Southern Exposure

Desde as Entranhas dos Labirintos Latinos.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Part of the Bolivian government's new gas & oil plan was finally unveiled today. And, yes, it's pretty much the same as what Goni's plan proposed. After international gas & oil exports pronounced the obvious — that Bolivia can't afford to industrialize its gas reserves (something that's very capital and technology intensive, two things which Bolivia lacks) and that it's internal market wouldn't justify the cost (since there are so few Bolivians) and let's not forget that few companies are interested in investing in such a high-risk market (since the October uprising raised the threat of nationalization) — the government pronounced that the export of gas was, after all, the most viable alternative. Now Mesa's government announced that the taxes on gas & oil companies will go up from 18% to a reasonable 26% (not the 50% demanded by some). So, essentially, the so-called guerra del gas produced no significant results, beyond crushing the fragile tourist industry and raising the risk for international investment.

Meanwhile, the erradication of coca in the Chapare (and now also Yungas) continues, w/ Mesa slowly taking a firmer stance against the rising death toll among the police & military. Likewise, the war against corruption still shows no significant results. And parliament's still mired, unable to vote for a new Defensor del Pueblo. Plus, no one has any idea what the "referendum on gas" will ever look like (debates on question wording continue) or if it'll ever be more than just a public rubber stamp. However, thanks to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez (who may soon be out of power), nationalist rhetoric against Chile continues (which always gives Bolivians something exterior to focus on). All this while the exchange rate slowly creeps up to Bs. 7.78 to the $US (when I arrived, it was Bs. 7.71).

So. As the holiday season quickly approaches, Bolivian politics has gone back to the same old, same old. Perhaps this gives credence to Quispe's anger that this is "la misma chola con otra pollera". But. When a country's bankrupt, it really doesn't have many options, does it?

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