Friday, March 18, 2005

Beams Bytes – March 2005

Dear Friends and Family,

We hope winter is winding to a close for most of you in the northern climes. We are just about through our hottest months here south of the equator and the weather should start cooling off soon. This is the end of the rainy season, and while we have been relatively dry this year, it has been raining heavily up in the mountains above us. This means the rivers that flow down from the Andes swell with muddy rolling rain water and flood low lying parts of Santa Cruz along the Rio Grande river. While this mini-disaster did not make international headlines, it did greatly affect 1000s of peasant farmers in the communities where World Concern is working. In fact, 168 families with whom we are working with in the CAMS micro-credit program, have been affected by this flooding. They have lost all of their crops, which were just about ready to be harvested. For the majority, agriculture is their livelihood and a disaster of this magnitude will push them further into poverty. They have had to abandon their houses and fields, and are living dislocated in tents until the water recedes. The CAMS program is trying to raise enough extra capital to give these families emergency loans so they can immediately replant and recuperate some of their losses this year. Pray that the flooding will abate and that CAMS will be able to help these families through this crisis.

The political situation in Bolivia is worsening by the day as well. Last week the president of Bolivia, Carlos Mesa, resigned, and then several days later rescinded his resignation. He claims he cannot govern a country that does not allow democracy to function. In the 17 months he has been in office, there have been over 800 protests and civil disturbances. These various protesting groups have listed over 12,000 demands of the government. Most of these protests come in the form of road blocks, blocking key highways and disrupting commerce. In Santa Cruz, there has been a call for autonomy, meaning the state of Santa Cruz wants to independently elect a governor and does not want to send so much tax revenue to the capital in La Paz. How does this affect us? The local Santa Cruz civic committee has called a number of general “paros,” or strikes. They block all traffic from moving in the city and anyone who is on the roads without a permit will have their vehicle impounded. These “paros” usually last for one or two days, but they are becoming so frequent that it is hard to work consistently. It is a holiday for the kids in school, but otherwise it costs local businesses millions of dollars a day in lost revenue. Personally, I enjoy the general strikes because I get the chance to ride my bicycle all over town without worrying about traffic.

Most recently the Santa Cruz bus drivers have called for a transportation strike and are refusing to run their routes until the city lets them raise the cost of a fare. They currently charge $0.18 and want to raise it to $0.24. This does not sound like much, but here in Santa Cruz a roundtrip bus ticket amounts to between 10% and 20% of an average daily wage. And I would estimate that 90% of the cities population relies on busses for daily transport. Needless to say, the city is in chaos. People are walking and riding bicycles to work and school. Taxis are almost impossible to get, and when you do manage to get one to stop they want to charge three or four times the normal rate. Bus drivers are attempting to block major intersections with their busses. Last week when I came back into town after a visit to our projects I unwittingly drove through what was practically a war zone. The military began forcibly removing the buses, beating and arresting the drivers, and breaking out bus windows. The drivers were throwing rocks and attacking the press and the military and police. They began looting several neighborhoods. The military fought back with tear gas. As I drove home I passed burning tires, a burning police motorcycle, and lots of bricks and other debris in the road. It felt surreal, as if I were driving through a movie set or something. From one intersection I could see 20 or so policemen advancing on a line of rock throwing bus drivers. Later that night I saw that 30 people had been injured. Thankfully no one has been killed. Things appear to be calmer this week, but the drivers insist that there will be no more buses until they can raise the fare.

Pray for the political situation in Bolivia this month. We feel God’s presence in this country and know he will answer the prayers of 1000s of believers around the world. Pray also for how World Concern can respond to the local needs of families in poverty throughout Bolivia.

Thank you so much for your faithful support of this ministry. We are still behind in our yearly budget, but are confident in God’s faithfulness. Please pray for God’s leading in how he would have you support this ministry. Our new ministry blog (website) is Visit the site to read frequent ministry updates, see pictures in our photo gallery, and find links to other ministry sites.

In His Grace,

Mailing address:

Daniel Beams
World Concern
Parapeti #146 -- Casilla 3681
Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Office Telephone: 011 591 3336 3664
Home Telephone: 011 591 3352 9156

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Road Blocks

The political situation is never dull in Santa Cruz. For the past month or so, civic organizations (mostly politicized groups of peasants farmers), have been blocking the major highways going in and out of the city of Santa Cruz. Currently 3 of the 4 exits out of down are completely blocked. The road to Argentina (where all of our diesel comes from), the road to Brazil, and the road to La Paz, which goes on into Chile and Peru. These diverse groups are demanding a variety of things from the government and refuse lift the road block until their demands are met. The government is hesitant to use military force because they want to avoid violence at all costs. In the mean time, our work has been greatly disrupted because we cannot travel out to the projects. Also, many imported goods are becoming scarce. The local paper is predicting that the city will be completely out of diesel by this weekend, even further paralyzing the commerce. I will wait in line to fill our tank up this evening (we drive a diesel Nissan Patrol SUV), and try to make this last tank full stretch as far as I can.