Ministry of Stupidity
bolivia | by Miguel Centellas | 30 Mar, 2004 at 03:40 PM | comments (1) | trackback (0)

That's what you'd call a commission that plans to have a referendum election w/o any pre-electoral propaganda (for "yes" or for "no"). Welcome to Bolivia. Parliament's hoping to pass a referendum law — a law that allows for & outlines the gas referendum — that explicitly prohibits any political propaganda. Of course, the obvious question is: How the hell do you enforce this? What counts as propaganda? And why do you want a public referendum where two million voters are asked to discuss a complicated, technical issue w/o the benefit of an information campaign?

Of course, Mesa's government was hoping to convince voters to vote "yes" to gas exports. As such, they'd prepared a three-tiered information campaign meant to educate voters on the possible benefits of gas exportation. Of course, I've pointed out the dangers of this type of referendum democracy before.

But. How can you prohibit any kind of "propaganda" on the gas issue? I mean, the press carries stories on the gas & oil market, demands for exports, etc. Is that to be banned? Will the parliament's law ban COB marches that shout "¡el gas no se vende!"? How realistic is this proposal? Answer: Not very.

The commission argues that while "propaganda" will be outlawed, "information" campaigns won't. Huh? Someone needs to clarify what this subtle rhetorical nuance is supposed to mean in the real world. After all, no "information" campaign on the gas issue will be non-partisan. The information presented will tilt the voter one way or the other — and that makes it propaganda.

Again. A referendum isn't that difficult. Many countries use them. All over the world. Just pick a decent question — we still don't know what the question(s) will be — and hold a vote. If the issue of whether to export gas is touchy, imagine how touchy the issue of referendums (and their long-term implications) are. It's a political nightmare.

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