Friday, 22 July 2011

Chapter 21 and 22

Ok. This is not going to be easy. I want to finish this, it's been too long. After the death in October of our Bo Nesto, ( Bob's Obituary) I left it too long. The last chapters were not finished, there were lots of notes from Bob to himself about things he wanted to include but never got around to. I cleaned them up as much as possible and hope the story works anyway. This is clearly unfinished, and needed more work, but thanks for reading. A third book was underway, working title Evo/Devo about the present regime. I will post this next, but have no idea of how finished it was. There's a revised version but still lots of notes for further work. The last few times I saw Bob, he kept going on at me to publish the third book. I kept going on at him to finish the second book. Too sad, so I'll stop there.

Here'a how to find the third book: Evo Devo to appear soon!

Chapter 21: Going Goni Gone

The very next morning, Koff awoke early with the realization that events, although grinding to their inevitable finale, were moving too slowly and a decisive push would be necessary to force Goni into resignation or exile. Huddled in the rear of the rickety truck on which volunteers from the Alto were being ferried past the heaps of stones and rubble that littered the motorway, he endeavoured to explain to the fellow members of the krew the inspiration that had come to him in last night’s dreamscape.

“The main affinity that ties us to Goni is that we’re all gringos.” And as he had anticipated, the others bristled at such a connection. “There are dumbo gringos and.......” Sandy began protesting.

“Us. It’s all the same to those battling, life and death, hell or high water, against Goni at this moment. So why not recognize the association. I propose in the name of all righteous gringos that we found right now our own Gringos Against Goni Society.” Whereupon he burst into song to the chorus of the Chuck Berry song, Johnny B. Goode, singing, namely, what became the new club’s official chant, “Altogether now, ‘Go go Goni – Goni begone’ ‘Go go Goni – Goni begone’ ‘Go go Goni – Goni begone’.

This bout of inspiration from Koff sealed the point straightaway and the krew on an ardent high swear their allegiance to this Society which exists even to this day while Goni skulks in his protected exile in Chicago or Miami or wherever.

“You notice the motorway’s still open,” a spokesman in the rattling truck remarked, interrupting the krew’s euphoric singing a little. True, even all the boulders strewn so randomly on the tarmac would not prevent a determined onslaught from an army task force.

“Let’s deal with this matter first,” chimed in another voice. “This will require flexing some muscle, lads and lassies, but I’m sure we can manage it.” Marta and the Maravillas, reconciled, revelling in the freedom they have so laboriously acquired, lend their muscle power.

The men in the back banged on the cab to get the driver’s attention and then directed him to a point where the railway tracks most closely approached the motorway. Then we all clambered off the truck and, by dint of superhuman effort, Sandy to the fore, the krew and the others helped shove a train wagon across the motorway to definitely block access to downtown. This amazing occurrence was confirmed by the famous press photo of the event: No bullshit – the Alto applies its stranglehold, after which Jim, as he predicted, now finds his position untenable and is forced to make his move and flee to Khazari regions, wherever those may be. Jim claimed that his mysterious contact from the semi-government organization VOID, the elusive Jan, had reappeared, bearing new instructions. Jim knows only too well that this messenger from VOID is truly a man to avoid, a manipulator, bringing with him only complications and that now was the moment to flee and make himself scarce.

A word, at this point, on Jim’s distinctive contribution to Goni’s downfall. He might claim that his presence at this time and place was mere coincidence. Others would contest this appraisal as Jim’s final attempt to downplay his vital influence in determining the outcome. There is more to this loop than meets the eye. Jim is certainly a key player, though nevertheless mysterious. Why was Jim so unsettled by the Void agent’s sudden reappearance? What assignment had been chosen for him? And where is this other dimension he so glibly refers to? Leading to a final question; where is he now?

Chapter 22: The Showdown/Flight

At last even the steadiest citizens of downtown La Paz saw that Goni’s future was inescapably decided, and they joined in the clamour of the Alteños and those who resided on the upper flanks of the city to ensure that the noose around Goni’s neck tightened. Each morning, grim, baying crowds congregated around San Francisco church, and staying beyond nightfall, defied the increasingly nervous troops who now were openly hesitating to add to the bloodshed already wrought.

Columns of protesters marched past the heavily guarded US embassy on their way to encircle the Presidential residence just below. Obviously the game of cat and mouse was over. Check mate loomed. Only a question of time until the mob managed to haul Goni from his lair and strung him up from a nearby lamppost, or even from the nearby statue of Confucius: “a good traveller leaves no track,” (Lao-Tzu).

