October 17, 2003

Bolivia Ousts Enron Collaborators

Hundreds of news stories continue to break as the unrest increases in La Paz where over 30 thousand protesters have taken to the streets to protest the plans of Enron, Shell and BP Amoco to accelerate the exportation of natural gas. According to Amazon Watch: "Years of gas development have brought little economic gain to Bolivia's forest communities who bear the grievous social and environmental costs of gas operations. Now the scramble for profits from the new gas bonanza is driving energy giants such as BP, Enron and Shell to embark on massive new pipeline projects with little thought for the well-being of the nation's poorest peoples." The protests which began in September, have become increasingly violent, resulting in extreme measures. Bolivia's only international airport, in El Alto, just outside of the nation's capital in La Paz has been closed since October 11. Bolivia's current president, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, lacks the popular support enjoyed by the leftist majority in congress. The Economist summarizes the conflict quit succinctly:
"Mr Sanchez (or Goni, as Bolivians call him) was an effective liberal reformer in his first term, from 1993-7. Last year, he won the presidency again, but with just 22.5% of the vote, barely ahead of Evo Morales, of the far-left Movement to Socialism. The two men seemed to personify two Bolivias: Goni is a Chicago-educated mining magnate; Mr Morales, of Aymara Indian descent, is the rabble-rousing leader of the coca-workers union. ...
...Ecuador's President Lucio Gutierrez is facing strikes and protests, having lost the backing of the Andean Indian groups that helped bring him to power. A state of emergency was been declared this week, as banana growers (Ecuador is the world's largest exporter of the fruit) blocked roads and ports, demanding higher prices and more state aid. " The strife has spread through the region, weaking the presidency of Alejandro Toledo in Peru, where a state of emergency has been in effect since June.