Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Authors of "Latin American Idiot" on Bolivia

Two of the authors of The Guide to the Perfect Latin American Idiot have written articles on Bolivia this week, showing how, as we near the election date, the electoral show gains more and more prominence.

The two articles, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa and Carlos Alberto Montaner, coincide in showing that Evo Morales is not, as some European and North American pundits believe, a Bolivian Nelson Mandela, but the latest and most dangerous mix of populism and racism.

So, Carlos Alberto Montaner's article talks about the state of polls in Bolivia, which dangerously show Evo as the frontrunner. He then proceeds to talk about the shortcomings of the Bolivian ruling elite, which allowed a candidate like Morales to flourish. His analysis, while simple, is accurate: If the Bolivian ruling had been concerned about solving poverty rather than distributing the power quotas, the Evo phenomenon would not exist. Finally, he even suggests that an Evo presidency might even involve a new war with Chile. This is a point that should be treated with caution: While Evo's rethoric has been incendiary, the vice-presidential candidate for MAS has said that they would be willing to sell gas to Chile. So, where does that leave us? That leave us in the big grey area in the middle, where we actually do not know MAS' posture on Chile. They have probably done this deliberately, so they can keep using the Chile scapegoat in case things go wrong or hail a "new beginning" in relations, where we sell them gas, probably on similar terms to what Tuto would have done, but "as a sovereign nation, not as lackeys", to use MAS' rethoric. In other words, I don't see a war against Chile on the cards. All Bolivian presidential candidates or elected officials should probably know that their armed forces are too much for ours, that still use the same equipment from the Chaco war of the 1930s. Chile would probably march in La Paz before the first 12 hours of this hypothetical war had passed. If a war with Chile were an option, a president in trouble, like Goni or Mesa would probably have used the strategy to rally the people behind their policies. To conclude: Montaner simple loses the plot by suggesting this possibility.

Alvaro Vargas Llosa's article, on the other hand, is extremely well written and insightful. He starts by warning external observers of Bolivian politics that Evo is not the romantic character they want to believe in, but a "real-life tragedy" that will bring lasting consequences for Bolivia (and the region). [That point cannot be stressed too much: a quick read to the extremely biased account by Sandalista Jim Schultz in Blog from Bolivia shows the extent to which people are buying this notion] He then points out that it was the nationalistic, import-substituting policies from the 1952 revolution that allowed leaders like Morales to rise. He also points the US as a great culprit, because they kept financing otherwise unsound fiscal policies. And what does Evo want now? Instead of rectifying the wrongs done to his generation by opening up markets, he wants to go back to what caused the problem in the first place: nationalizing.

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