The loyalty of the adjacent Military Police command was even called into question, but not the unconditional backing of Goni’s allies in Washington. So, for these supporters, the only unresolved issue consisted in how to achieve the disgraced president’s removal from Bolivian soil, quickly, efficiently, with maximum security and minimum fuss. At the last possible opportunity, an unmarked limousine tore out of the rear garage of the residency and sped towards the shelter of an isolated army camp in the deep south of the city from where a helicopter (with or without the daredevil Flying Fox at the controls – he having problems of his own right now) deposited Goni on a specially chartered fight to Miami.

The first reaction to Goni’s sudden departure, convening a street party to celebrate a popular victory, was soon tempered by a sense of humiliation that the miscreant had been permitted to escape so easily, tinged with profound mourning for the dead in the conflict. What should have occasioned a feeling of relief – now this episode is over, we can continue with our normal lives – instead confused the people. Normality receded to a distant horizon, to be replaced by the shambles of day-to-day reality.

Meanwhile our stalwart krew did recognize that the moment had arrived to take stock of their situation. Sandy, Geordie and Koff chose a quiet Chinese restaurant to plan their own retreat. But first, Koff insisted on an official launch of the Gringos Against Goni Society , treating his mates to an excellent bottle of French champagne in honour of the occasion.

“I wonder what Jim is up to,” remarked Geordie.

“Who knows,” the reply came back.

“A toast to Goni,” mockingly suggested Sandy. “I wonder how the tyrant is feeling right now.”

“Who cares,” the reply came back.

Chapter 23: the Windy, Stormy City

For the record, Goni eventually returned to his home city of Chicago where the forrnative years of his schooling and university career had been spent. There he was duly afforded the status of political asylum by the US government to protect him in what they considered to be his exile. The cover-up is complete despite some relentless hounding by the Gringos Against Goni club at every conceivable opportunity.

There are videos taken of Goni brooding on a park bench overlookng Lakeside Drive, but who can divine his thoughts? Given his known arrogance, one assumes that he is considering the ingratitude of the Bolivians, either that or he is lapsing into fits of madness like some latter day King Lear; his problem entirely.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Chapter 19 & 20

Ok, it's the home stretch, by any home of the imagination, but that's not what I'm here to talk about. Came to talk about La-di-da. I'm still waiting for Jim. Where is he?!

Chapter 19: The South under threat


         Sarah heads south again. Just as well, for when she insists on entering the household of her chosen man, Alejandro, she finds Joanne entirely befuddled by his oh-so-smooth attentions proving that not every Ali should be rated as an ally, deserving of unstinting allegiance.  Anyway, Ventura’s vindictive curiosity has led to meddlesome questioning about the whereabouts and motivation of her son, Jim.

         So, Sandy wisely decides to ignore both lovers’ pleas and willy-nilly snatches Joanne from her man and his menagerie and makes good Joanne’s escape before Ventura is informed and has any chance to pester her with any further questions.


         As their response to outrage at Goni’s persistent misgovernment, the hitherto obedient mass of servants, the chauffeurs and gardeners who had always tended to the extravagant needs of the bosses, those who,  after all, paid their admittedly meagre wages, rose as one to discomfort the residents of the Zona Sewer in such ways as they could invent. This started as a type of diversion - leaving the trash stinking and unemptied at the back of the garage - but rapidly turned nasty, dangerous and threatening. Not feeding pampered pets is one thing, but poisoning them is another matter. And when precious vehicles are stolen and ransacked, then abandoned to burn in the wastes beyond Achumani, ye gods we’re talking about sacred property rights.

         Meanwhile in the Ventura enclave, Waldo was preparing a rearguard action to defend his chattels; indirectly because he wasn’t going to bloody his own hands. But as a ranking Colonel, and still enthused by the memory of his valiant role in organizing the February massacres, Ventura gave the orders to ensure that the army reserves were alerted and positioned to avert the danger.

         Inevitably, Waldo’s grand mansion had come under threat, if only to reinforce his feelings of paranoia. What he suspected was a perverse vengeance applied from Jim’s perspective. What he never imagined in his wildest fantasies, was that his entire personal staff, from the cook to the maid to his valet had been recruited from a single community on the Island of the Sun. No-one is claiming this connection owed anything to Jim, but certainly they formed one clan or maybe even a family and were united in their repugnance against Waldo’s estate and all it implied.

       So this network sent subtle signals to those from the outlying communities who were marching on the rich suburbs to indicate that this residence was worth taking; moreover it was well worthy of the honour. Now, I can’t say if Waldo dreamt of the imminent threat or whether some residual subconscious knowledge still operating within his numbskull alerted him, but, anyway, he called out the army in time to prevent the advance of the hordes and thus saved his property and that of his neighbours from being ransacked.

