Sunday, August 17, 2008

Bolivia Gets the Change It Asked For

By Mark Weisbrot, The Nation

Evo Morales changed the history of Bolivia when he was elected in December 2005 as the country's first indigenous president, and the first to get a majority of 54 percent. On Sunday he expanded his mandate considerably in a referendum, with 68 percent of voters opting to keep him in office.

The conventional wisdom in Washington--where the foreign policy establishment is decidedly not sympathetic to Morales's populist agenda--has been that the referendum would settle nothing. Bolivia remains divided, say the pundits, along geographic (eastern lowland states versus the west), ethnic (indigenous versus non-indigenous) and class (rich versus poor) lines. Maybe so, but apparently it is less divided than when Morales was first elected, an event that was widely celebrated as a milestone akin to the end of apartheid in South Africa. Was that election also meaningless?

Continue reading...

4 comments:

Bina said...

Bolivia is South America's poorest country, with 60 percent of the population living below the poverty line, and 38 percent in extreme poverty. The voters have overwhelmingly decided that they want their government to do something about that. This should be possible, even if it means redistributing some of the country's most important natural resources.

My only quibble with this otherwise spot-on paragraph of Weisbrot's is that Bolivia is not really poor. Juan Enrique Jurado pointed that out loud and clear in his song (which you posted here a few weeks ago.) It is a rich country where an unconscionable number of people are being kept artificially poor by the bad old management styles of the crapitalist past. "Foreign investment" was no help; that money was only put into the country with the expectation that it would eventually suck much more money out--which, of course, it did. The poor bore the brunt, as they always do. And they wound up poorer. Whereas those who had the most, now have even more--and to hear them whining about what Evo's planning to do--the very wealth distribution Weisbrot talks about,--you'd think he was fixing to yank the sky right out from over their heads. Nuts!

El Duderino said...

you're right. But I think Weisbrot is referring to Bolivia's place (demographic metrics) as the SA country with the poorest population, dispossessed of their natural wealth.

Anonymous said...

Did you say 60% on poverty + 38% in extreme poverty, or 60% from which 38% is in extreme poverty. If it is the first one, Bolivia's poverty could be 98%. Is this number realistic? What is the source of this quoting...

El Duderino said...

Anon,
the figure is 60% "poor", of which 38% "extreme poverty". Figures like that usually come from the World Bank. Weisbrot is probably pulling from his analysis he wrote a few weeks ago for CEPR,

"The distribution of Bolivia's most important natural resources and the autonomy conflicts"

check it out if you want to find his source.