Our Brand is Crisis

The documentary, Our Brand is Crisis, told of the behind the scenes story of the 2002 presidential election in Bolivia.  Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada ,“ Goni”, hired an American group of electoral strategists to help him win the election. Through this campaign, the documentary showed the unrest in Bolivia and the people’s desperate cry for change.  The Bolivian people wanted jobs and wanted foreign investments out of their country. They knew this foreign money would corrupt their politicians and create trouble for the indigenous people and their well-being.

In the documentary it stated that “Goni” had already served one full term as president, but had not fulfilled his campaign promise to create jobs for the people. Everywhere on his campaign trail Bolivians questioned him about his failure. To counter this argument he said he had created jobs but had to also lay people off. His campaign team then came up with the idea for him to say he learned from his failures as well as his victories. This line tested well with the people and let them believe that this time in office “Goni” would know how to successfully create jobs. However, the audience could tell from the documentary that “Goni” was only telling the people what they wanted to hear without any real, solid plans to actually create the jobs once in office. The people in Bolivia desperately wanted jobs and wanted their natural to stay in Bolivia, so when “Goni” was not delivering for a second time and was making deals for foreign interest in Bolivia’s gas, they revolted. Violent protests broke out on the streets. “Goni” sent the military in and the riots got so out of control, people were shot and killed. The military’s brutal force angered the citizens even more, to the point they either wanted “Goni” out of the country or they would take his life.         

James Cypher wrote in his article that the “Washington Consensus” served to encapsulate the crystallization of a paradigmatic shift in economic policy making regarding Latin America.” Neoliberalists felt that the inflow of foreign investment would benefit Latin American counties while promoting economic growth and a better and equal distribution of wealth. “Transnational corporations, particularly in the financial realm, used their extensive influence to consolidate a policy that promised to open virtually all areas of the Latin American economies to foreign investment and unrestrained financial flows across borders, including fluid repatriation of profits.” However, a decade later, Latin American countries had not flourished as promised. Poverty, lower wages and unequal distribution of wealth was ignored. In fact, Chile was the only Latin American country to not have any consequences of the neoliberal era. During the 90’s Mexico was in a crisis where it was “locked into a neoliberal cycle of external dependence that hinged upon the subminimum wages of its long-suffering workforce…the “hollowed-out” Mexican economy was merely the best example of the consummate failure of the New Economic Model to sustain manufacturing exports throughout Latin America.”  However, the consequences of this era were merely labeled “transition costs” and advocates of the Consensus still believed the bright future Chile had accomplished was soon to be done in Mexico. Bolivians did not want their country to become dependent on foreign company investments and capital ventures. They wanted to be independent and veer Bolivia away from foreign influence. This was one reason they wanted “Goni” out. They did not want their gas going to other countries. This issue led to the riots in which sixty protesters, soldiers, and policemen died.

 In Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, John Perkins was hire to become an “economic hit man for the company MAIN. He was given two steps to complete his work. The first was to justify huge international loans that would fund money back in to MAIN and other US companies through engineer and manufacturing countries. The next was to “bankrupt the countries that received those loans after they had paid MAIN and the other U.S. contractors, of course) so that they would be forever beholden to their creditors, and so they would present easy targets when we needed favors, including military bases, U N votes, or access to oil and other natural resources.” Foreign investment in Latin American countries, like Bolivia are not for the benefits of the citizens but for the benefit of the investor. Bolivia was right to rebel and protest against foreign interest in their country. It had not served them in the past and would only make life worse for the rural population.