The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Is it kicking off in Bolivia?

Civil war, red revolution, CIA plots, juntas, caudillos - the old Latin America. The image that 20 years of structural adjustment, Galtieri's exit from the Falklands, a change in the Zeitgeist - and many more - have cast into the dustbin of history, together with flared trousers, Abba and the almighty OPEC.

Even Castro's heir apparent as standard-bearer for what the Communists call (used to call) progressive forces in the Americas, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela is a leader for our time: armed insurrection is not high on the agenda. He reminds me of the old song [1] whose chorus ends
As soon as this pub closes,
The Revolution starts.

Nor, so far as I'm aware, are the Forces of Reaction in Venezuela in any hurry to see tanks in the streets and cattle-prods in police cells.

Bolivia might be different. It's pretty damned poor, landlocked, its land divided between rock with minerals and rock without, a no-valued-added economy since the early days of the silver rush at Potosí - and the women in bowler hats (aka derbies, though not in Bolivia). The peasants have that priceless political resource: nothing to lose.

They also have a leader in the shape of the charismatic Evo Morales Ayma, leader of the Movimiento al Socialismo and runner up to Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada in the 2002 presidential elections. Morales [2] has the essential source of legitimacy - in a country [3] a majority of the population are full-blood Indians, he is one [4] and Sánchez de Lozada is not (from his photo, he's white, or a mestizo able to pass).

There's plenty of superficial stuff on the current troubles to be had from Mr Google [5]. There is also a large volume of stuff in PDF Hell on Bolivia - especially on natural gas, the plans for the export of which are the archduke's assassination of the present unrest.

But no Bolivia 101 in 10,000 words of deft, concise, yet readable analysis.

Hence my initial question. I've been here before: two or three years ago, when Subcomandante Marcos had virtually besieged Mexico City with his hordes of supporters, and expensively suited veterans of the Mexican political class were fawning and cringing as if they feared an uprising. The upshot? Nada. President Vicente Fox Quesada survived to do sterling work in holding out against the second Iraq resolution, of beloved memory - and Mexican politics is much the same (from memory, I think the PRI got back a good bit of ground in the summer congressional elections, even.)

Then there was Colombia - which seemed promising earlier this year for some kind of shake-up, but where, again, it's been more or less business as usual (fluctuations comfortably within the bell curve).

The liminal question is, Are the odds of a spectacular in Bolivia in the next few months high enough to warrant the necessary expenditure of time - a man-week, say - in getting up to speed? And even that question demands - more research!

  1. By Tyneside folk legend Alex Glasgow, I believe.

  2. My BBC crib-sheet - called, with conscious irony, I suppose, Radiografía de Bolivia (the MRI scan must come later) - indicates that Ayma is a mere matronymic (used only once, at the start of a piece of prose) - and his real surname is Morales - whereas the Prez's surname is compound - Sánchez de Lozada - and therefore used in full throughout the piece.

  3. The ubiquitous CIA Factbook page.

  4. According to a bio from April 2002 in the PCF rag L'Humanité.

  5. From the BBC, try also this , this and this .

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