      So, on Waldo’s shoulders lay the responsibility for the infamous Ovejuyo massacre, which is where the army trapped/ confronted the marchers, mercilessly killing many of their number, thereby adding another millstone/albatross round Goni’s dismal neck/record and thereby hastening the inevitability of his departure.





Chapter 20:  Ignatz Buries His Dead


       When the news of the killings at Ovejuyo filtered through to the Alto, the population of the overspill city on the heights were intensely aware that their turn to face the government killers was fast approaching. Maravillas roused- Mario  has finally abandoned that Hotel – thrown in his cards, taken his chances where he belongs,  up in the Alto; the irony of assuming a position in the heights to gauge the true depth of the problem


       Likewise appalled, in his own way, at the prospect of the impending massacres, Ignatz called his flock to a prayer session outdoors by the Round Square under the gaze of his mammoth statue of a flayed, bleeding Christ. The wedding-cake style Alpine church (those damned churches!) that Ignatz had constructed also witnessed this religious procession. Jovial witnesses or spies?


     “All true believers, on your knees,” hollered Ignatz. But the Alto was having none of that; they were on their feet (alert, ready for action) and what Ignatz had programmed as an occasion for the Catholic faithful turned instead into a key march which chose as its destination the exit from the Alto at Rio Seco. The purpose of the enraged alteños was to impede any fuel or food supplies reaching downtown, whose recalcitrant population, or at least those foolish few who still persisted in viewing Goni’s administration as legitimate, were going to be starved into submission.


      But the army recruits were on site before the marchers arrived and obeying explicit orders from the defence minister Berzain himself (last gasp- final macabre apparition of banshee) opened fire indiscriminately on the defenceless masses. The blood spattered dead and dying splayed on the Rio Seco highway presented  testimony of yet another massacre to crush Goni’s already tarnished reputation.


          At which point, having headed the deadly (potentially fatal) march, Ignatz insisted on reverting to his role of priest and administering last rites and the Christian rituals of burial for the victims. Of course he was within his rites, as he saw them, but an enraged Sandy exploded at his sanctimonious pretensions. “You hypocrite,” she yelled, “why can’t you take the blame for the march you organized? You represent a religion that glorifies death and in no way is the crucifixion life affirming. You are as answerable as Goni for what’s happening.”  After which outburst, Sandy stormed off, leaving the holy Ignatz to bury his dead, with a fantasmal reappearance of Jim smirking among the shoe-shiners, issuing instructions into his mobile phone.                                                                       


Saturday, 23 January 2010

Chapter 17 & 18

Alrighty, back in Blighty. Words fail, snow didn't. But after December's huge events involving Bo Nesto, it's good to get back to this. I now have in my possession the whole of the rest of GGG, as well as the third book, and will be posting regularly. Last I heard, Bo is playing catch with Douglas Adams and working on volume four of the trilogy. That leaves a fifth one before he has to stop catching up, ya hear me, Bo? (btw: whoever you are, dear reader, if you're reading this, and you haven't heard from me in December, I'd like to hear from you! you can post a comment, or just email me. please.)

Chapter 17: Back in the Alto-– trench warfare

Meanwhile Geordie and krew have settled down unobtrusively, have taken advantage of the altered circumstances to disappear into practical invisibility.
There are plenty of tasks to hand. They set to work and it seems that no-one considers their presence an intrusion. Everybody is too busy, piling stones to block the strategic Senkata depot from where the essential supplies of fuel are distributed to the city below. Fortunately, the roads leading to Senkata are as yet unasphalted, readily yielding their cache of rubble, ranging from pebbles to boulders, to the diggers. Inexorably, Senkata is isolated, no matter how the troops on the orders of their officers unwillingly labour to clear a path through. Spare a thought for these reserve army recruits – but not too many- they deserve whatever opprobrium is heaped upon them for their mindless docility. Anyhow , the piles they had set aside by day, would mysteriously reappear during the night.

For our krew, the physical exercise and the adrenalin rush of defying the authorities, compensate for the lack of other stimulants, such as their favourite stand-by, grass, which stock is also running short. The company and the shared risk provides its own high and permits them to blend in, inviolate.

Not that Geordie and Koff are totally dependent on their stash of illegal narcotics, but a quick smoke does ensure a security and distance from the restraining pull of reality. But in this case, the screen was quite unnecessary. The inherent danger of their involvement was a buzz in itself.
Beyond the trenching, another routine activity in which the krew participated was the essential matter of providing food for the general population. No routes open to the countryside; nevertheless people still have to eat. The effort of ferrying sacks of fruit and veg to the markets takes up much of their time and energy. Conversation piece. Unlike the forced labour of the Potato Fields episode, Koff and Geordie managed to reconcile themselves to the thrill of common effort.
Of course, the laughter and insight provided by las Maravillas help pass the time. Koff even manages to gain an insight into Jim’s contribution to the ongoing workshop cycle. If only Jim had trusted the krew earlier,and brought them fully into his confidence, they could have avoided all that pretence at being tourists. Jim would probably point to all the experiences being a valid learning process in Bolivian reality. Ayahuascar trip freak-outs in Rurrenabaque, experiencing the Flying Fox’s brand of persuasive hospitality in Warisata... there’s no answer to Jim’s argument. If he wants to assume the role of resident guru, the krew know they must perforce submit to his decisions. But, even so, it rankles. Especially for Sandy, the independent soul.

