Southern Exposure

Desde as Entranhas dos Labirintos Latinos.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Being Poor in Bolivia

Randy will be blogging over here from time to time, but I just noticed this piece on Beautiful Horizons which is quite relevant to a post I made yesterday, and is quite helpful to me, since I readily admit I am absolutely mistified as to why a lot of Bolivians don't want to export the gas:

In this post, Jeanne D'Arc makes reference to an editorial in the New York Times about the recent revolts in Bolivia. While she found it a little smug, I do think that it raises some good points about populism in Latin America and the failure of populist movements there.

The issue of keeping the natural gas in Bolivia to be used by Bolivians, is frankly, mystifying to me as a gringo [gringo, by the way, is not considered an insult in Latin America], but certainly is understandable given Bolivia's history. If you want a good primer as to the history of Bolivia's exploitation, you can do no better than We Eat the Mines and the Mines Eat Us: Dependency and Exploitation in Bolivian Tin Mines by June Nash. The fears of the Bolivians, especially the indigenous Bolivians are legitimate: the disastrous attempt to privatize water in Cochabamba and the horrific price increases that resulted is just one example of how globalization has impacted Bolivia's poorest. The coca eradication effort, sponsored by the USA because some Americans just can't resist putting white powder up their nose, and thus a crop that indigenous Bolivians raise (and have raised for years) in a difficult climate with ease is to be replaced by hearts of palm and pineapples, also serves to fuel resentment and contempt against the USA.

But as Mark Twain once said, "We should be careful to get out of an experience all the wisdom that is in it -- not like the cat that sits on a hot stove lid. She will never sit down on a hot lid again -- and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore." Simply because a privatization effort has been put together sloppily or greedily, doesn't mean that all efforts to privatize or to develop resources are inherently bad. What it takes is skilled leadership, that considers and involves all affected parties and recruits input from as many points of view. That being said, this is exceedingly rare, and while I sympathize with the poor in Bolivia and feel rage, anger and frustration at their continued poverty and hopelessness, I cannot accept the notion that continued unrest and delivering ultimatums to the new president, demanding change in ninety days or gauranteeing more unrest will help them accomplish their goals.
Source: Beautiful Horizons


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