Bush Targets Chavez and Morales


George W. Bush has come out with harsh words for the governments of Bolivia and Venzeuela.“Let me just put it bluntly–I’m concerned about the erosion of democracy in the countries you mentioned,” Bush said in response to a question put to him about Venezuela and Bolivia. “I am going to continue to remind our hemisphere that respect for property rights and human rights is essential for all countries," he added.

While Bush’s hostility towards Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is well known, his critical comments about Bolivia came as somewhat of a surprise, given that Evo Morales has served only four months as the country’s first Indian president and has done nothing to thwart the democratic process. As Bolivian foreign minister David Choquehuanca noted: "We are creating a participatory democracy and the world knows it. I don’t understand how the United States can say democracy is eroding…"

Bush’s true agenda is reflected in his call for "respect for property rights." A change is taking place in South America as Morales and Chavez move to exert greater control of their energy resources and challenge US plans for a hemispheric free trade zone. As the president of the Bolivian Senate, Santos Ramirez, noted: "Bolivia and Latin America are no longer the servile democracies that tolerate…poverty and the surrendering of sovereignty."

Early in May Morales announced that Bolivia would nationalize its energy resources, particularly its natural gas exports. While no foreign corporations were expropriated out right, Morales made it clear that "the looting of our natural resources by foreign enterprises is over."

At the same time Morales is moving to reshape the country’s commercial relations, particularly with Venezuela. This week Hugo Chavez flew to Bolivia, declaring "we are going to concretize the People’s Trade Treaty," an accord that was recently signed between Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba. It is openly pitched as an alternative to the US-backed Free Trade Area of the Americas, a trade zone based on neo-liberal principles that facilitates the expansion of multinational corporations.

Bolivia and Venezuela have signed eight different accords dealing with 200 different projects concerning energy, mining, education, sports and cultural exchanges. Most importantly Venezuela has agreed to invest over $1 billion to help industrialize Bolivia’s natural gas production, including the construction of a petrochemical complex.

Venezuela is also providing diesel fuel, which Bolivia does not produce, in exchange for the sale of soybeans. This comes at an opportune moment for Bolivia as most of its soy exports have gone to Colombia which just signed a free trade agreement with the United States. The US-Colombian accord means that cheap, subsidized US grains will flood Colombia, driving out Bolivian soybeans.

In Bolivia Morales took Chavez on a visit to Chipare, the semi- tropical region where he rose to prominence as the leader of the coca growers’ confederation. There they announced their intention to build a factory to process coca leafs for herbal teas, medicinal products, and cosmetics. This is certain to arouse the ire of the United States which for years has pursued a policy of forced eradication of coca in Chipare, leading to the virtual militarization of the region.

The burgeoning economic alliance between Venezuela and Bolivia also helps offset the difficulties that have arisen with Brazil and Argentina over Morales’ determination to exert greater control over natural gas exports. Both neighboring countries have significant investments in Bolivia’s gas fields, and both are importing gas for domestic use at prices well below the world market. At a recent international gathering of Latin American and European leaders in Vienna, Austria, Morales and President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil exchanged harsh words over efforts to draft a new accord over natural gas. While the two leaders formally made up before they left Austria, there is little doubt that Chavez’ support provides Bolivia with leverage in its negotiations with its two more powerful neighbors.

Venezuela is also signing a financial accord aimed at bolstering Bolivia’s banking and monetary system. This is intended to strengthen Morales’ hand vis-à-vis the United States and international financial institutions. The Bolivian government at the end of March announced that it would not solicit any new loans from the International Monetary Fund. The fund has aroused a great deal of antipathy in recent decades as it restricted social spending and forced the privatization of state enterprises, particularly in the tin mining industry.

The visit of Chavez to Bolivia coincides with the opening of the Exchange Fair, a project of the People’s Trade Treaty between Bolivia, Venezuela and Cuba. Enterprises from all three countries participated with the goal of expanding commerce and sharing technical expertise. At the fair the vice-president of Bolivia, Alvaro Garcia Linera, criticized the US neo-liberal trade regime, asserting: "It is not necessary for small producers and entrepreneurs to subordinate themselves to financial capitalThere are other forms of interdependence, other forms of globalization, other ways to generate regional exchanges of products, ideas, and necessities." Garcia Linera concluded, "Bolivia needs the world, and it will produce for the world."

ROGER BURBACH is director of the Center for the Study of the Americas (CENSA) and a Visiting Scholar at the Institute of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley. He is co- author with Jim Tarbell of "Imperial Overstretch: George W. Bush and the Hubris of Empire," He released late last year "The Pinochet Affair: State Terrorism and Global Justice."


Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Rev. William Alberts
The Church of “Something Else” in “an Ecclesiastical Desert”
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability
Yves Engler
Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Mining Industry
Tom H. Hastings
ISIS and Changing the Game
Lars Jørgensen
Vive la Résistance
John Halle
A Yale Education as a Tool of Power and Privilege
Norman Pollack
Syrian “Civil War”?: No, A Proxy War of Global Confrontation
Sheldon Richman
Let the Refugees In
James Anderson
Reframing Black Friday: an Imperative for Déclassé Intellectuals
Simon Bowring
UN Climate Talks 2009: a Merger of Interest and Indifference
Ron Jacobs
Rosa Luxemburg–From Street Organizer to Street Name
Aidan O'Brien
Same-Sex Sellout in Ireland
David Stocker
Report from the Frontline of Resistance in America
Patrick Bond
China Sucked Deeper Into World Financial Vortex and Vice Versa, as BRICS Sink Fast
Majd Isreb
America’s Spirit, Syrian Connection
James A Haught
The Values of Jesus
Binoy Kampmark
British Austerity: Cutting One’s Own Backyard
Ed Rampell
45 Years: A Rumination on Aging
Charles R. Larson
Chronicle of Sex Reassignment Surgery: Juliet Jacques’s “Trans: a Memoir”
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
CounterPunch’s Favorite Films
November 26, 2015
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving