Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Political unrest in Bolivia

Via and email from Pablo, here's a good summary of what's going on in Bolivia. It starts with some background:
The Road to Confrontation

Bolivia's steady path to bloody conflict did not begin this week. The nation in the heart of South America bears the distinctions of being both the continent's most impoverished, as well as the most indigenous country in all of the Americas. Going back to the Spanish conquest, Bolivia's indigenous majority has always been driven to the political and economic margins, ruled by a whiter and wealthier elite in a political culture not unlike South Africa during apartheid.

That political imbalance began to change dramatically in 2000 with the now-famous Cochabamba Water Revolt. The Revolt, in which citizens took to the streets to take back their public water system from the Bechtel Corporation, signaled a rising up of the nation's most impoverished against economic policies imposed on the country in the 1990s by an alliance of wealthy leaders and global institutions in Washington, including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
The piece goes on to discuss the immediate causes of the violence, and why the Bolivians would throw out the US ambassador. It's a sad story, but I now feel I know at least the basics of what's going on.

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