Chapter 18 : the Flea Market

And, yes, this is Jim calling in, at last, with every intention of reclaiming my rightful role in this chronicle. I could claim that I have no idea who has been relating this story so far, but I strongly suspect the work of my timorous friend, Koff. So move over noble narrator and give me an opportunity to explain my point of view and in return I will extend my hand to you , as well as trying to clarify some reasons for my reticence that you and the other members of the krew have so debated.

As you may have already guessed, the contribution of las Maravillas has been crucial, especially in the effects of the workshops on their development. In these, we entered into a detailed, at times painful, analysis of our sexual dependencies which inevitably led onto the topic of the subjugation of women in this society. Unfortunately at this point rumours of the workshop’s contents reached the overeager and bigoted ears of Padre Ignatz, who promptly reported us to the ecclesiastical authorities (foolishly we had rented an old church hall for the proceedings).
The accusations ranged from subverting the morals of society, which charge I won’t deny, to the usual charge of foreign interference in Bolivian affairs. But I would rather see my role as deepening the participants’ awareness of their mission to change current attitudes, an enhancement of their essential quest. Anyway, since then, we have broadened dimensions of the workshops to include other instructors and also found safer premises. But on the subject of safety, I must warn you, dear companions, that you must take great care. The situation is growing dangerous, especially for outsiders; Goni is on the look-out for so-called terrorists and the army recruits are untrained and trigger-happy. Mark my words, these troops will inevitably over-react and cause yet another bloody disaster.
So this very morning I was wandering through the Flea Market, only too aware of close observation. Unfortunately I was distracted by memories of my true love, Tzipi the Khazari princess, (you won’t be aware of our fateful liason after Yod’s death because it doesn’t occur in your copy of tha’ book, but later in the epilogue which you haven’t got - look for it in the five additional chapters posted on the bonesto blogsite). Anyway, being totally distracted – one must always be occupied devising ways of how to amuse your Muse, while at the same time keeping a close watch on the ever-present dangers - I almost missed the scrutiny of one of the informers that abound in the Flea Market. Almost but not quite. Whilst pretending to attract customers to his array of computer accessories, the vendor halted for a split-second to examine my features, despite the hat flung low over my face. Warning enough and I scooted off , only to discover you and Geordie, sweaty and red-faced, hard at it trenching and busily piling stones by the Senkata depot. Not wanting to attract undue attention, I immediately withdrew.

But allow me to repeat my warning; matters are coming to a head. Goni will not be allowed to escape unpunished. A time will arrive when I shall be forced to abandon my present position and I have plans to seek out my Khazari princess wherever she may be. I actually believe she could be on another dimension. I don’t expect you to accept this conviction, and despite my earlier assurance that I will deal plainly with you, please accept that right now I feel confused by the scale of my responsibilities and the fate that is beckoning. Having said which, as a precautionary measure you must be aware of the need of also being ready to leave and put yourselves out of immediate danger. I jest not! Please advise Geordie and Sandy of this and thank them for their steadfast, though at times, foolhardy backing. Be prepared to find a secure place at a moment’s notice and do not misplace any confidence in your respective embassies. They are not interested in our welfare; they move to a different agenda.
Hasta la vista and back to your account, noble Koff.
Meanwhile back into the turmoil

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Chapter 16

And another one. What a treat, two in one day!

CHAPTER 16: It’s our gas

In Jim’s words paraphrased into the refrain

Jumping Jack Flash – it’s our gas

As the fate of the country’s natural resources transformed itself into an issue of national pride, now is an apt moment to compare in greater detail the personalities of Evo and Goni, more specifically the qualities of Evo that allowed him to define the coming agenda and the defects in Goni that blocked his chances of survival.

