Our Brand is Crisis (Another Belated Blog)

Our Brand is Crisis is a documentary film about the involvement of Greenburg Carville Shrum (GCS) consulting firm in the Bolivian presidential election of 2002.  Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, a former president in the mid-1990s and a presidential candidate in 2002, hires GCS to ensure his victory over the opposing candidates.  The documentary follows the election and the strategies used by GCS to help de Lozada obtain the office, as well as his failures upon taking office.  The GCS uses a particularly American form of campaign which appears very out of place in Bolivia.  Although the campaign strategy was not typical for Bolivia, it was certainly familiar to de Lozada due to his large amount of time spent in the United States.  The film shows how the tactics used by de Lozada and GCS to win the election were not in the best interest of Bolivia and its people.

Both de Lozada and GCS were nothing short of completely arrogant in their view of the Bolivian people.  None of those involved in the campaign appeared to be particularly concerned with the well being of the state or society.  The focus was solely on getting de Lozada re-elected so as to continue his previous policies from the 1990s.  As was discussed in class, the “branding” of crisis was the selling point of GCS.  This was simply to scare the voters into believing de Lozada was the only way to avoid complete collapse economically.  One comment from the film speaks volumes about how GCS conducted the campaign.  It was criticized for being extremely negative towards both Evo Morales and Manfred Reyes Villa, de Lozada’s two main opponents in 2002.  GCS successfully imported the American campaign tactics into this election although with very negative consequences in the end.

The fall of de Lozada revolved around the exportation of gas out of Bolivia.  De Lozada’s plan was not popular with most of the nation, and he resigned after Evo Morales led protestors in a revolt.  The MAS party, which Morales was a candidate for, is similar to the Zapatistas of Mexico.  These two groups share common traits.  Both were compiled primarily of indigenous people who pushed for agricultural reform, and government aid (Chasteen, 317-319).  MAS appears to have been significantly more successful.

As for GCS, one can find comparisons to the EHM discussed by Perkins.  It does not seem likely that GCS is acting at the behest of the US government, as Perkins pointed to in regards to the EHM and MAIN.  What these two groups share in common is the ability to step into a situation as an outsider and influence the political and economical situations in the nation.  The EHM was solely to act in the financial interest of corporations and “… cheat countries around the globe out of billions of dollars” (Perkins, 20), while GCS does not seem to be acting specifically for the political interests of the US government.  Either way, the actions of both groups do not take into consideration the effects of their actions on the general population.

Just as discussed in class, the GCS attempted to import US political strategy into Bolivia, where the outcome was not positive.  It seems that rather than aiding in the democratic process they actually hindered it.  The campaign possibly manipulated the people into choosing a president who was not the best candidate, even though de Lozada won with twenty two percent of the vote.  GCS managed to sway Bolivians into a political situation they were not happy with.