Thursday, December 22, 2005

more bolivia reading
I met with Jim Shultz of the Democracy Center here in Cochabamba yesterday, and he reminded me of a key article about Evo Morales from a little while back, in the New York Times Magazine. It can now be found free here. It is especially interesting reading for those who assume the Bolivian president-elect's plans to nationalize gas and oil here are simply unreconstructed communist fantasies that will end in economic ruin for this poorest of South American countries.
Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel laureate who was formerly the chief economist of the World Bank and is now a professor of economics at Columbia University and a stern critic of many international lending institutions, put it to me this way: "They could do it." If Bolivia abrogated its existing contracts, he said, some of the non-Western oil giants would gladly negotiate new deals on better terms. "Petronas" - the Malaysian state oil company - "would come in, China would come in, India would come in." If Morales did nationalize the country's oil and gas, the multinational oil companies that currently hold the Bolivian concessions, including Repsol, a Spanish company, and British Gas, would probably sue Bolivia in an international court and try to organize an international boycott. But Stiglitz dismisses that threat: "If you had three, four, five first-rate companies around the world willing to compete for Bolivia's resources, no boycott would work."
And the BBC has some good current reporting. It's interesting to see some lines lifted almost directly from Jim Shultz's blog - I know he's been talking to a lot of reporters this week, so I'm guessing some were from the BBC. As I've mentioned below, their Spanish language coverage has been even better.

Speaking of BBC stuff, they also recently had a great special section on another subject close to my heart, prisons in Latin America. It includes a few stories on the situation here in Bolivia. Being that the new V.P. was once an inmate, hopefully the new government will make some improvements in this area.

UPDATE: Also, there is a surprisingly good article about Evo in last week's (pre-election) edition of Newsweek International (cover story in the Latin America edition). It's one of the few things I've seen in the mainstream international press that explains Evo's stand on coca but doesn't pretend it was a central issue in these elections. They also had this short but good interview with Evo.

1 comment:

Originalexplorer said...

I'm sure now must be a really interesting time to be in Bolivia. I'm a bit pessimistic about whether Evo will/can actually nationalize gas (in a manner which will be economically viable) and legalize coca. Do you know the figures on how dependent Bolivia currently is on U.S. and IFI aid? Have there been any reports emerging from the Morales camp on what type of economic policies they will be pursuing? Unfortunately I know very little Spanish so I can't read the Spanish-language media, which I'm sure has a lot more information.