“Our Brand is Crisis” was quite an intriguing movie directed by Rachel Boynton. It quickly details the story of how the political marketing firm of Greenberg Carville Shrum, tried to help sway the election in favor of Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada. They were successful in getting him elected, and then they stayed to try to help him lead the country through its political and financial crisis through the uses of poll data and focus groups. Ultimately they were unsuccessful in keeping him in power, as he was deposed just a short while after.
What is so interesting about this movie is that in a strange way, it closely parallels some of the movies that we watched earlier in the year. We saw how revolutions in Cuba, and political unrest was caused in large part by the American businessmen trying to export the American way of doing business and causing problems in the first place. The problems back then were created by Americans just not caring enough who was hurt or what people were run over in the process of making a profit. Here we have a little bit different story with the same principle.
In the wake of the failings of many of the Communist influence in Latin America, there was now an opening for a more democratic way of running the government. John Chasteen notes in “Born in Blood and Fire” that, “Boosted by its association with the one remaining superpower, the United States, liberalism has returned to fill the vacuum.” (Chasteen p. 311) The group under James Carville was more or less on assignment from the White House, to come help the spread of this new liberalism in Latin America.
The Americans came down try to help Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada become reelected, and then help him maintain his power by staying popular. They ultimately failed, because they didn’t really understand, or comprehend what the Bolivian people really wanted. The American’s came to Bolivia with the understanding of the American system of doing government. In the United States, the everyday citizen’s addition to the political system was to elect its officials, whether state or national, and then to sit back and let the officials run the country. This is a Democratic Republic. That is not how the average Bolivian wants it government to run. They see themselves as being part of the political process, specifically as part of the decision making process. Gonzalo was probably trying in earnest to make things in Boliva better, but as James Cypher in “The Slow Death of the Washington consensus, “in Latin America, “Increasing poverty, stagnant or fallin wages, and a further and steady widening of the distribution of income in virtually every nation has also become the omnipresent and largely ignored social context of the neoliberal era.”(Cypher p. 47) It didn’t matter if he had been able to get every person in Bolivia involved; they were not going to accept the measures it would take the country to get back on course. Ultimately, Gonzalo and the Americans were doomed to fail, because Latin America is not the United States, and trying to export an exact copy of our politics will likely succeed as much as trying to export our economic policy.