time and trouble and end up making money, putting aside past grievances and going forward.  Not an official negotiation; maybe just a rumour. But enough to make some people nervous.

One could here jump to the conclusion that  this is a CIA job, but reflect; the CIA is an old dog not up to much. Not that it ever was. The best move they ever made was when Allen Dulles, and this is before there was a CIA, took the time to listen to Fritz Kolbe, the German diplomat who ultimately helped turn the tide of war by giving Dulles, then spy chief at the US Embassy in Zurich, intimate details of Nazi and Japanese military plans. Kolbe had first gone to the British Embassy, where their spy chief pompously turned him away. Lazy dog was he; but his action is common, in fact, the reason for the British losing the American colonies what that their commander, a Hessian, was too lazy to open a letter from a Tory informant. He died with the letter unopened in his pocket; had he read it, he could have anticipated the surprise attack on Christmas Day.

Dulles' move was simple and efficient; he listened to an informant, who, by the way, did not want to be paid. Dulles' agency, the CIA, turned into a den of snakes staffed by former Abwehr agents, whose influence led to things like the Operation Northwoods plan. I'll leave the reader to google that one and see what I mean.

At some point, the US government took the move to source its covert ops to private agencies, thus creating plausible denial. And some of these private agencies, which change their names frequently, are completely ruthless. They are able to override executive orders and get US State Department waivers to do things around the world that are illegal by many standards.

Here I will stop, having said enough, huelga decir hay mas a decir, y nosotros vamos a decirlo si alguien va escuchar.






















Thursday, May 21, 2015

Hemp in South America

Over the years I have received many questions about hemp in Bolivia. Most from well meaning people, but they are not serious enough to go to the seed cultivators with the data they need to get the right seeds - for instance, the day/night differential in weather for a certain area.

Recently  a more serious enquirer, who is hooked up to a Canadian university, showed deeper interest and is now at the stage of approaching Bolivian government officials, although he is not sure yet if it is lumped in with marijuana, as it has been in the US and elsewhere. Chile is growing  hemp profitably for seed oil already.

In the past Brazil wanted to cultivate hemp, as it was very needed for rope and fibre - it makes the best paper for instance - but Portugal did not want to allow its colonists too much power so did not encourage its cultivation. In North America its cultivation allowed the colonists to outfit an army and navy and be self sufficient. That is why North American states achieved independence before the rest of the nations in the hemisphere.

Hemp can today hemp bring about financial independence, if grown it can supply in a span of 90 days expensive, GMO free and highly nutritious oil - which, unlike fish oils these days, will also be free of mercury, cadmium and other metals with which man has polluted the oceans. The stems are a quick supply of cellulose, the ingredient of paper and so many other products; it makes a better paper than either tree or cotton pulp.

And another advantage to Bolivia especially is that it can be grown on the side of a mountain - indeed at high elevations as it is in Nepal - thus being useful as a crop that does not require prime farm land. In Bolivia, arable land is at a premium, being less than 5% of the total land mass of the country. So Amigos de Bolivia in New York will continue to support Pablo, a Mexican who is studying in Canada and presently working on an agricultural project in Viacha, Bolivia, with the hope that he can assist Bolivia in this enterprise.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Musical prodigy rocks in Bolivia

Recently we were discussing the possibility of mixing Andean music with jazz and blues. Then someone mentioned a young blind Bolivian pianist who is on the way to doing that, so here is an article from Britain's Telegraph about this prodigy:

Blind jazz prodigy takes Bolivia's music scene by storm

Jose Andre Montano Baina is just seven-years-old but already displays an incredible musical talent that has enabled him to play at some of the top venues in Bolivia.