As already mentioned, Evo first became publically known as a union official in the coca producers’ organization. Already he was slightly out of bounds, coca production being a delicate matter, frowned on by the authorities and the US drug enforcement bodies. But this notoriety did Evo no harm especially as it became evident that he combined his political activities (he had founded his own party MAS - Movement Towards Socialism) with an enthusiasm for playing football and the trombone in his own brass band. What gradually emerges is a public picture of Evo as a secular, informal indigenous leader, on the path which will eventually conduct him to his successful bid for the Presidency in later years. And then came his championing of the wiphala, as an alternative to the Bolivian national flag. The wiphala, composed of quadrilateral subdivisions, made from small squares of Andean textiles, had a very special origin, principally connected to the momentous year of 1992, which is when the combined might of Europe and the States decided that the world might want to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of America. But, in the event, it didn’t work out like that; to the surprise of the Bolivian and other South American governments, the jubilee turned into a grass-roots assault on the invaders who assumed they could exult in the annexation of previously free territory. In city after city, from Lima to Cuzco, from Quito to La Paz, the gala celebrations were cancelled before the waves of righteous anger unleashed by the effrontery of the trespassers. Fuck Columbus; he thought he was headed for India (which is why the inhabitants of this land were mistakenly labelled ‘indians’), and reached a previously unannexed continent. What is there to celebrate in his error?
And from this rejection of the 500th anniversary, the wiphala emerged in public consciousness as another option which could validly represent Andean awareness.

That Evo had the good sense to uphold the value of the wiphala attests to his accurate reading of the national mood. The messages contained in the various quadrilateral subdivisions are quite subtle, depending on which of the 7 colours of the rainbow form the central rectangle. Red symbolizes the earth, orange health, yellow energy, green production, purple government, blue the godhead and space, and most importantly white, time and harmony. A moveable feast indeed, though the different variants are open to interpretation, Evo’s choice of the the appropriate ayllu flag for ceremonial events reveals an understanding of indigenous values that put Goni to shame.

In contrast, public opinion noted the following gross failings in Goni, which we shall his classify as his Gonerias, if you’ll excuse the crudity of the term. Without doubt, Goni was viewed as arrogant and selfish even by those political allies who remained at his side. For the rape of Bolivia, historically and, in modern times, to the multi-nationals, is branded as a wholesale sell-out by anyone with even the slightest knowledge of current affairs. One doesn’t need to be an international agitator to mark Goni out as greedy for the way his policies have casually increased his personal fortune.

No wonder that Evo has been able to establish the terms of debate on the road to the tragic finale of Goni’s wretched regime. What we are observing here is the demise of neo-liberalism as a feasible alternative to the development of Bolivia and the groundwork for Evo’s eventual accession to the Presidency in which he will regale the watching world with his informal wardrobe (no ties on this man), his secular fancies (he will ensure his future security by reading coca leaves) and surprise onlookers by naming Pancho Choque as his Foreign Minister, to represent the revolutionary stance of Evo’s Presidency. All to come; no hurry; hold your horses.

Chapter 15

Help! Bo Nesto is ill. If you´re interested in helping, write to me: . In the meantime, here´s another chapter.

Chapter 15: The Alto Scandalised

The mock heroic exploits of the Flying Fox and his goon hit squad hardened attitudes among the population at large, especially among the ranks of the downtrodden in the heights of the Alto. Goni’s asinine behaviour had converted him into more than a figure of ridicule, worse than even a traitor, in fact a disgrace to the reputation of the country. Steps were taken, decisions made, it would seem by mutual agreement, or even perhaps telepathically, to rid the stage of this outrageous character. At whatever cost, Goni had to go!

Thus, steps were consensually taken to block access to petrol and gasoline to the downtown vulnerable city of La Paz. Essential supplies of water and electricity also had to navigate the Alto. An accident of geography? Perhaps. And this is why the rulers have always constructed their castles on the heights. It pays to be the one hurling boiling oil on the marauders, doesn’t it?

Of course, it was Pancho Choque who had predicted that the Alto would bring the city to its knees. “The Alto is ours,” he had always proclaimed, and the hidden hand of this revolutionary was clearly suspected by the competent authorities such as Coronel Waldo Ventura. In fact, Waldo even went as far as accusing Jim of being part of the conspiracy (and who really knows what Jim was up to?), but the notion of foreign influences at work is stretching it rather – as if, after all, Goni’s key advisors weren’t also rank outsiders.

No, the underdogs on the heights had taken the decision to oust Goni and his wretched administration. Good for them!

Essential support came from the flanks of the city, showing that solidarity was spreading to other disadvantaged sectors while the privileged zona sewer merely shrugged its shoulders, the snobbish fools. Ah but their moment of crisis will fast arrive, never fear. A perfect storm is brewing for Goni and his cohorts.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Chapter 14

After a too-long break, heeere's Jimmy! (Or at least, somebody looking for him, the next best thing, as Jim is still missing, presumed stoned.)

