Friday, May 12, 2006

Did Evo Really Blow it With Lula --- And Zapatero???

So say you happen to be Evo Morales and you want to change your country's policies, you need friends right? So isn't it great that the president of the biggest country in the area -and a neighbor- happens to be a working class guy who started out as a trade union leader, just like you? Lucky you, the one Spanish-speaking country in Europe - the gatekeeper to the EU- happens to be ruled by the Socialist Worker party. Zapatero, reminds you more of your vice-president than Lula, but he is heir to that PSOE tradition of working class militance, these guys did not back down, paid the cost with blood in the past. Only problem, the largest multinationals in Bolivia happen to be Brazilan and Spanish, and you need to change the rules of the game.

But that is ok too. Because these guys really, really GET IT! The struggle for the means of production, class warfare, fighting big corporate interests, organizing workers and the dispossesed, fiery rhetoric, organizing strikes, boycotts, blockades BEEN THERE, DONE THAT! . Even better all three of you understand what it takes to get to the next level; you are so good at the nuts and bolts of politics you made it to the top through the ballot box. Quite a feat when you start with nothing!

So you know when the time is right you can call Lula. Tell the companero that you made electoral promises to nationalize the hydrocarbons industry. Hey, you want Petrobras as a partner, it represents all Brazilians, no? The real deal here is about the price for gas, and how much you tax it. You gently remind Lula that for the Bolivian electorate this is a done deal, since they voted in droves for the measure increasing taxation and royalties. But, prices, taxes, and volume, that can be fixed the old fashioned way by negotiation, old hat for old union leaders, just need to make sure it looks good for the public.
With a firmer -but still- friendly tone you also tell him about how some companeros in your own party are openly questioning your committment to the program and even your leadership. The population, they tell you, still sees Petrobras signs on the oil companies property and think nothing has changed. Other popular sectors, ones outside your control, are also getting louder in calling for complete nationalization of anything foreign. Lula and Zapatero both know all about the ones at the fringe, the ones who don't shut up. But, you are still in control - for now.

How to fix this? What you need to do is mount a show for the benefit of your voters. Lula understands campaign promises, and if anyone knows about the importance of symbolism it is him. Something can be done that looks great for TV. Maybe send a token force of army troops, raise some flags, make speeches, and change some signs "YPFB-Petrobras." Hey, after all it is 50/50 partners, it is just decorating. Why not have Petrobras' marketing people there to make some tapes to show to Brazilian TV? Throw in a Brazilian dignitary or two, joint communiques just to show it is ok. Lula is after all campaigning too! Nothing is really going to change, things will go on as normal. This is nothing different than one big campaign commercial, you both know it isn't personal.

Even if Lula does not go along with this production, the least you can do is give him a heads up, a days notice to brief some of his people on the ground, get the spin ready on the TV to cover his rear end in Brazil. It is not like he is going to call you out on it publically; if you do it despite his bitching, you will look like a hero in Bolivia, if you don't do it, he looks silly and Chavez makes fun of him. Same goes for Zapatero, maybe Alvaro can go over there and talk to him, he isn't half as tough as Lula.

You would not want to mess it up with Brazil and Spain, specially with understanding government like Lula's and Zapatero If you play your cards right, you can look like a hero, make a better deal for your country on prices, and still get the Brazilians to put more money in the industry. Same with Zapatero, he likes you.

That is done, time to go talk to Hugo Chavez and Fidel on some stuff....