Factal Forecast

Bolivian strike turns deadly as protests grip economic hub Santa Cruz

October 27, 2022 Episode 75
Factal Forecast
Bolivian strike turns deadly as protests grip economic hub Santa Cruz
Show Notes Transcript

Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Jaime Calle Moreno discuss the strike gripping Bolivia's agricultural export hub Santa Cruz, plus more on Elon Musk’s pending Twitter deal, a presidential runoff election in Brazil, Israel’s general election and Russia’s Unity Day.

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This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Jeff Landset, Jess Fino, Agnese Boffano, Alex Moore and Jaime Calle Moreno.  Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe

Have feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed? Drop us a note: hello@factal.com

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Read the full episode description and transcript on Factal's blog.

Copyright © 2022 Factal. All rights reserved.

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.



Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.

Today is Oct. 27.

In this week’s forecast we’ve got Elon Musk’s pending Twitter deal, a presidential runoff election in Brazil, Israel’s general election, Russia’s Unity Day and a look at the strike underway in Bolivia’s Santa Cruz region.  

You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.


Elon Musk closes Twitter deal

Information compiled by Jeff Landset

JIMMY: After months of back-and-forth, Elon Musk is expected to officially acquire Twitter by Friday.

The world’s richest man started buying shares of Twitter without disclosing it publicly at the beginning of the year. He eventually accumulated more than 5 percent of the company’s shares. 

Then, in March, Musk tweeted several statements criticizing Twitter, including one saying the algorithm should be open source

The following month, Twitter’s board unanimously accepted a $44 billion buyout from Musk.

It took just a few days, however, until Musk said the deal was on hold due to reports that 5 percent of Twitter's users were spam accounts. 

Twitter eventually sued Musk and earlier this month, he reversed course and assured people close to him the deal would get done before Friday’s court-ordered deadline.

Now, Musk plans big changes for the company. In fact, he says he’ll cut 75 percent of the workforce. That led employees to circulate a letter protesting the move, calling it “reckless.” 

He also says he’ll reverse the ban on former President Donald Trump, who was removed from the platform for stoking violence on Jan. 6. 

Finally, the deal may also put Musk and his ventures in the Biden administration's crosshairs. The United States is considering national security reviews for his companies following Musk’s threat to cut Starlink satellite service to Ukraine.


Brazil presidential election runoff

Information compiled by Jess Fino

JIMMY: On Sunday, Brazil’s incumbent far-right President Jair Bolsonaro and former left-wing President Lula da Silva will face each other in the second round of one of the country’s most significant elections in history.

The highly anticipated vote sees da Silva possibly making a comeback after his 12 year-sentence in a corruption case was annulled. 

Several polls had suggested da Silva was likely to win in the first round following Bolsonaro’s failure to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and his controversial environmental policies. But, Da Silva failed to secure a majority with 48.4 percent of the vote, against Bolsonaro’s 43.2 percent.

Now, the tight race shows the country is deeply divided, with Bolsonaro narrowing the gap in recent weeks. That, despite several scandals hitting his campaign just days before the runoff. 

Tensions are high ahead of the vote, with Roberto Jefferson, a radical ally of Bolsonaro, using grenades and a rifle against federal police officers last weekend.

And while the president tried to distance himself from Jefferson and called the violence “an unfortunate incident,” there are fears Bolsonaro could reject the election results if he loses. 

Bolsonaro has made repeated claims that the electronic voting system is vulnerable to fraud and even claimed that “only God” could remove him from office.


Israel general elections

Information compiled by Agnese Boffano

JIMMY: Israelis will head to the polls on Tuesday in the country’s fifth national general election in less than four years.

The upcoming election was triggered when the ruling coalition lost their majority in the Israeli Knesset after one of its religious lawmakers retracted his support

With one seat short of the 61-seat majority needed in parliament, Knesset members called for snap elections in November. The government is currently headed by interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

Now, polls indicate former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is leading the race, with his center-right Likud party expected to gain around 30 seats. 

His party falls short of an outright majority, however, and negotiations are still underway to form a center-right coalition strong enough to reach the majority in parliament. 

Likely members of his coalition include Itamar Ben Gvir, a far-right lawmarker who is against the creation of an independent Palestinian state.


Unity Day in Russia

Information compiled by Alex Moore

JIMMY: Russia will celebrate its Unity Day next Friday. The holiday commemorates the end of the Polish-Russian war in 1618.

And while nowhere near as big and prominent as Russia’s annual celebration of the Soviet Union’s victory in World War II, Unity Day still represents a patriotic holiday that doubles as a celebration of diversity within Russia. 

This year’s will mark the first since February’s full invasion of Ukraine, which appears poised to continue to drag on throughout the forthcoming winter with Moscow escalating the war in multiple facets. 

Now, Unity Day’s supposed celebration of Russia’s diversity also ties into the war effort, which has witnessed Russia’s minority populations shouldering a disproportionate burden of the fighting. 

While evident since the beginning of the invasion, Russia’s mobilization measures have once again exposed this reality for ethnic minority regions. Regions, long since brought under Moscow’s control and which have been heavily impacted by mobilization measures largely spared in cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg. 


Indefinite strike in Bolivia’s Santa Cruz region

Information compiled by Jaime Calle Moreno

JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is on the strike underway in Bolivia’s Santa Cruz region. For more on that I spoke with Factal editor Jaime Calle Moreno.

JIMMY: Hello, Jaime. 

JAIME: Hi, Jimmy. How's it going?

JIMMY: I'm well. Glad you're here. I guess I'll just jump right into things. I've got to be honest, the news of the strike in Bolivia kind of caught me off guard. I suspect I'm not the only one. Can you catch us up to speed on what's going on?

