Our Brand is Crisis

Our Brand is Crisis,” is an interesting film that covers the 2002 Bolivian presidential election. It follows GCS, a political consulting firm based out of Washington D.C. and headed by people such as James Carville, and tells the story of how they helped Gonzalez Sanchez de Lozada, “Goni,” once again become the president of Bolivia. GCS helped release a number of smear ads against fellow presidential candidates Manfred Villa and Eva Morales. Manfred had a large lead and Morales had much support from the indigenous population of Bolivia. GCS also informed Goni that he must make the people believe he had learned from his past mistakes and could use privatization to help the struggling economy. When Goni decided to run oil through a Chilean pipeline, against  the will of the people, Morales and his supporters took to the streets and Goni was forced to resign and relocate back to D.C. In the end, the movie tells the story of how many Latin American countries have struggled economically as corporations continue to take their natural resources

In the “Slow Death of the Washington Consensus,” James Cypher writes that the “Washington Consensus” is the ability of large multinational corporations and other entities, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, to influence Latin American countries to adopt neoliberal policies. Cypher goes on to explain that as these countries adopt these polices they suffer economically. Poverty increases, wages drop, unemployment rises, and overall these countries are negatively affected. He writes that initially these effects were described as transition costs and that the overall growth of these nation’s economies would have a positive outcome for the people. However, these countries were borrowing tons of money from foreign markets, and when these markets begin to collapse, such as the collapse of the Asian economies in the 1990’s, the countries were unable to finance these debts. Cypher further explains that the economies of these countries continue to struggle, but that the collapse of the “Washington Consensus” is the best thing to come out of D.C. in years.

John Perkins goes on to write about his experiences as what he calls an economic hitman. In “Confessions of an Economic Hitman,” Perkins tells the story of how he become an economic consultant and en expert witness for businesses to do work in Latin America and other places throughout the world. He believes U.S. imperialism has forced countries throughout the world to continue to struggle economically. He writes that most people, like himself, are just part of the process by following orders and are inadvertently allowing the process to continue, but large companies are keeping the people of these countries from becoming prosperous. Perkins writes about how some leaders, such s Jamie Roldos attempted to fight against these companies. Roldos attempted to pass hydrocarbon legislation and informed the oil companies in Ecuador that their companies must benefit the people of Ecuador. Shortly after this, while his hydrocarbon initiative was working its way through congress, Roldos died in a plane crash that Perkins attributes to a CIA assassination attempt ordered by Ronald Reagan. As Ecuador continues to struggle, Perkins blames it on what he believes are the imperialistic policies of the United States, and writes that we must reevaluate ourselves and consider where we want our children to end up.

The film and the articles offer a lot to think about. The economic struggles of Latin America can very much be attributed to the influence of international organizations such as the World Bank. Entering large amounts of debt was a terrible decision for these countries and of course the multinational corporations would have encouraged it so that they could better use the land, but blaming the U.S. completely for this outcome is a bit over the top. These countries made their own decisions in the end. Most of the U.S. founders were against entering large amounts of debt. They understood that to become a powerful nation we had to do it ourselves. It was a process that took almost 150 years for us to overtake Britain as the world’s largest power. We definitely made mistakes, but blaming the U.S. for each poor country’s struggles is preposterous.  Did we encourage some of these companies to enter foreign countries? Undoubtedly so, but it seems highly unlikely that a United States president would order the assassination of a foreign leader over his stance on what companies could remain in his country. Hopefully these countries have learned from their mistakes, and hopefully the U.S. stays out of these foreign countries as it seems it would work to our advantage to help our current financial crisis, but  it is hard to believe we are the only reason these countries cannot become economically viable.