Chapter 14 : Escape from Sorata

The krew were flown back, care of the ever-obliging Huascar, still encapsulated in the drug-induced coma brought on by the ayahuasacar experience, to Copacabana, where they decided against hiring a taxi to the next destination, Sorata, because such expenditure would be way too conspicuous. They still nursed the illusion that they could remain invisible, leaving them no choice but to choose the soft option of awaiting public transport in the Ceja. At least, waiting for a bus to Sorata, they were able catch the mood in the Alto of deepening crisis and inevitable confrontation.

But why should they care about Gonis troubles?

One last excursion, joked Koff, before the shit really hits the fan. If only it were that simple to ignore the thunder of oncoming reality.

Roadblocks had spread beyond the Alto, and into the countryside, but our pals were fortunate to avoid trouble as they neared their destination.

Sandy, Geordie and Koff, after their strenuous wanderings through the hinterland of the Bolivian experience, were content enough to install themselves in this delightful paradise. Sorata is widely seen as the acme of tourism with a good variety of foodstuffs, even had reasonable coffee available, with a wide choice of hotels and lodging houses (including an ex-Nazi intruder turned hotel proprietor for those with twisted tastes). And if not precisely sub-tropical, it was a least getting warmer for those tourists who had just arrived from the Lake. And what views; from the central square, one could see a hunky ice-laden mountain, one of the giants of the Andean cordillera.

No wonder it ranks high on a list of must-see, must-try-out or highly recommended as the Only-Plan-It handbook crows. To even the most seasoned traveller, Sorata is considered essential.

But every paradise has its downside, the mirror image, for to reach Sorata one has to pass through independent indigenous Aymara territory the much feared town of Achacachi, the dreaded Rinconada stretch that Jim had once marched across. And with the waves of agitation against Gonis government spreading from the city of La Paz and especially the cantakerous Alto throughout the high plain, it doesnt take much insight to predict that Sorata with its rich pickings of foreign tourists, nervous and well-connected, would become a prime target.

Indeed Sorata has a history of being besieged in troubled times. On one noteworthy occasion, it had been sacked by Tupac Katari during a peasant uprising as Spanish colonial times drew to their natural end.

Now, with the roadblocks to increase pressure on Goni spreading and as the noose tightened, as good food and luxuries (drink?) became scarce, it doesnt take much imagination to realize that the hospitality of good hosts would prove to be wafer-thin. Gradually the sweet beckoning welcome soured. With the routes out now cut, the town was being throttled and the atmosphere has turned threatening.

. Koff, Geordie and Sandy enjoyed the pressure up to a point. Footloose and fancy-free, but then they had no airplane flights to catch, no hotel destinations booked in neighbouring countries to respect. Lucky them!

And yet other privileged tourists were in constant email contact with worried families back home. Not even a postal strike to interrupt communication or cut telephone lines. Modern times, no such isolation is possible.

In the face of so many complaints from abroad, Goni ordered his swashbuckling Minister of Defence, Sanchez Berzain to take immediate steps and rescue the poor, beleaguered backpackers before the reputation of the country was irredeemably tarnished. Or maybe Berzain personally volunteered to prove his fidelity to his leader. Either way, the valiant Berzain suddenly materialised in the sky above Sorata at the controls of a heliopter he had commandeered. Behind him followed truckloads of troops. The peasants blocking the routes in prudently made themselves scarce for the moment, leaving the soldiers free to dismount and laboriously clear the obstacles, ranging from jagged rocks to boulders, out of the road. Helicopters are not machines that function very efficiently at altitude, so how the Minister negotiated the high plain is anybodys guess, but his contraption was making one hell of a din as he circled the town looking for a site to land. Berzain selecting a convenient field near the center, ignoring the fact that a football game was about to commence. One might have thought that the goalposts, twenty-two players in colourful shirts and the assembled spectators would have indicated to any sane observer that the spot was occupied, but Berzain was on a mission, had higher goals in sight and so with typical pluck, Berzain chose to ignore local sensitivities and land on the pitch, which had been recently mown in preparation for the game.

The chopper descended spraying all alike with lawn clippings, assorted trash and occasional clumps of dog shit. Nor is it any wonder that the surprise entrance was distinctly unpopular and rather than giving the speech he had prepared for the occasion (about how he has arrived to assess the situation on the ground, before attempting to restore the reputation of a vital touristic resource, etc. etc.) Berzain found himself involved in a fist fight with the Mayor.

Our krew avoided all this unpleasantness not from a dislike of football but because they had invented their own mission in the nearby community of Pocobaya, where various of las Maravillas had assured them they would surely receive news of Jim. No further information being provided, this would be their last chance to verify the matter. Taking care to skirt protesters at Ilobaya where the sheer face of a cliff made the road vulnerable to attack from flying rocks from above, Koff, Geordie and Sandy began their excursion first halting by the gigantic statue of Christ with outstretched arms which the good citizens of Sorata had raised to protect them against such times as these.

