Our Brand is Crisis is about the 2002 campaign and presidency of Sanchez de Lozada, more popularly known as Goni. Goni, who ran in the presidential election with 11 other candidates, including Evo Morales (Bolivia’s current president), only won with 22% of the vote. Goni’s campaign was managed by a corporation based in the United State, the Greenberg Carville Shrum (GCS). The film showed numerous scenes where these advisors were instructing Goni on what to say and how to run is campaign. He did not make one move without their approval. However, since Goni only won with 22% of a vote, the strategists warned him that he would have no honeymoon period while in office. In fact, early on into Goni’s presidency, mass riots ensued over income tax increases and the privatization of the gas sector of Bolivia. Goni also had plans to build a pipeline through neighboring Chile, a long time enemy of Bolivia because Chile caused Bolivia to lose their access to the sea in the War of the Pacific.
Goni’s economic and political agenda mirrored that of neo-liberalism. Neo-liberalist policies were prescribed to the countries of Latin America after the Washington consensus. Latin American countries were defaulting on their debt, so top economic strategists from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank worked to restructure their economies. These policies included the liberalization of trade and the privatization of state owned industry. However, these policies had vast implications for the popular classes of Latin America. James Cypher in The Slow Death of the Washington Consensus on Latin America, explains that: “Increasing poverty, stagnant or falling real wages, and a further and steady widening of the distribution of income in virtually every nation has also become the omnipresent and largely ignored social context of the neoliberal era” (Cypher 47). Chasten, In Born in Blood and Fire, also explains that neo-liberalist policies ruined the chance for local companies to compete. “Meanwhile, as Latin Ameican industries collapse across the region, devastated by foreign competition that the nationalist s had kept out, millions of workers face unemployment or long-term underemployment in the so-called “informal” service sector” (Chasteen 316).
As detailed in Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins, these policies allowed multinational corporations to push their own agendas in Latin American countries. Perkins explains that his job was to convince the political and economic leaders of the world’s developing countries to accept loans from international financial and development institutions. Claudine’s words in the book best detail the concept of an economic hitman. She says, “my job was to encourage world leaders to become part of a vast network that promotes US commercial interests. In the end, those leaders become ensnared in a web of debt that ensures their loyalty. We can draw on them whenever we desire—to satisfy our political, economic, or military needs… The owners of these… companies become fabulously wealthy” (Perkins xiv). These global financial institutions and multinational corporations essentially caused Latin America to fall into a poverty trap.
As seen in Bolivia, in Our Brand is Crisis, the popular classes became increasingly upset over neoliberalist policies and took to the streets to protest. During the Gas Wars of 2003, Goni was eventually overthrown and Carlos Mesa took his place. The people of Bolivia knew that they would not profit from the privatization of gas, the money would go into the hands of corporations. Also not detailed in the movie, these protests against neoliberalism actually began in Cochabamba, Bolivia with the water wars. All of these mass protests against neoliberalism eventually led to the election of Morales. Actually, all over Latin America leftist leaders were elected that promised to end neoliberalism.