JAIME: Yeah, so all of a sudden on Saturday morning, these civil groups across Santa Cruz called for an indefinite and regional work stoppage relating to this delay of a national census that was originally planned for November 2022, but has now been postponed to 2024. We're now in the fifth day of those strikes and the story has become even bigger since. In the first morning of those strikes, one person was killed and another injured during clashes in this small border town alongside the border with Brazil called Puerto Quijarro. These clashes happened between those who support the strike and those who oppose it and want to continue work or find that the work stoppage is, kind of, neither legal nor constitutional. Even today, as we speak, one person was injured following clashes this morning, in which police ended up having to fire tear gas to try and disperse those crowds. Throughout those five days, negotiations have been pretty scarce with the current Bolivian President Luis Arce calling it sort of a "coup adventure." It also falls on the anniversary of widespread and national protests in 2019 that ultimately led to the former President Evo Morales's resignation. Those 2019 protests were due to supposed electoral fraud and it was clear that the general mobilization of people across these various provinces paralyzed the economy in such a way that no other avenue was possible but to resign. And I think that these civil groups and local organizations in Santa Cruz are looking at this in a similar way. And now that another region, namely Tarija, is joining in for a 24 hour strike Thursday, the issues seem like it's going to continue for days or weeks until negotiations are conducted.

JIMMY: So you said this is – what started this was a census? What's so important about that particular census?

JAIME: Yeah, well, it's a good question, Jimmy. This national census, or in general, the national census in Bolivia, is pretty central to not only the redistribution of the government's tax income to the respective provinces, but it also sets forth the amount of electoral votes each province gets in the Bolivian parliament in relation to current populations, growth, the amount of income that it makes. Now, to put it into context, Santa Cruz, and its main provincial capital Santa Cruz de la Sierra, are pretty much Bolivia's economic powerhouse. The province accounts for a third of the country's gross domestic product and its industrial output through agricultural exports such as soy, livestock, corn, rice, you name it. It's pretty high. It also has the highest population and the highest population growth in the country, and due to increased immigration that keeps going. And so they see the census as extremely vital in that redistribution of more wealth, more programs; more developmental policies for the region and for one of the most productive regions of the country. Additionally, with the 2025 election looming over the country, the increase of electoral seats gives the province a little bit more leverage on who it wants as president. This presidential election will likely be a battle between former President Evo Morales and the current one, Luic Arce. But being able to have those seats is pretty important for the province, even if it's just a small increase. I think, right now, it's only three seats that would be additional to the ones they have now. So in the end, the strikes are kind of – they kind of have pretty high stakes. And so the province is actively trying to bring that census forward.

JIMMY: I know you've kind of touched on this a bit already, but how does this play into the – kind of the bigger picture in Bolivia?

JAIME: Well, these small-scale clashes that continue happening at the early morning hours in Bolivia are sort of a focal point for what could occur if negotiations continue collapsing between the two groups, namely the government and the civil groups that I mentioned, that kind of encapsulate local, industrial and agricultural organizations and companies inside the Santa Cruz region. Which by default means a large part of the workforce, right? Luckily, the government – after its initial outset of rejecting the strike and calling for a possible militarization or a blockade of the province – it called, on Tuesday, for all parties within the plurinational state to conduct a sort of comprehensive forum to try and achieve a solution to the problem with the census. Kind of calling for it to be done fairly so that all provinces and regions can partake in it. The main issue, though, especially for the civil groups and for the ones conducting the protests, is moving it to 2023 rather than having it in 2024. And while the government has indicated that they may be open to it, they kind of say that logistically, it's very, very difficult for that to happen. So it's kind of at a crossroads here. And, the government's going to be stuck between a rock and a hard place.

JIMMY: Well, considering all that, what types of things do you think folks should be keeping in mind or keeping an eye out for in the days ahead?

JAIME: Yeah, well, Jimmy, it really depends on whether the government budges to the demands of the strikers; if the work stoppage continues for a stipulated 21 days, which is sort of the same timeframe as the 2019 protests which they're kind of paralleling. We can expect to see a very paralyzed region that will drastically affect the economy of not only Santa Cruz, but of the whole country. With it being such a vital province, they do have this certain type of leverage. Needless to say, though, if they do continue, the longer the strikes last, the more instances of violence are going to be recorded and the more eruptions of clashes we're going to be seeing. While that initial death has kind of sparked a wave of reticence throughout the country and the region, those who oppose the work stoppage are going to be aggravated further and further the longer it goes. And with these clashes, it's hard to tell how they will grow or advance in the moment. Hopefully, though, in the next few days or weeks there will be active government involvement in trying to sort of appease the situation. But really, I guess we're just going to have to wait and see how that conversation progresses and as a consequence how the strikes progress. And hopefully we won't be seeing too many clashes in the near future, but that might not be the case.

JIMMY: Well, Jaime, I guess we'll leave it there for today, but I know you'll be keeping a close eye on things for us and I thank you for that. Thanks for keeping us informed.

JAIME: Thank you so much for having me, Jimmy. 

JIMMY: Take care.


JIMMY: As always, thank you for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast and newsletter each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. Please subscribe and review wherever you find your podcasts. We’d love it if you’d consider telling a friend about us.  

Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Jeff Landset, Jess Fino, Agnese Boffano and Alex Moore. Our interview featured editor Jaime Calle Moreno and our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

Until next time, if you have any feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing hello@factal.com


This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed. 

Copyright © 2022 Factal. All rights reserved.

Music: 'Factal Theme' courtesy of Andrew Gospe