FOCUS: Bolivia — a Talent for Upheaval Staff Report
Natural gas, cocaine, water, racism, widespread poverty, and a legacy of almost 200 coups in almost as many years are the prime motives behind Bolivia’s perpetual political unrest. In the latest chapter, the current president, Carlos Mesa, faces exactly the same kind of populist protests that unseated his predecessor, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, in 2003. It was Lozada’s strict, World Bank-driven economic policies of privatization, government austerity and foreign investment that cost him his job. Fossil fuels dispute
Angry over what they saw as a giveaway of natural resources to non-Bolivian interests, a powerful coalition of impoverished Aymara Indians, labor unions, coca farmers and peasants, led by a charismatic socialist legislator, Evo Morales, undertook a series of protests, roadblocks and deadly riots that led to Lozada’s downfall. Mesa, at the time the vice president, took up the job as chief executive.