Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Bolvia: Dubya hollas at Evo,

So Bush apparently got on the phone and muttered something in broken Spanish to Evo,who answered back in broken Spanish.

Well, anyway it is the beginning of a dialogue of sorts.

Not bad, considering how occupied Bush is with Iraq and just about everyhing going bonkers for him domestically. As the Economist recently pointed out, Bolivia is at the very bottom of U.S. foreign policy priorities.

Speculation on who or how this came about:

Has there been a true shift in U.S. foreign policy making, from the Imperial White House and Pentagon giving more discretion to Condi and State? Was this initiative something that brewed up from the regional desks at State to Assistant Secretary of State, Shannon, who seems to be very involved in the situation, and then up to the President?

Recent budget cuts and the priority being put on Border control, might be minimizing the voice of anti-narcotics officials in US-Bolivian relations. Ten years ago, the anti-narcotics types would have been in panic mode. As the Economist also pointed out, most of the Bolivian coca production is going to labs in Brazil where it is mostly transhipped to Europe. Maybe there is a pragmatic realization that the U.S. could live with coca production at current levels in Chapare, where production was dramatically lowered after US-assisted erradication efforts.
According to Reuters Brazil and Argentina have been urging Washington to reach some sort of modus vivendi with Evo, that would involve continued cooperation in fighting trafficking. The carrot would be continued economic aid, with Brasilia and Buenos Aires brokering the deal, and acting as intermediaries. For Brazil and Argentina that would help undermine Chavez' influence. Brazil would gain some serious leverage in resolving the differences over Petrobras' involvment in Bolivia. I am not surprised by Kirchner quietly pushing for this sort of accomodation, since it is in his countries interest to have stability since Argentina buys a lot of natural gas from Bolivia, and interruptions could lead to problems. In addition, Kirchner is walking a tight rope involving impoverished Argentinians, an economic crisis and instability in Bolivia could lead to a larger increase in emigration to Argentina, something that could be a headache for the Peronista government.

Would not be surprised if Bush's tone is also influenced by information conveyed to him by his brother, who just met with several Latin American recent trip to South America. As the Miami Herald commented recently, the governor is known to be the conduit to the White House for Latin American leaders, whom he is contact with through periodic visits to the area to drum up business for Florida.

So it could be that this approach of engagement, directed through the State Department is taking more into account the the advice of the larger South American countries.

Evo, needs to sell this to his Cocalero unions with the inducement of direct aid to them for alternative crop development. After all, many cocaleros did accept such deals in the past, and they seem to be working ok, with the region's agricultural production increasing. Morales ultimately, can crow all about "stopping" erradication of the acres still in production.. He did make fighting trafficking a priority, so he can really go after the "illegal" production. Its all wait and see at this point, but at least there is a good beginning.


Camilo Pino said...

Bush just did what he had to. He has made way too many enemies in the hemisphere. Why to close a door yourself, let the other do it for you.

Boli-Nica said...



The Iraq War has cost the United States dearly in popularity in the hemisphere, both by the perceived arrogance of Bush's unilateralism, and by the U.S.'s drastic disengagement from the Latin American region, which is more the result of 9/11.

Hopefully, Evo (and Garcia Linera the real strategist in GOB) will get with the program. Seems like there is a potential good deal here, the type that he could spin to his advantage in Bolivia, while apprearing statesmanlike (read "business-friendly") abroad.

The real wild car is the cocaleros big customers, the "producers" and "expertors" shall we say. Will these guys be happy with the status quo? Or were they "forecasting" a big increase in coca if Evo won? A "rogue" Bolivia in the short run, not a big priority for U.S. foreign policy, would be cheaper by cutting off planned aid. Under that scenario, coca production could go up with little bother. Peru or Chile are not going to care too much

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