Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bolivia Explained

I did a post earlier today on the La Paz ghetto parents’ uprising, and have since found a good link at Fausta’s blog re Bolivia’s problems. Scroll down, past Hugo's picture.

The New Republic, of all places, has a solid report on Bolivia. Fausta excerpts from Alvaro Vargas Llosa’s article in TNR to explain a country I know too little about -- and am planning to remedy.

When you’re just beginning to learn, might as well start with the myths about a place and get those out of the way. Alvaro Vargas Llosa says:

After talking to Bolivians from all walks of life in areas ranging from the rural outskirts of Santa Cruz, in the east, to Cochabamba, in the highlands, and from the jungles of Chapare to Tiwanaku, the site of an ancient citadel peopled by indigenous Bolivians, I am persuaded that Morales’ government is ruling based on myths. Those myths need to be exposed before other Andean countries where ethnic and social divisions are also abrasive follow suit…

Then Fausta sums up those myths. Here’s the first one:

  • The greatest myth is that Bolivia’s population is alien to Western culture imposed by 300 years of colonial rule and two centuries of republican life.

She proceeds to list some other myths garnered from the piece. And she also links to the New Republic issue which ran it. Go here for a fuller story.

I asked Fausta to recommend books by this writer, Alvaro Vargas Llosa. Here are two she suggested:
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1. Guide to the Perfect Latin American Idiot, and

2.The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty

In the comments on the first book, some reviewer calls Llosa a “neo-liberal.” Can someone explain to me what that term means? The person using it obviously thought it pejorative, since he gives the book one star.


Evan said...

Here "liberal" is used in the way Brits historically used it - a proponent of free-market economics and freedom of thought. In economics these days, "neoliberal" refers to fans of market-oriented reform that has gone on in fits and starts all over the developing world since the early 1980s. It is usually used as a slur by people who believe that what poor countries need is a big fat socialist punch in the mouth.

The prefix "neo" is probably used both because these policies are a reversion, an undoing of the construction of the catastrophic statism that a lot of developing countries built after the war, and also because it is often done under the tutelage of the IMF and World Bank, organizations which did not exist in the earlier wave of liberalism from about 1860-1914.