Government Control of Citizens?

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The Bolivian government has been implementing what it has called a program for controlling, and therefore reducing, gasoline and natural gas smuggling activities. The name of such program is B-Sisa, which translates to Bolivian System of Aut-oidentification, and is under the jurisdiction of the National Hydrocarbons Agency, a regulatory agency. The problem for the government is that, because it subsidizes these products, many people see this as an opportunity to make extra money. In addition, the government indirectly ends up subsidizing illegal activities such as the production of drugs, which make use of gasoline as well as the illegal/clandestine exploitation of some minerals.

Why is this important?

The objectives of such an effort are fine, the problem is on the procedures used to apply such control. Since mid-2013, all automobiles, heavy machinery and motorcycles owned by Bolivian nationals are obliged to obtain an RFID sticker or a card (in motorcycles something like a ring) with which the control should be implemented. The procedure is more or less like this. Every car has been registered (name, address, ID, car, color, model, car ID number, etc.) in the agency’s database by agents located in gas stations. So, for example, a person filling his or her tank drove into a gas station and while or after he or she bought gas, an agent came and registered them and their car and placed the sticker on their windshield. According to some press reports, close to 900,000 vehicles have already been registered. Currently, the agency is in the process of registering heavy machinery and motorcycles.

What is the problem with such program?

The problem with such a program is that the state is able now to monitor (closely) the consuming habits of private citizens because they gather private and habitual information about citizens. First, it is a concerted effort among various government agencies. For example, not only the hydrocarbons agency is involved, but also the Ministry of Productive Development and Plural Economy, the Authority for Controlling and Social Control of Enterprises, and the General Directory of Controlled Substances. Indirectly, the ministries and agencies involved are under the supervision of the Ministry of Government and the office of the Presidency.

How do they monitor?

First, as mentioned above, the agency gathered private information on each citizen who owns or drives a car. The information gathered was name, address, ID, telephone, car make, model, car ID number, licence plate and color. In addition, agents made digital photos of each registered car. Secondly, with the aid of the RFID chip placed in the sticker, the state (in this case the hydrocarbons agency) knows who is filling gas at the moment, how many liters and where he or she is located. The chip, as soon as is recognized by the antennas installed in every gas station in the country, establishes a connection with the hydrocarbons agency’s data base and pulls up the information gathered and the photo. When the transaction ends, the information is sent to the agency. That way, the agency continuously gathers more and more information and can ultimately monitor each individual driver.

What are the implications?

The implications are double-edged. While on the one side, the state might have implemented an effective means to control or prevent that gasoline or natural gas be used for illicit activities, it has also at its disposal a powerful tool to monitor some aspects of the lives of its citizens. The government itself mentions that one of the objectives is citizen security. In light of this, not only smuggling can be monitored at every station along the borders but also, since the information includes names, people who are crossing the borders for private reasons. Another benefit for the state is the monitoring of sales of each gas station. While this might sound good for consumers who think this type of control is necessary, the monitoring itself is a problem.

With this type of control/monitoring there is a significant amount of privacy that gets lost. For those of us who consider privacy and the liberty to move free and anonymously around, this is a true concern. The benefits just do not outweigh the costs.

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Morales "Renews" his Cabinet

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Every January 22nd, President Morales and his government celebrate the creation of their Plurinational State. This year was not different. The Bolivian state celebrated its fourth year of its foundation with elaborate and very colorful indigenous ceremonies, solemn speeches reassuring the right path this new state is taking and with the active participation indeed of the social movements. These celebrations take place mainly around the Murillo square, where the legislative and executive have their buildings.

January is also the time for the President to give his state of the nation address (see above below), that is The President speaks about what has been achieved and what needs to be still achieved. This year, Morales spoke four hours to the entire legislative body. In his speech he made sure to recapitulate all projects his government has been able to materialize. In particular he spoke of the achievements his program Bolivia Cambia, Evo Cumple made over these last years. He also highlighted the advances his transfers programs had achieved. Lastly, he particularly mentioned the launching of Bolivia’s own Chinese made and monitored communications satellite Tupak Katari. However, particularly interesting was to hear what his government had planned for the next years. For example, Morales announced the entrance of Bolivia in the atomic era. He said Bolivia will work on the development of an atomic plant to produce energy. He did put emphasis on the peaceful intentions. Another announcement that made headlines was the government’s plans to give every high school graduate $1000 as an incentive.

Source: ABI, F. Zarco

 Another custom for Morales is to revise his cabinet. This year he said he wanted to renew it. Well, he did renew it, but by re-appointing almost all except one and he added one ministry. His new (old) cabinet looks like this:

ABI, G. Jallasi

  1. Ministry of External Relations (Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores, David Choquehuanca Céspedes)
  2. Ministry of the Presidency (Ministro de la Presidencia, Juan Ramón Quintana Taborga)
  3. Ministry of Government (Ministro de Gobierno, Carlos Romero Bonifaz)
  4. Ministry of Defense (Ministro de Defensa, Rubén Saavedra Soto)
  5. Ministry of Development Planning (Ministra de Planificación de Desarrollo, Viviana Caro Hinojosa)
  6. Ministry of Economy and Public Finances (Ministro de Economía y Finanzas Públicas, Luis Arce Catacora)
  7. Ministry of Hydrocarbons (Ministro de Hidrocarburos, Juan José Sosa Soruco)
  8. Ministry of Productive Development and Plural Economy (Ministra de Desarrollo Productivo y Economía Plural, Teresa Morales Olivera)
  9. Ministry of Public Works, Service and Housing (Ministro de Obras Públicas Servicio y Vivienda Vladimir Sánchez Escóbar)
  10. Ministry of Mining and Metallurgy (Ministro de Minería y Metalurgia, Mario Virreira Iporre)
  11. Ministry of Justice (Ministra de Justicia, Elizabeth Zaida Gutiérrez Salazar)
  12. Ministry of Work (Ministro de Trabajo, Daniel Santalla Tórrez)
  13. Ministry of Health (Ministro de Salud, Juan Carlos Calvimontes Camargo)
  14. Ministry of Environment and Water (Ministro del Medio Ambiente y Agua, José Zamora Gutiérrez)
  15. Ministry of Education (Ministro de Educación, Roberto Aguilar Gómez)
  16. Ministry of Rural Development and Land (Ministra de Desarrollo Rural y Tierras, Nemesia Achacollo Tola)
  17. Ministry of Autonomies (Ministra de Autonomías, Claudia Peña Claros)
  18. Ministry of Transparency and Struggle Against Corruption (Ministra de Transparencia y Lucha Contra la Corrupción, Nardy Suxo Iturri)
  19. Ministry of Culture and Turism (Ministro de Culturas y Turismo, Pablo Groux Canedo)
  20. Ministry of Communiations (Ministra de Comunicación, Amanda Dávila Torres)
  21. Ministry of Sports (Ministro de Deportes, Tito Montaño Rivera)

Of all these, the Ministry of Sports is a new ministry, the rest stayed the same as well as the ministers.

The images are taken from the Bolivian Information Agency (Agencia de Informacion Boliviana, ABI), which makes these available in its website as part of public information.

Here you can access more information about the cabinet. It is not updated yet, but most of the information on the ministers is there because they haven’t changed.

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