What’s Evo doing in Beijing this week? Oh, nothing much…
Bolivian president Evo Morales signed three economic aid agreements, totaling 204 million yuan ($35 million US), in a meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, at the Great Palace of the People in Beijing.
The agreements were also signed by Bolivian foreign minister David Choquehuanca, and the Chinese minister of commerce, Gao Hucheng, in a meeting lasting an hour and a half. They include a non-reimbursable offer of economic aid from China to Bolivia valued at 80 million yuan ($13 million US).
They also signed a zero-interest line of credit for 50 million yuan ($8.2 million US) and a donation of transport and dump trucks to Bolivia, valued at 74 million yuan ($12 million US), according to the Minister of Planning, Viviana Caro.
In the ceremony, they also signed a memorandum of understanding for Chinese co-operation in the Bolivian national program of preventative technology for citizen security, although no details were given over this portion of the agreement.
Before the signing, Morales was received with military honors in the north wing of the Great Palace of the People, the legislative seat next to Tiananmen Square, by President Xi, who called his Bolivian counterpart “an old and dear friend of the Chinese people”.
“I have not the slightest doubt that we will inject new vitality into the development of ties uniting China and Bolivia,” said Xi to Morales, and praised the “sane, intelligent and hard-working people” of Bolivia, “a land with a great abundance of natural resources”.
“Under your direction, your government and people have shown a heightened enthusiasm for showing a strong and prosperous plurinational state,” said the Chinese leader, assuring that, with Morales in charge, Bolivia is undergoing “a transformation on the political, economic and social levels”.
Morales confessed to feeling surprised at the great reception he received, and that he “salutes and admires the global leadership of China and its people, a great country receiving a small one like Bolivia”.
The Bolivia president recalled for Xi his childhood, in which he read Mao’s “Red Book” while herding flocks of llamas in his native Orinoca province, and compared the transformation “from country to city” in the Great Helmsman’s China with what he was trying to achieve in Bolivia.
After recalling the old revolutionary times of Maoism, Morales also praised the current economic growth, “those great works accomplished not only in benefit to China, but for the whole world as well.”
He also expressed “respect and congratulation” for the “conquest of space” achieved by the Asian giant, a country that last week achieved its first controlled Moon landing — with an unmanned spacecraft — and in the early morning hours of the coming saturday (1 p.m. Bolivian time; 17:00 GMT), they will launch the first Bolivian communications satellite, “Tupac Katari”.
Yeah, just a little something to make Gringolandia soil its collective drawers in surprise and dismay. All in a few days’ work for Evo!
UPDATE: And we have lift-off.
The first Bolivian satellite, Tupac Katari, launched successfully from the Chinese base at Xichang and is already in space, as confirmed by the Chinese central command of space operations.
The launch, using a Long March 3B/E propulsion rocket, took place at 12:42 Bolivian time, and went off without a hitch.
At the Amachuma earth station, in La Paz, it was confirmed that the rocket transporting Tupac Katari completed its phases, and the satellite had already opened its solar antennae to receive energy, said technician René Michel.
It will be a week before the satellite is in orbit, 36,000 kilometres above the Earth.
“The prophecy of Tupac Katari, his final message, when he said ‘I will return, and I will be millions […] Tupac Katari is now converted into a communication satellite, a star to light the way to freedom for our people,” said president Evo Morales upon confirmation of the successful launch.
The satellite will be operated from two control stations: one in Amachura, La Paz, and the other, inaugurated on December 19, in La Guardia, Santa Cruz.
Personnel operating these bases were trained in China, as part of a bilateral program of technological co-operation.
The satellite was built by the Great Wall Industrial Corporation, a subsidiary of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, and cost $302 million US.
Tupac Katari weighs 5200 kg and has a 15-year lifespan. It will benefit rural areas especially with Internet access, as well as supporting distance education programs. The satellite will also be used for security and defence purposes, as well as telemedicine.
It will carry three communication channels, which will operate on three frequencies. One will cover Bolivia, another will be used for radio and television, and the third will cover South America, according to the EFE news agency.
Tupac Katari will take 14 days to stabilize its orbit and connect to the two Bolivian control stations, and will begin full function in late March or early April 2014.
The government estimates that it will save Bolivia some $15 million in costs for renting the services of foreign satellites, and could also attract income if its signal is picked up by other South American nations.