The film Our Brand is Crisis follows members of the political consulting company GCS who travel to Bolivia. They have been hired by the presidential candidate Gonzalo “Goni” Sanchez de Lozada. Throughout the film, these consultants employ a series of manipulating tactics in an attempt to get Goni reelected to the presidency. When the consultants come in Goni is significantly behind, and the process to try to bring his numbers up is expressed. Through focus groups and polls they test slogans, responses to policies Goni supports, and general responses to his campaign. The business of campaigning is depicted as a cut-throat meticulous dance to connivence the public that Goni is a better candidate than the others. The backdrop of this election takes place in Bolivia, a country at an extreme crossroads in its history. The political and economic instability there has caused people to be pushed to the edge, and they are desperately trying to cling to any representation of hope. The political consultants, including James Carville, Tad Devine and Stanley Greenberg use this to their advantage and portray Goni as someone they can put their trust in. On election day, Goni wins the presidency with only 21 percent of the popular vote. Once in office, Goni is informed his honeymoon stage will be extremely brief, and the people begin demanding change immediately. In Bolivia’s history, they have been a poor country and have become increasingly more so. “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). The major problems facing Bolivia have brought it to a crucial place where change is necessary. One of the main complaints by the people expressed in the film is lack of jobs, and is something they are not willing to let go. During the beginning of Goni’s second term as president, it became clear that the necessary changes were not happening. People started to take to the streets and riots became a normal occurrence. In October 2003 Goni resigned, and Carlos Mesa took his place. The film depicts the manipulating ways of the consultants, as they attempt to get a very unpopular man elected to the Presidency for the second time, and once he was elected nothing positive was done. The political instability continued after Goni, Carlos Mesa remained president until 2005, followed by Eduardo Rodriguez who was president for a year, and finally Evo Morales was elected in 2006. Evo Morales was the force behind many of the revolts and riots, and it was obvious the support the people had for him.
In Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins he describes his job and duties working for a company called MAIN. “ I was to justify huge international loans that would funnel money back to MAIN and other U.S. companies (Such as Bechtel, Halliburton, Stone & Webster, and Brown & Root) through massive engineering and construction projects. Second I would work 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, UN votes, or access to oil and other natural resources” (Perkins 18). This shows the problems that exist with South American countries from an external view. The problems that face countries like Bolivia exist somewhat outside their control. Companies like MAIN keep these South American companies in debt and therefore they stay poor, and the cycle continues. The film Our Band is Crisis and the reading definitely show themes that represent the poverty and problems facing these South American countries.