Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Annals of the Axis of Evo:

There he goes again: The WaPo reports that Bolivian president Evo Morales has nationalized the foreign owned oil and natural gas fields in his country. "The time has come, the awaited day, a historic day in which Bolivia retakes absolute control of our natural resources. The looting by foreign companies has ended," Chavez delared on TV.

Civilization should be crumbling any time now, right? No, actually the companies that own the oil and gas fields are still in control of their assets and now have 180 days to renegotiate a deal to keep doing business there. Spain, Brazil and the UK are the countries most affected by this seizure, and though Evo probably could have gone about this slightly less bombastically, there isn't any great move on by the foreign owners to leave.

Why would they, they'll still make their money; just not at the outrageous rates they had before. In the past they just sent in their economic hitmen to strong-arm previous, more pliant governments into giving the store away, but there's a new sheriff in town and he doesn't drop his gun and put his hands up in the air when bandits try to rob him.

This whole thing shouldn't come as any great surprise, as this was one of Evo's campaign promises. We might be confused by a politician actually making good on a campaign promise, but it some times happens in other countries, even ones run by populist demagogues in the thrall of Hugo Chavez.

Gosh, I guess, sovereign countries really do have the right to control their own resources and tell big corporation to take a hike. But, no, this must all be nationalist populism ---or populist nationalism ---dressed up as democracy, right? (Is Evo an indigino-fascist?)

Evo has been in power for only a thousand days and already the media is painting his government as an anti-democratic authoritarian one. A typical example of this is from yesterday's FT, which breathlessly reports:

"Yesterday's forced nationalization of the country's oil and gas fields has fuelled fears about Morales' attempts to centralize power through election of an assembly to rewrite Bolivia's constitution and his close ties to Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s president...'The constituent assembly is not so much a forum to strike a "social pact" as a way for this administration to impose its hegemony,' says Carlos Toranzo, a political analyst in La Paz."

Sounds pretty bleak: Imagine a democratically elected leader trying to form a majority government! And it gets worse, not only is he telling the foreign companies that they'll have to pay a fair price for the county's resources, but he's trying to rewrite the constitution; the constitution those very same foreign corporations had a hand in writing, which up until now have provided them with Bolivian oil and gas at rock bottom prices. And now, all of a sudden, the non-indigenous elite who have been running the country for all these centuries want a "social pact." When they were in power clinking their Champaign glasses with BP --- while the majority of the people were dinning on mounds of garbage ---they were surprisingly quiet on the subject of social pacts. Odd, isn't it?

So, let me get this straight: the problem the right is having with Morales is that he won the election with 54 percent of the vote, he's trying to get a majority in the congress to run things his way and he's launched a "systematic campaign to discredit the judicial branch" which is attacking "democratic institutions and damag (ing) the fundamental principles of the rule of law."

Sounds kind of like what's going on here, doesn't it? [except for the winning the election part] W. came into power, he rules through a gerrymandered GOP majority and now these forces of doom are working on wiping out the few activist judges still out there; a campaign, by the way, that even Sandra Day O'Conner says could lead to the destruction of the judiciary and a dictatorship.


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