Monday, January 3, 2011
Hydrocarbon irony: Bolivia's government reaps what it sowed
Unlike many anti-Evo protests in the past, which centered in the south and east of the country where more conservative elements are strongest, these recent protests have been organized and conducted by groups across the nation, including poor and working-class people of the cities and the countryside, Evo's base.
It was the hydrocarbon policies of President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada in 2002-2003 that brought down his government and Morales to power. When Sanchez de Lozada announced the government intended to export natural gas to the United States and Mexico via Chile, Morales and his followers used that as an organizing tool to create protests and blockades that eventually led to violence that forced the then-president to resign. Bolivia's hydrocarbon sector is fully nationalized, and production and export levels, as well as prices, cannot be blamed on foreign interests or corporations. Mismanagement and lack of investment are endemic and home-grown.
Morales has a firmer grip on power than any president in recent memory in Bolivia. But the recent protests, and his government's dithering over the gasoline-price issue, have weakened the government, undermining its claim that it governs "for the people" and that its policies are superior to those of the capitalist world.