Our Brand is Crisis

Our Brand is Crisis illustrates a measure of the extent of United States involvement in Latin America in the postwar period.  Central to this involvement are economic and political policies designed to enrich industrialized, firstworld nations at the expense of the impoverished resident populations.  The film revolves around the 2002 Bolivian presidential campaign and showcases the consequences of the wholesale application of US interests in a region where many are afflicted by poverty, inequality, and oppression.  To a large extent, the film is indicative of the illegitimacy of Americanized politics in regions oppressed by firstworld nations.

United States intercession into Latin American politics began as a means to manifest their global interests.  As Perkins notes, prior to World War II, all empires had been built on military might, but as the threat of nuclear holocaust became all too possible, a more subtler form of economic and political coercion became necessary to affect imperial interests (21).  Promotion of US interests now takes the form of deception and subterfuge, largely as a result of the economic hit men described by Perkins in his autobiographical “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.”  As a consequence of capitalistic, US monopolization of the world’s less affluent nations, those nations became inescapably indebted to the US and impoverished as a result.  This type of interest-ridden politics is exemplified in the film by Goni’s self-interested campaign.  Despite the advice given to Goni by his Washington advisors, his promises to end Bolivia’s economic crisis remain unfulfilled.  Instead, he taxes the poor, tries to implement a Chilean compromise concerning Bolivia’s oil, and does not create any great number of jobs.  In effect, Goni becomes an example of the Washington Consensus: the application of free market policies designed to ease international investment and elevate the already privileged elite (Cypher 47).

In stark contrast to Goni’s self-serving campaign and limited term as president, Evo Morales reflects the realities of Bolivia’s complicity in America’s “corporatocracy” (Perkins 165).  Since corporatocracy is designed to privilege an elite, the victims invariably become an impoverished majority.  Bolivia’s indigenous populations were seemingly without representation in the government, perhaps because their suffrage might entail a turnover in political power.  Similarly, much of Bolivia remains poor.  While Cypher and Perkins both indicate that the World Bank and IMF were intended to alleviate financial meltdown, their primary function in the recent era has been to promote the myth of neoliberal economics as the proper bandaid.  Instead, Cypher and Perkins agree that poverty and exploitation are the only real consequences of this agenda (Cypher 47; Perkins xv).

The consequences of globalization become dire for those oppressed by a system exercised for the benefit of a few.  As Goni’s campaign strategists reiterate, Bolivia in 2002 was in the midst of a crisis.  Much of the population was unemployed and some without representation.  As the film indicates, Goni won the presidential campaign, but was ousted from office a short time later largely as a result of outrage for his complicity in what Perkins termed the coporatocracy.  Consequently, Evo Morales, the indigenous rights supporter and American critic, eventually became president.