Dear Family and Friends,
We trust that you had a fun filled Thanksgiving holiday. We enjoyed swimming on Thanksgiving morning and then shared a turkey dinner with several other missionary families in our neighborhood. We plan on traveling to Cusco, Peru right after Christmas to spend some time with Vanessa’s cousin who lives in Lima.
The last couple of weeks have been chaotic in Bolivia. In general, missionaries are cautioned to stay out of politics in their host countries, but even still it is sometimes hard to avoid the affects of political and civil unrest around you. I just wanted to share a little bit of what is going on so you can be praying for peace and prosperity in Bolivia. We live in the department of Santa Cruz. It is the largest department in Bolivia, taking up the eastern third of the country. Santa Cruz has been seeking economic and political autonomy within the country. They would like to keep more of the tax revenue from oil and gas, and agriculture within our department rather than share it with La Paz, the seat of the national government. The current president, Evo Morales and his MAS party are socialist and are closely aligned with Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Morales is the first indigenous president ever elected in Bolivia. He has promised many reforms that will address the disparity between rich and poor, and the discrimination against the indigenous population (75%) of Bolivia. While he appears to have some good ideas and the ambition to make change for the betterment of the country, he is attempting to ramrod his changes through a stalemated legislature and is threatening the democratic process in Bolivia. For example, last week the delegates rewriting the constitution met and voted to approve the new constitution. The problem is only the MAS party delegates were present to vote on the Constitution (155 out of 258 total delegates). Of course everyone opposed to the MAS party is calling foul. In general there is a culture of resistance among minority political parties and groups who block and confound any attempt to govern the country.
Most of the opposition to the MAS party is centered in Santa Cruz; and actually 6 of the 9 departments are governed by groups opposed to the Morales government. They are continually calling for civil resistance against the government. That often means they call strikes of various kinds and will block major highways for weeks at a time. A “paro civico” is a general strike where everything and everyone comes to a halt for 24 hours. All businesses and schools close and no one is allowed to drive their cars on the road. If you do so without special permission you risk having your windows broken by an agree mob of protesters. The kids have missed a number of school days in the last couple of weeks due to the “paro civicos.” Road blocks often mean you cannot travel to other cities around the country without the risk of either not being able to get there or not being able to get back home. There are so few highways in Bolivia, that a simple road block at a key bridge can paralyze the economy of millions of people.
So how have we been effected? Our SUV runs on diesel and diesel has been scarce in Santa Cruz for over two months now. Santa Cruz is only receiving about 1/3 of the diesel they need for the city and for the current agricultural campaign. The result is super long lines at gas stations. To fill our tank with diesel I have to drive all over town asking at gas stations when the next delivery of diesel will occur. Then I have to get to the station several hours before the tanker arrives and wait in line. The problem is, trucks wait in line 12 or 24 hours for the diesel to arrive and then the get it all before anyone else has a chance at it. Gas stations are only receiving 5,000 to 10,000 liters of diesel several times a week. This means once they start pumping, the supply only lasts for 2 or 3 hours. For example, two nights ago I got in line at 7:00 in the evening waiting for diesel that was supposed to arrive at 9:00. I was the 47th vehicle in line. I finally got to the pump at 11:15, but they were rationing how much they sold each customer and would only sell me about six gallons. I think I need to buy a gasoline powered vehicle. The scarcity of diesel is affecting all aspects of life in the city. There are only about half the number of busses running as normal. The majority of the city population does not own private cars and moves around on city buses. This means that most buses are too crowded to board and passengers often have to change buses lines many more times than before. So for a person who previously paid 3 bolivianos a day for bus fare may now have to change buses three times and pay up to 9 bolivianos a day for bus fare. An average wage in Santa Cruz is about 40 bolivianos ($5 US), so fully ¼ of a daily earnings goes to commuting. There are also shortages of fresh vegetables and other staples in the markets, and the cost of all food items is rising rapidly. People are really beginning to worry about the affects of seemingly out of control inflation.
I hope I haven’t depressed or confused you with the details of politics and economy in Bolivia. It really is too confusing to convey in a short letter. Just remember to continue praying for Bolivia as a country, and pray that we can have an impact on the folks we are working with.
Thank you so much for your continued support of our work here. As you think about giving this holiday season, we hope that you will think outside of the box, and consider giving to the people of Bolivia through our ministry. If you would like to make a special designation to the water well drilling project or to one of the children’s homes that we work with, please indicate that with your special gift or monthly pledge. We also hope that if you have not already made a monthly pledge to our ministry, that you will consider doing so for 2008. I am confident that God is completely capable of supplying the financial needs for our family and ministry. Please pray about what part God would have you play in our ministry.
Vanessa also asks that you pray especially for her brother Paul and his family who live in Cajamarca, Peru. Pray that he God will be honored through the decisions he is making about his life and family.
Daniel and Vanessa Beams
Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Bolivia Telephone: 011-591-3351-1087
Photo Gallery: www.pbase.com/beamsclan