Our Brand Is Crisis

Bolivia is an extremely diverse country. The film, Our Brand is Crisis, shows just how diverse that country by following the political election of Goni. The director, Rachel Boynton, interviews campaign managers and consultants who were successful in electing President Bill Clinton to the United States for two terms. But their strategies to electing candidates did not work in Bolivia. They ended up electing Goni to office with only 22 percent of the vote. So, it is not a surprise that he had to resign a year after he was elected due to mass protests against him. The film showed just how divided the country is and how hard it is for its people to agree with one another. It also shows how the United States’ brand of democracy, neoliberalism, does not work for the people of Latin America.

First of all, the people of Latin America have not benefited from neoliberalism. The film depicts the U.S. brand of democracy as idiotic, even arrogant. For example, when visiting poor populations, Goni was annoyed by the people throwing pink flowers onto him. The scene depicted him as not respecting other cultures. He was just using them for votes. And while the campaign used polling methods to figure out what people were looking for in a president, they did not try to get at the root of division among the country. They looked at the immediate conditions and what would get them the most votes. They didn’t try to address the tensions between the rich, middle classes and the poor and Bolivia’s diverse population. The poorer people eventually figured out that Goni didn’t truly care about them. After the election, when his presidency yielded no different social changes for them, they took to the streets and protested.

The problem lies in that politicians like Goni are neoliberalists and subscribe to the United States’ brand of democracy. According to Chasteen, neoliberalism emphasizes free trade, export production and the doctrine of comparative advantage, and it is associated the United States (311). It also became very popular in the 1990s. During the 1980s, Latin American countries found a hard time paying all their foreign debts (Chasteen 312). So, the solution (from the United States, of course) lay in free-market policies and neoliberalism. The neoliberalism reforms reduced government spending, but there was a large social cost (Chasteen 317). State-run public services were sold off, or privatized, under liberalism (Chasteen 312). This is precisely what the poor people didn’t want in the film.

In addition, neoliberalism makes Latin American countries dependent on the United States. The large amount of money Latin American countries borrowed and could not pay back made those countries reliant on global enterprises. For example, Perkins describes how he worked as an economic hit man (EHM). As an EHM, he utilized financial organizations to create conditions that make Latin American countries subservient to big corporations, the government, and banks. Perkins said EHM mostly use loans to do this, including loans to develop infrastructure such as electric generating plants, highways, airports, and industrial parks (xx). So, the control of these former state-run services is put in the hands of large corporations and not the Latin American countries. According to Perkins, this took away employment from people in those countries and instead fostered slavery, employing people who under near-slave wages in horrible working conditions in Asian sweatshops (xiv). So, evidently they are unhappy about global dominance in the film. The protests in the film were about negotiations on natural gas. Bolivians wanted to make sure Bolivians get the profits and not global corporate powers.

Since Latin American countries became so dependent on the United States, they crash when the global economy crashes. Cypher said the Asian economic crisis has affected Latin America ever since 1997—after it created a policy of deregulation and privatization of the financial sector in the 1980s and 1990s (50). So, the Latin America people have been hurt by its reliance on the global sector. The United States’ policies have not worked for them. Chasteen said despite modernization of the society, including cyber cafes and cell phones, globalization has failed to produce general prosperity in Latin America (328).