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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Los Tres Amigos

Alvaro Vargas Llosa:

When Evo Morales was elected in Bolivia, a number of commentators (myself included) were expressing the faint hope that the president would resist the temptation to follow Hugo Chávez's footsteps. Brazil's important economic presence in Bolivia, we thought, might give President Lula da Silva, a more moderate man, the sort of leverage that would persuade Evo Morales to keep Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez at arm's length even against his deepest instincts. The fact that the United States was avoiding open hostility seemed to give Morales room to maneuver.

Unfortunately, it looks like Mr. Morales' presidency has said "adios" to common sense. He is beginning to pick fights with moderate neighbors, to push away Brazil, to alienate investors, to inundate his country with "social workers" and advisors from Cuba and Venezuela, to reopen old wounds in the separatist region of Santa Cruz, and to undermine the independent electoral system. This week he nationalized the country's oil and gas industry...

Unlike Venezuela, Bolivia does not obtain $50 billion from oil sales every year. In fact, its national budget is dependent on foreign donations. By allying himself with Venezuela and Cuba, Mr. Morales is not only making a dangerous political calculation that could isolate him from countries such as Brazil, Chile, and Peru but also betraying the expectations of those millions of indigenous Bolivians who need capital in order to start the hard process of overcoming poverty. By concentrating power, this self-styled scourge of "traditional politics" is doing the most traditional thing possible in Latin America.

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