Ignatz would approve, said Sandy, embracing the sandal-clad feet. But he seems almost irrelevant out here. Lets be quick. I dont feel we have much time left.

Patience,advised Koff. This could be where Jim displays his hand.

Geordie just guffawed.

Eventually they slid down a side-track into Pocobaya that revealed the community nestled below amid a verdant sea of crops.

How will we be recognized as Jims friends, ventured Geordie. The damned tourists are unpopular. Theyve brought so many problems to this town already.

Ive already thought this problem through, announced Koff, unfurling a rough sketch of Jims personal herbstalk emblem that Huascar had shown them in the Island of the Sun. If this doesnt prove our friendly status, were on the wrong track anyway.

And sure enough, as they wandered through the various crops, the beans, the towering maize stalks, even the occasional coca plantations, in search of Jims prized harvest, local youths approached them, nodded at Koffs crude poster, and their surly countenances somehow became more relaxed. Like Jim always said, Keep that freak flag flying, what? Can do no harm, Geordie remarked. And eventually Sandy was able to engage a band of Pocobayas youth in conversation about Jim.

Finally,said the girl who spoke up for the group, he introduced us to a crop that we could sell at a profit to visitors and be free of our parents obsession with cows and donkeys. Wanna buy? and she withdrew a plastic bag from her school satchel and offered it to the tourists. You see, mused Koff. All Jims efforts were not just pipe dreams. General laughter. Not all gone up in smoke! And to prove their goodwill, the next generation of Pocobayan peasantry shared a righteous pipe-full and advised the visitors to make themselves scarce before the troops arrived and fighting began in earnest.

Vindicated in their confidence of their good friends influence in fields they had hardly dared imagine, the krew scuttled back to the town centre where three luxury coaches had been assembled to ferry those willing to run to safety under the watchful custody of a dozen army trucks, where soldiers pointing their rifles aggressively out from the back were urging tourists and other local solid citizens to take this one chance for salvation and get on board the buses. The Flying Fox, Berzain, bloody- nosed after his altercation with the Mayor, was in vehement mood, allowing no back-pedaling or doubts among those fortunate few he had selected for survival. Then he was aloft again in his chopper, promising all the back-up and firepower that his troops could provide, departing to cat-calls and booing from the spectators still ranged around the football pitch. A final comment from the Mayor who was determined to brave the storm on home territory, come what may: Oh stupid Berzain, dont forget what happened to the last dignitary who put his faith in flying helicopters! He was referring to the fate of the late, unlamented President Barrientos the man responsible for conniving in the murder of Che Guevara. Barrientos received his come-uppance when his helicopter was blown-up by a jealous husband whose wife Barrientos had installed as his latest and last mistress. The games played by Bolivias power elites (as recounted by Jim in Chapter 8 of tha nameless book.)

I dont feel good about what were doing, sighed Sandy while entering the air-conditioned bus. These thugs look ready to blast away anyone in their way.

Right, agreed the boys but they were already too nicely stoned to consider alternatives seriously, and anyway they could see flames spiralling skywards from the hotel of the ex-Nazi .

No choice. Off we go!

But how much they lamented their decision when they observed some of their new friends picked off by army rifles at the Pocobaya road-block and even worse when the convoy was surrounded in Warisata, the proud home of Bolivias first indigenous teacher-training college, where the panicked troops opened fire quite randomly and managed to shoot an innocent young girl peering out of her window.

And all the while, the Flying Fox supervised the massacre, darting around in his chopper like a demented hornet, gesticulating wildly from above in his brown pilots jacket and encouraging the soldiers to continue their awful tasks.

No wonder the krew reached La Paz well after midnight, shaken and aghast at what had been compelled to witness, distinctly unstoned.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Chapter 12.9 (superstitious today)

We continue to wonder about Jim. Perhaps he's on how way to the moon for the fortieth anniversary. Just a thought. But first for some dialectics: Capitalism contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction, as Marx observed...

Chapter 13: The Tide Turns Against Goni.

Throughout the history of this land, later known as Bolivia, yet well before Simon Bolivar was even a twinkle in the eyes of his great-great grandparents, indeed prior to any Europeans crossing into this continent, from the very earliest times, roving intruders laid their hands on what they considered available until the greed of each invader had in turn, by an ironic twist, caused their own downfall.

For example, the Incas so valued the sun-metal, gold, for its beauty that their interest had attracted the covetousness of the Spanish conquerors who subsequently changed their attention to the silver lodes recently discovered in the Cerro Rico of Potosì. Then the surfeit of silver bullion introduced into the European economy caused the inflation that so weakened the Spanish control of their colonies, that one by one they fought for and gained their independence.

