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Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Kerry: Bolivious to the people of South America

From Counterpunch:
On June 26, speaking to the National Association of Elected and Appointed Latino Officials in Washington, DC, John Kerry laid out a hardline against Latin America's grassroots social movements, telling the assembled officials that "we can't sit by and watch as mob violence drives a president from office, like what happened in Bolivia or Argentina."

Four days later, in an op-ed in the Miami Herald, he reiterated his position that the Bush administration hasn't been foreceful enough in defending U.S. economic interests in Latin America, writing that "In Bolivia, Bush encouraged the election of a pro-market, pro-U.S. president and did nothing to help the country when riots shook the capital and the president was forced to flee."

The "mob violence" that drove Bolivan President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada from power last fall was a largely nonviolent campaign of strikes, road blockades, and street protests organized by labor unions, coca growers, and indigenous people to prevent Sanchez de Lozada from selling off the nation's natural gas reserves to foreign corporations.

Bolivia is the poorest country in Latin America, and sustainable, locally directed development of the country's natural gas fields may be the last, best hope for the country's indigenous majority to lift itself out of poverty. But Sanchez de Lozada, under pressure from the U.S., wanted to sell off the gas rights in order to pay off the country's debts to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank--debts which date back to the military dictatorship of Gen. Hugo Banzer, and which were incurred without the consent of the rural poor who for the most part never saw the benefit of the "development projects" driven by the international fiananciers. Kerry is right that there was violence in Bolivia last fall--but it mostly came from the military and the police who attacked unarmed demonstrators with tear gas, batons, and live ammunition.
The arrogance of Kerry and Bush--Venezuela's oil and Bolivia's gas belong to us!--is appalling. Rather than leave the rest of the world alone and work on solving our abundant problems at home, they'd rather continue to oppress the people of the world so they can steal their labor and resources in order to make our rich folk even richer.