Friday, June 03, 2005

Bolivia: Back in the Times

Sadly, Bolivia is once again in the pages of The New York Times. Sadly, because unlike what happens with China, Japan, or Europe, Latin American countries reach the pages of The Times only when tragedies have happened or are about to happen. Bolivia is actually a special case among the sea of tragedies that happen on a regular basis in the region. So many, that the very definition of tragedy has gone through an overhaul when one needs to address whatever happens in that country.

With the patronizing tone that erases from his name and skin the sin of being a "Latino ," Juan Forero, the Times correspondent in Santa Fe de Bogota, offers a sketchy account of Bolivia's recent crisis, with little or no context to understand it. In any case, English speaking audiences have now a glimpse to one of South America's sadest stories ever, even if they get it from Colombia, which is as absurd a if I was writing a a journalist from New York about stories happening in Toronto or Montreal, Canada.

They do so, but unfortunately little or no change can be expected as a consequence of the sudden notoriety of that country's crisis. In the short term, little or nothing will change, mostly because the country is deep in a political deadlock hard to break, and whose consequences are even harder to foresee. The fact that Bolivia is the poorest country in South America makes the whole situation even worse, because it will always be possible to keep large sectors of Bolivia's poor mobilized and as radicalized as possible, preventing any solution to the many issues that affect that country.

The Organization of American States has been traditionally unable to address crises like this, and the fact that OAS has now a Chilean general-secretary, former Interior minister Luis Miguel Insulza, will make any intervention of the regional organization harder, since Bolivia and Chile have no diplomatic relations, because of Chile's military aggression that locked out Bolivia in the 19th century.

Bolivian President Carlos Mesa has been trying to reach an agreement with Evo Morales, the leader of the coca growers and the radical voice of the opposition, pretty much since his inauguration, with no success at all. Moreover,the fact that the country is a centralized presidential republic, with a very unfair income distribution, and a very unstable political system, only makes harder to achieve the kinds of agreements that the country needs, mostly because as soon as a new president is inaugurated the cycle comes to life again.

Mesa is offering a broad overhauling of the country's institutional design, mainly he is offering more autonomy to Bolivia's deportments, but so far no word on a possible change from the current presidential regime to a parliamentary one.

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