Jose Andre Montano Baina is a rising star in Bolivia's music scene. But the promising jazz musician isn't a typical rockstar; he's blind and aged just seven years old.
At the young age of four, this musical wonder picked up the drums with astonishing proficiency and quickly moved on to the piano. By age five, he had already formed a jazz trio.
If his ample musical talent - unmatched by many skilled musicians two or three times his age - wasn't already enough, the fact that Montano Baina is blind just adds to his strikingly impressive resume.
Apart from being able to play any jazz song in the book with alarming ease and style, this Bolivian child prodigy has well-rounded musical taste and isn't limited to jazz.
"Blues, heavy metal, tango, bolero - I like everything," said Montano Baina.            
He has already performed in some of the top venues in Bolivia, including the Legislative Palace, and with famous musicians like Bolivian rocker Glen Vargas. In many other ways, Montano Baina is just like other seven-year-old boys.
"I do homework, I play music and they accompany me on the keyboard, I do math, English, gym class - everything," he said.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Small potatoes for big job in Bolivia

In the US they finance their campaigns by getting millions of bucks from banks that need favours, like a massive cover-up. In Bolivia, one candidate is getting her money grassroots, from the ground, literally; she is selling potatoes to get her campaign rolling. Felipa Huanca, of La Paz, will be selling chunyo - that is, dried potatoes, a staple in Bolivia - to get her message to the voters. 29 March is the date of the gubernatorial elections in Bolivia's nine departamentos, seven of which are already MAS districts (the two opposition districts are Santa Cruz and Beni).
The potato is iconic as it is an Andean member of the Solanaceae family which the entire world has appropriated, along with tomatoes. Come to think of it, these little tubers are big bucks.
So all the best to Snra Huanca and her papitas, Amigos de Bolivia here in NY salutes your efforts.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Bolivia recoups stolen art from New York criminals

FILE - In this April 23, 2013 file photo, a stained glass window, broken by thieves according to the local priest, remains damaged at the Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana in Copacabana, Bolivia. Bolivian officials say more than 400 objects of art have been stolen from churches, including paintings, decorative silverwork, polished gold and silver altar pieces and gem-encrusted jewelry. Photo: Juan Karita, AP / AP
FILE - In this April 23, 2013 file photo, a stained glass window, broken by thieves according to the local priest, remains damaged at the Basilica of Our Lady of Copacabana in Copacabana, Bolivia. Bolivian officials say more than 400 objects of art have been stolen from churches, including paintings, decorative silverwork, polished gold and silver altar pieces and gem-encrusted jewelry. (Juan Karita, AP / AP)



LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — The discovery that two paintings held by a New York couple had been stolen from a Bolivian church in 2002 has ignited a search for 10 other colonial-era paintings that were taken in the theft, one the largest such crimes in the country's history.
The paintings, "Escape to Egypt" and "Virgin of Candelaria," were found in the collection of Richard and Roberta Huber, who contacted Bolivian officials after learning the two large works had been reported stolen.
The paintings, each about 6 feet (2 meters) high and more than 300 years old, were among 12 ecclesiastical artworks stolen in June 2002 from the San Martin church in the southern city of Potosi. Wilma Blazz, a city prosecutor in Potosi, said Thursday authorities would reopen their search for the items and would seek help from Brazil.
The Hubers had purchased the paintings legally in 2003 from an art gallery in Sao Paulo and restored them. Their origin came to light in 2012 as the Philadelphia Museum of Art prepared to mount an exhibit of the couple's collection and checked lists of artwork reported stolen.
While the restoration work had altered the paintings' appearance, Huber said Thursday, "I felt that they were probably the same ones."
The process of working with various agencies to return the paintings has been slow, Huber said by phone in New York. While the couple awaits instructions from Bolivia on how to proceed, the paintings currently hang in the living room of their New York home.
"It's not our custom to keep stolen goods," he said.
"We bought them because we liked them and, so, we will miss them."
The San Martin church was built in the mid-1600s by indigenous slaves in Potosi, which was a key center of silver mining about 250 miles (410 kilometers) south of La Paz, and it became a museum for colonial-era art
"After the robbery (in 2002), we had to hang replicas on the walls," the Rev. Omar Barrenechea told The Associated Press.
Bolivian officials say more than 400 objects of art have been stolen from churches in recent years. They include paintings, decorative silverwork, polished gold and silver altar pieces and gem-encrusted jewelry.
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AP writer Karen Matthews in New York contributed to this report.