This is a source for analysis, interviews, and commentary on security in Latin America. Herein you will find rumors, the results of off the record interviews, and information you'll not find in international or United States news media.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A few words on Bolivia

In the best interests of maintaining a balance between work and play, I decided many months ago to stop trying to cover the whole region. Bolivia is one of the countries I have allowed slip off my radar. I do receive quite a bit of information from sources in the country, but I can no longer take the time to sift through that information and try to present a sensible analysis for my readers.

But I cannot ignore how much Bolivia has distanced itself from Washington in the past few months.

Bolivia has lost trade preferences for a long list of its export products, meaning the US is no longer an export market for Bolivia. This decision hinged mostly on Bolivia’s ongoing cooperation in the War on Drugs. Seizures and the arrest of drug traffickers makes up part of what seems to be a largely subjective decision, mostly based on how much Washington “likes” the current administration in Bolivia.

Morales has been very clear about using the United States as a scapegoat in his domestic battle to keep the whole country under his control. I believe that when he expels the US ambassador and USAID, he does so mostly to keep his core constituency happy. Unfortunately the fallout on the international level is one where Washington will not stand by and let a Bolivian leader sling mud.

Now the Peace Core is packing up and leaving, as is the Drug Enforcement Administration.

I would argue that Bolivia is now firmly inside the Venezuelan orbit. Morales has effectively cut himself off from any would be channels of dialogue or mutual support with Washington and has apparently placed his bets with the success of the Chavez regime – a considerable risk simply considering that all his geopolitical eggs should not be in one basket.

I wouldn’t venture to guess what will happen next in Bolivia, but wanted to point out Bolivia’s current status to call attention to a situation I think will seriously deteriorate over the coming months and could likely explode before the end of 2009, if not before.

Best case scenario: Morales manages to keep the low lands under his control and moves the country forward on shaky legs.

Worst case scenario: Bolivia slides into civil war, with Chavez backing Morales in a fight to keep control of the low lands. If this were to unfold, it will be interesting to see how Brazil and Argentina react – both receive a significant portion of gas imports from Bolivia’s low land regions.

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