15 nov. 2006

Bono Juancito Pinto

Juancito Pinto was a little drummer boy, who had traded his drum for a rifle during the War of the Pacific of the 1880s. He perished at the hands of the Chilean army and his name is still synonymous with Bolivia’s long standing attempts to recuperate sovereign access to the sea. His legacy lives on when the Bolivian Ministry of Education implemented the “Bono Juancito Pinto,” which is a cash payment of Bs. 200 (approximately 15 USD) to each child, upon condition that they are enrolled and are attending primary school.

Marco, a blogger from Tarija, recalls portraying young Juancito in a school play. Even though he would have preferred to have assumed the role of more well-known heroes like Eduardo Avaroa or Ladislao Cabrera, he sees the new government policy as something that can improve the lives of children in Bolivia. He writes in his blog Pandemonium [ES] that he understands some of the criticisms, but he thinks this is something positive:

Me ubicaré entre los defensores de la medida. ¿Por qué? Por una sencilla razón. Porque el solo hecho de garantizar, que miles de niños bolivianos vayan al colegio por lo menos hasta quinto básico y ahí además reciban gratis un buen desayuno escolar (al respecto aplaudo la profundización de esta medida implementada por la Prefectura de Tarija) es, no un pequeño avance, sino un paso de titán.No hay que ser un experto en desarrollo humano para comprender que el reducir los niveles de deserción escolar y de desnutrición infantil nos da una esperanza real de un futuro mejor.

I stand with those that defend this measure. Why? For one simple reason because it guarantees that thousands of Bolivian children attend school at least through primary school and also receive a free school breakfast (I also applaud the further efforts of the Tarija Prefecture), which is not just a small accomplishment, but a giant step. One does not need to be an expert in human development to understand that reducing the levels of school dropout and child malnutrition provides us a real hope of a better future.
In addition, Sergio Asturizaga of Así Como Me Ves Me Tienes [ES], wonders whether there might be a better way to distribute the money, so that Bolivians do not expect and become dependent on these funds. He suggests that perhaps this money could be used to improve the school infrastructure or that the funds could be used to be exchanged for goods that the children could use. At any rate, he says that these funds infused into the economy could do a lot of good.

This incentive, as Marco stated earlier, will try to reverse the high levels of poverty found in Bolivia. The anonymous blogger Morir Antes Esclavos Vivir [ES] talks about the latest figures released by the United Nations Development Programme, which shows some very sobering statistics regarding poverty in Bolivia. Of the 177 countries listed in this index, Bolivia falls at 115. Among other statistics, it found that Bolivia has the third lowest life expectancy in the hemisphere. Even though these figures are alarming, he says “We are all guilty. All of us, as Bolivians, have our own share of responsibility in these statistics. In addition, now it also makes us responsible to look and create solutions.”

The level of poverty has forced many Bolivians to abandon the country. Each day, hundreds of Bolivians board planes with destination of Europe for greener pastures. Sebastian Molina of Plan B [ES] writes about this depressing exodus after returning from the Santa Cruz airport.

Las colas en migración, en búsqueda del pasaporte que les permita salir -”de una buena vez”- de Bolivia, son permanentemente largas. Las publicidades en la radio sobre agencias de viaje que lo llevan a uno a España “como si fuera turista”, no son más que un insulto. “¡Si lo deportan, le regalamos otro pasaje!”

¿Han visto cómo son las despedidas en el aeropuerto? Quedan la abuela, quedan los niños, quizás queda la esposa. Queda la foto partida. Y el abrazo. Y la familia. Es demasiado grave.

Ayer lo vi nuevamente y ya no pude soportarlo. Hay que hacer algo al respecto.

Permanent long lines form at the immigration department by those looking for a passport in order to leave Bolivia “once and for all”. Radio advertisements from travel agencies claim to take you to Spain “as if you were a tourist” and it is insulting to hear, “If they deport you, we’ll give you another ticket!”

Have you seen the farewells at the airport? The grandmother stays behind, the children stay behind, sometimes the wife. The photograph is torn, as do the hugs and the family. It is very dire.

Yesterday, I saw it again and I couldn’t stand it. Something must be done about it

Finally, Alvaro Garcia, who hails from Cochabamba, recently observed that it seems that Santa Cruz boasted the highest number of Bolivian blogs. What about the blogs from his hometown? He set out to change that by recruiting blogs from Cochabamba and by looking for other blogs by Cochalo/as. He launched a campaign called Orgullosmante Cochal@ (Proudly Cochalo) at this blog La Bitácora de Balú [ES] complete with banners. Already the effort has paid off as the blogroll continues to grow of bloggers from Cochabamba.