And so in a repetitive cycle, in this corner of the Andes, on this fertile high plain, the fortune that seemed to favour the conquerors proved to contain a wicked spin that would make their happy benefactors rue the day that luck appeared to have smiled on them. The Incan and Spanish Empires came to their natural ends, and, as a student of history, Goni should surely have learned how every stroke of good fortune in this part of the world seems to rebound on inept national leadership.

It’s as easy to rely on hindsight as talking through your arse, but one might have expected someone with the educational opportunities of Goni to have picked up some lessons from contemplating Bolivia’s recent history.

On countless grounds, with any number of examples, he should have been aware how each stage of the country’s development led to the loss of territory. For example the rubber boom of the 19th century resulted in the snatching of Acre by the Brazilians. In another case, the rise of guano (bird-shit) for use as fertiliser, induced the War of the Pacific and the humiliating seizure of the Pacific coastline, at one fell swoop changing Bolivia into a landlocked country. And Goni should have noted the role of the British in egging on the Chileans. If not including this in his analysis any alert Bolivian leader must certainly have detected the residual resentment, the folk memory, reinforced annually by parades of remembrance to mark the anniversary of the taking of the Pacific coastline. Every Bolivian schoolkid is aware of this loss, it’s a cornerstone of their growth. Is it any excuse that Goni missed out on this stage of development by spending his childhood and youth in Chicago?

So Goni can be accused not only of ignorance but also arrogance in not recognising the common indignation that the incursion of foreign capital and interests has had on the mindset of ordinary Bolivians. So out of touch.

The next haul after gold and silver comes with a more modern metal, tin. Once again the leading investors are foreign companies. But in another memo from history to Goni, he ought to have noted the career of Simon Patiño, a homegrown talent, who started as a humble miner in Oruro and ended up as a mine-owner with his yachts anchored off Monte Carlo, preferring to ship the ore to his foundry in Liverpool, England rather than promoting income and enterprise for his fellow countrymen. Message to Goni: beware especially of those that forsake the homeland and fall for the blandishments of foreign luxuries. Patiño, though Bolivian, became a byword for a traitor. His heart was not here. His loyalties were elsewhere.

And finally the ultimate lure of petroleum, the scarce fuel so necessary for technological advance, a resource that Bolivia discovers in relative abundance and which has already provoked one disastrous war with another neighbour, Paraguay and caused yet one more crucial loss of territory leading to the liberating revolution of 1952 in which Goni’s own party the MNR took a leading role. Goni beware – learn from history or else become its latest victim. And while on the subject of cool fuels, let’s look at its sister energy provider, natural gas, which is where Goni comes a cropper.

His advisory team would naturally recommend a plan based on economic good sense. The best market for this valuable resource is California where every citizen puts their means of transport ahead of every other consideration, perhaps even their families. Their industries need fuel and the citizens of California will pay top prices to ensure the continuity of production. “Only one problem, ”smirks Tad or Jeremy, whispering into Goni’s ear. “You remember Bolivia is landlocked. The only way to get the gas cheaply to the coast is through Chile. Do you foresee any hitches with sending the consignments through to the Pacific coast by this route, Mr. President, sir? “Of course not,” replies Goni. “The Chileans are in business and will recognize the cost efficiency behind our proposal. Everyone will.”

But, of course, not everyone did, especially the common folk up in the Alto who had the image of Chile the Great Usurper, the overbearing and cruel neighbour who had robbed Bolivia of its access to the sea. So Tad or Jeremy’s bright little suggestion while making perfect sense in terms of economic feasibility, went against the gut feelings of every Bolivian who had ever attended the annual ceremony of remembrance as an impressionable schoolkid – which, of course, Goni never had. A fateful mistake for Goni to add to the other factors of misreading the history of the country which he was supposed to be leading.

‘NO GAS FOR CHILE’ read the slogans on the banners which began appearing on the marches downtown to the city of La Paz. Through ignorance and arrogance and listening to the poor advice of his imported team Goni has succeeded in uniting the opposition to his rule. And with the quirkiness that inevitably seems to attend inept leaders, at this very moment an authentic spokesman for the downtrodden has surfaced.

Evo Morales summed up in the popular imagination whatever Goni lacked. Evo, an indigenous representative who has not abandoned his people, first came to public notice as the leader of the coca producers of Chapare, he spoke Aymara and Quechua, played trombone in a brass band and was even known to enjoy participating in a friendly game of football. With these popular attributes, he left Goni tongue-tied. It was Evo who gave voice to the prevailing resentment against shipping Bolivian gas through Chile and with that, Goni’s fate was as good as sealed.

But Goni is still insisting that he is the constitutionally elected president. So what does he want, the lamppost where Villaroel was hanged by opponents in the 1940s? It’s an available option.