Hi,I am at Santa Cruz in my hotel room, doing some desk work before heading to the Book Fair and I wanted to keep you posted about the latest developments in this corner of the world.THE GOODMy business is set to a good year (if the bad and the ugly do not interfere too much). We have are now distributors in Bolivia for an excelent portfolio of publishers: World Bank Publications, IADB Publications, Norma (the main publisher in Latin America) and Mc Graw Hill. The fair in Santa Cruz has allowed me two things: First and the most gratifying, to experience first hand the prestige we have as booksellers (I have several people saying to me: "You are the largest bookseller in Bolivia, how come you don't have a branch in Santa Cruz, we cannot wait one year to buy good books") and, two: to expand my customer base with at least three more bookstores in Santa Cruz and one in Cochabamba. Additionally, I submitted a project for financing a publisher business and it was approved. We will be working with a Danish company setting up what will be called: Bolivia University Press. Why Danish? you may ask: well, it turns out that Bolivia in general is awashed in aid money from different countries that flow to NGO's and the government sectors. Denmark has one of the few programs aimed to private sector development. This program matches Danish and Bolivian companies for implementing different projects in Bolivia and finances 100% of the startup costs of the Bolivian project and, if approved, 80% of a three year project. THE BADOf course the bad relates to the current sociopolitical situation in Bolivia. Last week Congress passed the Oil Act. It includes articles that pleases no one: Not the oil companies, not the "people" represented by the main opposition party and certainly, not the President. Now he has to decide whether to veto the law or to promulgate it. In either case he will be labeled a traitor of Bolivia and several sectors will ask for his head.There are already several protests going on and some schedule for the next two weeks. Tarija, the department where the gas reserves are located, is on its 5th day of general strike protesting for the law.THE UGLYThe ugly has to do with the prospects of Bolivia. In addition to the protests that are going to engulf the country in the next two weeks, there is a strong autonomy movement in Santa Cruz and yesterday they have given Congress an ultimatum to call for a Referendum on autonomies for August 12. If Congress fails Santa Cruz will declare itself autonomous and provoke the rest of the country for a strong reaction.the way I see things is that the middle class is stucked between the upper class in its quest for autonomy and the lower class in its quest to regain control of our natural resources. So far the middle class has endure this without much movilization, but people is getting tired and are asking for a harder line by the President. There are already people thinking of civil war and even foreing military intervention if things go out of hand.I personally expect things to go very bad for a while but I do not think we will go to extremes. We might even change president and even have the military take over before things cool down. Reporting to you , embedded in the middle class of Bolivia, Ernesto
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