Caracas, Nov 2, 2022 (OrinocoTribune.com)—In a special show conducted by Orinoco Tribune’s editor, Jesús Rodríguez-Espinoza, we had the opportunity of interviewing Bolivian journalist Ollie Vargas.
Ollie Vargas is a journalist and writer based in Bolivia. He is co-founder of Kawsachun News and co-host of Latin America Review podcast. He has contributed to Telesur, Morning Star and other media outlets.
The following issues were discussed in the interview:
1- What is happening in Bolivia regarding the census? Why is the right wing making a big deal out of the census date?
“There has been what I call a bosses’ lockout in the city of Santa Cruz, illustrious in only that part of the country, not in any other part of the country. It’s led by Luis Fernando Camacho who also was one of the 2019 coup leaders,” Ollie Vargas commented.
He added that the matter revolves around a technicality on the national census that was initially scheduled for this year, but due to the pandemic and the lack of preparations during Jeanine Áñez’s coup government, it was postponed for 2024 because cartography issues were not solved.
This decision was agreed upon after officials of President Luis Arce’s government held meetings with governors of all departments in Bolivia except Santa Cruz, not for the lack of invitation but due to Santa Cruz governor Camacho not attending the meeting, explained Vargas.
“This is really an excuse. They’re not actually worried about the census, they’re just looking for an excuse to try to destabilize the government, and I think there are sections in Santa Cruz that want to create chaos and make an argument for separatism,” Vargas added.
2- We Chavistas in Venezuela have a big trauma because Guaidó is not in jail. Do you think that in Bolivia, Camacho is not in jail because he has a lot of friends in Washington and the government has decided to keep him running rogue, irrespective of the fact that he is a coup plotter?
“I don’t think so, I don’t think the United States would see him as a viable option as someone that is capable of actually getting rid of the current government,” responded Vargas. “I think it’s more to do with the fact that there’s a lot of problems in the Bolivian justice system that haven’t been resolved for many years, including the fact that the opposition itself has a huge connection with a lot of the people who work in the justice system, with judges and prosecutors, and just the corruption in the justice system means that people with a lot of money, which are people on the right, can pay to manipulate, to bribe, and to try and get a favorable outcome in certain cases. I think part of how Camacho has managed to protect himself is because of that and people in Bolivia are really angry about that and they want big changes in the justice system.”
3- Don’t you think that they are trying to repeat the same script that we have seen before, to destabilize the government like in 2019? Will they be successful?
“No, I don’t think they’re going to be successful because it’s so local, it’s only in one part of the country, and the rest of the country, even right-wing governors and authorities, are in agreement with the government on this issue,” Vargas said. “It’s only one area, Santa Cruz, which wants to cause these problems, so they’re very isolated, and when you’re isolated at a national level you’re not going to be able to overthrow a government as on this issue.”
On being asked about the Latin American right-wing script of building national crisis out of nowhere and transforming small incidents into violent massive attacks and from there destabilize left-wing governments and promote coup d’etats, Vargas agreed that there is always that risk, and for Bolivia there is the added risk of destabilizing the economy, as the economic stability of Bolivia has been one of the majors achievements of Luis Arce’s government.
4- How is President Luis Arce doing in opinion polls? And what are the upcoming political contests in Bolivia?
“Most of the the polls that have been carried out especially by foreign agencies have him about the same rate as when he won; he won with 55%,” the journalist responded. “Most polls are showing approval rating of around 50% which makes him one of the most popular presidents. I saw some graphics where President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico is always the number one with like 65-70% in approval rating and Luis Arce… comes third or fourth in terms of most popular presidents in Latin America.”
In Vargas’ view this is mostly because Arce has brought economic growth to Bolivia and has almost eradicated inflation while the rest of the world is suffering the inflation crisis. “Last year Bolivia had an annual inflation rate of 1%,” he added.
Regarding the political panorama and upcoming electoral contests, Vargas explained that there are still a few more years until the presidential elections, which are scheduled for 2026, and local elections come afterwards. However, he added that “Bolivia is a highly politicized country, everything is politics, everyone is very passionate and it means that there’s a sense of like all year-round campaign, even if it is not an election year. It feels like it could be an election year just because of how politically charged everything is and how politicized the country is.”
We also asked him about Kawsachun News and how the project is moving on, taking into consideration the challenges that independent anti-imperialist news outlets face everyday to remain afloat. Vargas told us that Kawsachun News is doing good work. They have launched a weekly YouTube livestream and they have more plans to increase content on that platform. He told us that they are working hard on a project connecting their work with the Qatar Football World Cup.
Orinoco Tribune special by staff
orinocotribunehttps://orinocotribune.com/author/orinocotribune/November 28, 2022