Our Brand Is Crisis

Our Brand is Crisis is a documentary about the 2002 Bolivian presidential election and the Greenville Carville Shrum (GCS) political firms involvement in this campaign.  The main candidates in that election were Gonzalo Sanchez De Lozado (Goni) of the MNR party, Evo Morales of the MAS party, Manfred and other candidates which are not mentioned.  The film focuses on the problems within Bolivia, what the candidates promise and how GCS helps Goni use American style campaign tactics to try and win the election even though American politics are very different from Bolivian.  The film begins and ends with a revolt in which people are killed and Goni is eventually removed from power and forced to take asylum in the United States.

The Slow Death of the Washington Consensus on Latin America by James Cypher discusses the begining of Globalization between the United States and Latin America in the 1980s.  As has been seen in other articles on other films the U.S. takes a rather hypocritical involvement in countries and businesses such as the cocaine trade and in this article there are “flexible labor markets” seen in countries such as Chile where “per capita income increased by 49 percent from 1986 to 1996, yet workers’ wages increased by a relatively modest 19 percent.”(Cypher 47) Essentially, the labor force is being exploited so that the owners can increase their profits, this is similar to what is seen today when companies move overseas to lower labor costs.  .  In Cypher’s article he says “funds have poured into mining, petroleum/petrochemical, agricultural, fishing, and timber operations that normally entail heavy environmental costs and that because of their extremely capital-intensive nature have created but few employment positions.” (Cypher 49)  One of the main points in Our Brand is Crisis is the selling of natural gas through Chile to the United States, the people do not want this to happen but Goni insists that it is good for the economy, by this statement we see it is not going to produce any long term gain for the Bolivian people, that is probably why they are against it, but Goni believes in a free market economy (he did grow up in Washington D.C.) and no doubt that is why he supports selling their resources.

In the article by John Perkins Confessions of an Economic Hitman discusses how EHM’s (economic hit men) are paid to, in the words of his teacher “to encourage world leaders to become part of a vast network that promotes U.S. commercial interest.” (Perkins XIV)  This can be seen in the film through the natural gas issue, in the film someone says that if Bolivia is involved with coca production then California will not buy its natural gas (which the people of Bolivia want reform on the deal with California anyways because thy are obviously not getting a fair deal).  The use of economic muscle to force another nation, like Bolivia to do what a stronger nation wishes is exactly what Perkins is talking about, although he is more focused on profits for corporations and global economy than Our Brand is Crisis was.  The film really shows the disconnect between GCS, Goni and the Bolivian people and although Goni won the election he only had 22% of the vote and was removed within a year because of his tax increases for the poorest citizens and his continuing sale of Bolivias natural gas which benefited America far more than it did the people of Bolivia.