Friday, December 04, 2009

Bolivia elections

Particularly because of Honduras, other elections in the hemisphere are getting less attention. In Bolivia, another reason for that is the outcome is not much in doubt: Evo Morales will win re-election by a very wide margin. The most recent poll has him at 55%, with Manfred Reyes at a distant 18%. See Miguel Centellas' post for more analysis--in terms of the presidential election, he argues that Morales has done a good job sending signals to moderates that he is not out to get them.

Winning a majority by appealing both to your base and (at least to a degree) to moderates? That, of course, is what Mary Anastasia O'Grady refers to as a "mob boss" who "hates freedom" and runs a "dictatorship."


Gringo Viejo 9:08 AM  


I'll start by saying I'm not a fan of Morales. I liked the fact that Bolivia, with it's history, had elected an indigenous person who knew what the struggles of the poor were. But Morales instant adoration and puppetry of Hugo Chavez made his presidency fail in my eyes.

Morales, like Chavez, uses class warfare, division, and patronage. He is a populist president who, like Chavez, will ultimately go down as severely weakening their countries economy and infrastructure.

He may be reaching out to moderates, but his past actions cause me to hesitate to actually believe that he'll do anything for them past lip service. And if he does reach out to the moderates/middle class, where will that leave him in his relationship with Hugo?

Anonymous,  9:14 AM  

I sincerely doubt he will 'reach out to moderates". Will be glad to be proven wrong, though.

Bolivia may not be Venezuela but in terms of democracy and institution it's not that different. The Spanish-speaking ALBA countries all follow a similar pattern of slowly choking off all opposition. Its a slow-motion coup. This isn't limited to Latin America, Russia is ver similar in this respect.

Slave Revolt,  11:28 AM  

Well, gringo, to be blunt, who gives a crap what you think of Morales--what matters is what the majority of Bolivians think about Morales.

As far as weakening infrastructure and economy goes--both Dems and Reps in the US are doing a great job of gutting the country.

If we follow the Gringo model, we will see the sucess of corporate managed enslavement of the world.

Anonymous, I would suggest that it is the pro-deathsquad, pro-corporate/neoliberal Latin American rightwing that is making it impossible for them to win elections down there. After all, decades of US supported terror and neoliberal austerity is hard to get all that enthused about.

The best they can do is demonize Chavez and do everything in their power to suppress democracy.

Thankfully, the Norte Americano model is being seen as an abject failure. They turn everything they touch into worthless crap.

It really heartens me to see the brainwashed, know-nothing managerial classes hating on the fact that democracy and socialism are on the ascendent.

Suffer bitches.

Gringo Viejo 11:48 AM  

SRevolt, I sincerely hope that you are a teenager. I would hate to think that a mature adult would post that diatrab.

You are correct that my opinion doesn't matter. Neither does yours. anonymous, or Greg's. What matters is what the outcome of the implemented policies will be. From a historical perspective, Evo's and Hugo's will damage their country.

Believe me when I say I am not a corporate shill. I believe that the ruling right wing dictators from the 70's and 80's were supported by flawed US foriegn policy, and I think they did commit many atrocities.

But, I also think class warfare is wrong, and just as dangerous as anything done by recent dictators.

Anonymous,  1:17 PM  

Actually the 'right wing' does win elections (Mexico, Colombia, Panama, Chile and Brasil next?). And in many countries where the 'left' wins they have pretty conservative economic policies (Uruguay, Chile, Peru, Brasil, Guatemala).

It's the leftwing loonies of ALBA (and Argentina) that are the outliers.

Slave Revolt,  3:43 PM  

Gringo, capitalism IS class warfare, in its essence.

Oppression is class warfare.

So, please, understand that the rich always must be forced to obey the masses, they naturally hate democracy.

In the case of Venezuela, the super rich are lucky that the Bolivarian government allowed them to walk the streets after the 2002 coup and the constant attempts at destablization.

In the ALBA countries, the people are seeing an increase in opprotunity, and even reduction in poverty. In Venezuela the reduction is quite marked.

