Another Cuba?


Issue: "Sciavo: Saved by the bill," Nov. 1, 2003

Bolivians will nurse their longstanding grudge against neighbor Chile, even if it costs them a few much-needed dollars and the United States an ally. South America's poorest country forced President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada to resign on Oct. 17 after days of rioting killed 80 people.

The unrest grew out of a plan to export natural gas to the United States and Mexico. Indians, labor groups, and disaffected students, already down over the free-market policies of Mr. Sanchez de Lozada, suspected that gas proceeds would go to the government rather than to poor Bolivians.

They also refused to let their gas go through Chile, a country they resent for its victory in a 19th-century war that cut Bolivia off from the Pacific. Denied beachfront property, they now are denying themselves much needed export revenues. Many Bolivians earn about $2 a day, and unemployment is at 12 percent. "The constitution is like a mirror, but we have never seen our faces reflected on it," says Felipe Quispe, a leader of the street protests.

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But Evo Morales, the new president and a fiery leftist, is unlikely to give poor Bolivians real help. Critics accuse him of once accepting money from Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi. And he once asserted, "Latin America must build many Cubas."


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