rn: Bolivia: Defeat of globalization ignored


Jan Slakov

Date: Sat, 29 Jul 2000 09:33:13 -0700
From: Roger =?iso-8859-1?Q?Lagass=E9?= <•••@••.•••>
To: Marjaleena Repo <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Read this?

Bolivia Vanishes: See Style Section

by Gregory Palast*
- Gregory Palast, an award-winning investigative journalist, writes a
fortnightly column, "Inside Corporate America," for The Observer of
London, the Sunday paper of the Guardian Media Group.

In April, five people were shot dead in Bolivia, a military policeman
lynched and the president declared a state of siege following a
strike that shut down much of the nation. At the end of it all, for
first time in a decade anywhere in the world, American and British
corporate giants, the targets of the protest, were booted out of the
Andean nation, a stunning reversal of the march of globalization.

You didn't read the story? Come now, it was right there in the
Post ... in paragraph 10 of the story, on page 13 of the Style
section. I
kid you not: the STYLE section. It dangled from the bottom of a cute
little story on the lifestyle of some local anti-WTO protesters.

And so, one of the most extraordinary international stories of the
just went PFZZZT!!! and disappeared from sight.

Here's what you didn't hear. In the 1990s, Bolivia became the World
South American poster child for neo-liberal "reform" by following
pathologic care all the Bank's dicta. This included the forced sale
of all
the nation's public water systems. But when the new Anglo-American
of one city's water company hiked prices 35 percent to 150 percent
World Bank orders, a general strike shut the town. The government's
reaction helped spread the protests nationwide. After 13 days,
president, in fear of the strengthening protests, took back the
company from the U.S.-British operators and canceled the price

Some vital stories get buried because they fail the "sex" test of
photos, or they have no domestic news hook. But Bolivia had it all.
Networks could obtain high-quality video footage of the military
down civilians. At the center of the story were huge American and
multinationals, including Bechtel of San Francisco and Britain's
Utilities. Most importantly, this general strike in South America
a dramatic and bloody parallel to protests in Washington against the
International Monetary Fund and World Bank, which were occurring
that very
week. By any normal news measure, this was a helluva story of
globalization stopped dead in its tracks ... all while McDonald's
in Washington.

James Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank, was so shaken by
events in
Bolivia that on April 12, in the midst of responding to the
demonstrations against the Bank, he took time to denounce the
protesters as "rioters." Wolfensohn's wild statement (the rioters
peaceful demonstrators led by the town's archbishop) was meant to
discourage the press from writing sympathetically about the

He need not have worried. There was nothing on the tube; and aside
the mention in the Post's Style section and a few news wire
paragraphs in
The New York Times, for the mainstream media, the Bolivians simply

I can't say there were NO reports. The Financial Times sent a
reporter to
Bolivia. The lead paragraph of his April 26 report informed us that
on the
wall of the protesters' headquarters hung "faded portraits of Che
and Fidel Castro." There was no mention at all that five civilians
and a
policeman had died.

The FT reporter, who should have known better, picked up the line
drug traffickers were somehow behind the water protests. This
accusation originated in a Bechtel news release. (As one Bolivian
told me,
deadpan: "Traficantes don't care about their water bill.") Bolivians
themselves were also denied the full story, but by more direct
means. The
courageous editor of the Bolivian newspaper Gente (People) published
investigative series exposing the sweetheart deals between the
U.S.-European investors and politically connected Bolivians. At the
end of
April, Gente's publishers, admitting to threats of financial ruin by
water system's Bolivian partners, demanded that the editor, Luis
print a retraction of his reports. Bredow printed the paper's
... and his resignation in protest.


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Thanks to Robert Rodvik for this post. (and to Roger Lagassé, a bilingual
educator and activist from  BC. 
Jeunes Écrivains du Canada / Young Writers of Canada