Anonymous, the problem is that the rightwing has absolutely no policies that can lift people out of immiseration. Here in the empire, neoliberalism is increasing poverty. Capitalism is an abject failure, on every level--especially when it comes to democratic inclusion and ecological health.

You can't spin it any other way without appearing as a deluded fool.

Face it guys, only by freeing themselves from US imperialism and savage capitalism, by challenging the power of the oligarchy, can any people in the world make progress toward solving problems.

The empire is destroying itself because its root ideology (letting the rich loot the treasury and waging permanent war on people) is thouroughly diseased.

Hey, I understand that you are from Texas, Gringo, and it is well know that the Southern Gulf states are almost third world. You have a slave mentality, not the worldview and thinking of a free human being. Not by any stretch.

Anonymous,  5:45 PM  

I refuse to accept that Slave Revolt is a real person. It has to be some sort of automated program. I haven't read so much uninformed nonsense in years.

Are you just kidding with us?

Justin Delacour 1:27 AM  

But you fail to address a key point, Gringo. Slave Revolt's key point is that there are forms of class conflict all around us. For example, when poor Americans are denied health care because it doesn't serve the interests of wealthy groups to cover them, that is a form of class conflict (and it is recognized as such in most of the industrialized world). By the standards of the rest of the industrialized world, poor people are completely shit upon in the United States.

So it sounds rather bizarre to some people when you start screaming to high heaven about "class warfare" in Bolivia, as if there weren't forms of class warfare in our very own country.

What you're really saying is that you don't like it when poor people pursue their own interests. When you use the term "class warfare" in such a selective manner, you are saying, in effect, that rich people can pursue their interests (and not be accused of "class warfare") but poor people will chided as "class warriors" if they do the same. It's a very rank form of hypocrisy.

Anonymous,  10:56 AM  

Morales, like Chavez, uses class warfare, division, and patronage.

Class warfare issue having been addressed above, how is reaching out to moderates division? It was the right wing and Santa Cruz-led business elites which tried division, using economic sabotage, violent civil disobedience, and imported eastern European terrorists for their goals.

Patronage? All levels and colors of politiks in Bolivia and also US America use patronage, disguised differently.

He is a populist president who, like Chavez

Does the term used even have any meaning if we don't instantly apply it to Chavez or his "flock of bad leftists?"

will ultimately go down as severely weakening their countries economy and infrastructure.

Again, it was the right which attempted against infrastructure, for example blowing up a gas pipeline in Tarija last year. Evo's government has built many roads, hospitals and socially-focused food production enterprises.

The plan for next five years is massive investment in roads.

Maco-economically, we are at the top of latin America today, although it is cirumstantial, your statement really lacks any empirical backing.

Finally, it would take months of face-to-face conversation to strip all the anti-Chavez bullshit that most citizens of the North, and even ample sectors of Bolivian middle classes, have been fed. Suffice to say, the Patria Grande is an ideal which is no longer a chimera, a flourishing new union which will long outlive both Evo, Chavez, and even the moderate left-wing governments which also support it, though it may take twenty more years for the American public to be allowed this information, and for us to drive out the 4th Naval Fleet of the Empire.

Anonymous,  12:37 PM  

Bolivia is at the top, macroeconomically? That's quite a stretch. They've benefited from high gas prices, and have a lot of money right now, but that's due to luck, to a great extent. And the country remains very poor and underdeveloped.

Anonymous,  3:28 PM  

Bolivia is at the top, macroeconomically? That's quite a stretch

No, its factual, referring to current GDP growth and projected for the rest of the year whether you take government or IMF numbers. I know what this means and what it doesn't, obviously GDP growth is a shitty measure of whether people are living well or not and a long etc. But, be that as it may, GDP growth is an accepted international measure of economic soundness, which makes the statement by Gringo Viejo completely inaccurate empirically.

