Monday, November 14, 2005

"Our Brand is Crisis"

Did anyone catch last night's "Passionate Eye" doc? It was fantastic. If you missed it, "Our Brand is Crisis" is scheduled to air again on Saturday, Nov 19 at 10pm EST (Newsworld). This fascinating documentary follows a team of U.S. political consultants as they travel to La Paz to help Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada (aka Goni) become President of Bolivia. Goni barely won the presidency in Aug 2002 (22% v. 21 & 20 for the no.2 & 3 candidates), and he went on to inflame indigenous groups, miners (and other grassroots movements) by re-affirming IMF "austerity measures" and plans for exporting natural gas. The ensuing protests left approx. 70 people dead. Goni was forced to resign and actually fled the country; he now lives in Washington D.C. This month, Goni was handed a summons to appear before an investigation regarding the deaths of the Oct 2003 protesters.

[click "Read on, MacDuff!" to continue reading]
From Democracy Now:
Doug Hertzler, an American anthropologist who delivered the legal papers, said: "I approached him and I said Mr Sanchez de Lozada I hereby serve you with legal documents from the Bolivian government requiring you to appear in court to answer questions about the wrongful deaths of 2003. He took the documents from me, but the man standing next to him immediately began to say ‘don’t do that’ and pushed me from the room. At that point I didn’t really see what happened after that, I’m pretty sure Mr. Sanchez de Lozada didn’t say anything he just had a kind of stunned look on his face."
Carlos Mesa, Goni's VP, became president in Oct 2003 but he, too, had to resign after popular protests (June 2005). At present, Bolivia is "run" by a caretaker president, Eduardo Rodriguez (head of the Sup. Court). Rodriguez will step down in December, as there is an election planned for Dec. 18th. Originally set for Dec 4th, the elections were delayed by disputes over electoral redistricting. Evo Morales is currently leading in the polls and could very well be the first indigenous leader of Bolivia. He came close in the 2002 election, trailing Goni by only 2% points. Back then, in Aug 2002, the US Ambassador Manuel Rocha "warned Bolivia that the U.S. was willing to cut its aid and institute an economic blockade if Morales was elected." Rocha accused Morales of everything from narco-trafficking to terrorism. There is a great scene in "Our Brand is Crisis" that shows how badly this US ploy to foment anti-Morales sentiment played out.

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