Also, while we have benefited from high gas prices, we were also hit by rock bottom zinc and copper prices earlier this year and the reduction of gas prices which enters into the calculation for the price of gas sold to brazil and argentina. The new report by Mark Weisbrot will explain why our current macroeconomic health is more than luck, if you're interested.

Anonymous,  4:50 PM  

As you point out GDP growth for a single year tells us almost nothing. The key question is long-term growth.

Bolivia got lucky that they nationalized at a time of higher gas prices. That gave them plenty of money to spend. But that's luck, since they don't control the price of gas. If instead of going up, it had gone down, Bolivia would not be in a position to boast about anything today.

Is the government doing what's needed to ensure they have money in the future? It's not clear. Bolivia sells most of its gas to Brazil. There was a time, not that long ago, that Brazil desperately needed that gas. Not anymore. Bolivia's actions made Brazil realize that Bolivia is not a very reliable trading partner (similar to what Chile found out about Argentine gas) and so Brazil set out to reduce its dependency on Bolivian gas. The result is that Brazil is buying less now and, in fact, doesn't really need the gas anymore. It has developed alternative sources. Buying the gas is mainly a political decision. In effect Brazil is subsidizing Bolivia. That's hardly good macro policy.

Bolivia could find other markets for its gas and it is trying to. But the one really good potential client, Chile, is taboo for political reasons. Again, not great macro policy there either.

Governments consistently mistake good luck with their own policy making. We shouldn't make the same mistake.

Anonymous,  5:05 PM  

Seriously, google the CEPR report on Bolivia's economy the past four years. The reserves grew because of international prices, but stability and growth are also a result of fiscal policy.

Its a bad idea to hinge all bets on any natural resource, but its highly likely-read almost certain- that the prices of gasoline and natural gas will either remain steady or rise in the future. Simple supply and demand: supply is considered by some to reach peak oil (though not peak gas, but for one the prices are correlated and for two, new gas discoveries will be far away from the existing infrastructure already in place), by others to grow slowly, but demand is skyrocketing, period.

The gas pipeline from Santa Cruz to Cuiaba, Brazil, feeds at least 30% of Sao Paolo's current industries. This occurs today, and that means that they do depend hugely on our gas regardless of any new discoveries, which require the time to extract, and build new pipelines. Plus, Petrobras would probably charge its own citizens world-market prices while Bolivia actually subsidizes Brazilian industry with really low prices, less than half of what Chile will be paying for its gas-by-sea for example.

The elephant in the living room is that Argentine gas sales to Chile are already supported by Bolivian gas, and have been for years. Again, the political barriers notwithstanding, this gas is much, much cheaper than that which they will soon receive via the LNG port at Mejillones or through any other source.

There are many obstacles to Bolivia becoming a trusted supplier of energy for the southern cone, but the basic elements: location, resources, and in-place infrastructure are much more to our favor than the transnational energy companies would like us to know, for obvious reasons: they want a bigger cut.

Anonymous,  5:14 PM  

Yes, if Bolivia handles things right it could ensure long-term demand for its products. I am less confident than you are about that. I did read Weisbrot's report, it's not bad but it's not very good either, since it never addresses the key long-term analytical questions, it mostly just describes what happened.

And Bolivia has, potentially, other sources of international income, such as lithium. The problem is that the government, and its supporters, don't seem to realize just how much hinges on being able to sell at such high prices. Yes, most agree gas prices will remain high. But that's how crisis happen, when what everyone agrees is likely to happen, doesn't.

Anonymous,  5:47 PM  

Yes. I base my opinions on facts, but they are opinions, and my optimism does come through.

The way many middle class voters see it, Evo and MAS had five years to learn, to defeat a violent and illegal opposition, and sadly, for some of them to plunder in the best style of the ancien regime.

But we will only give them five years, and if signs show that lithium is being screwed up before that, we also have the revocatory referendum option. Cheers!

Anonymous,  6:25 PM  

I hope you are right. The evidence from other ALBA countries shows that these governments are very unwilling to lose power once they get hold of it and will use (and abuse) the powers of the state to keep it.

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