Annual Fundraising Appeal

Here’s an important message to CounterPunch readers from
BARBARA EHRENREICH…

BarbaraE

Here at CounterPunch we love Barbara Ehrenreich for many reasons: her courage, her intelligence and her untarnished optimism. Ehrenreich knows what’s important in life; she knows how hard most Americans have to work just to get by, and she knows what it’s going to take to forge radical change in this country. We’re proud to fight along side her in this long struggle.  We hope you agree with Barbara that CounterPunch plays a unique role on the Left. Our future is in your hands. Please donate.

Day9

Yes, these are dire political times. Many who optimistically hoped for real change have spent nearly five years under the cold downpour of political reality. Here at CounterPunch we’ve always aimed to tell it like it is, without illusions or despair. That’s why so many of you have found a refuge at CounterPunch and made us your homepage. You tell us that you love CounterPunch because the quality of the writing you find here in the original articles we offer every day and because we never flinch under fire. We appreciate the support and are prepared for the fierce battles to come.

Unlike other outfits, we don’t hit you up for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it.

CounterPunch’s website is supported almost entirely by subscribers to the print edition of our magazine. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads.

The continued existence of CounterPunch depends solely on the support and dedication of our readers. We know there are a lot of you. We get thousands of emails from you every day. Our website receives millions of hits and nearly 100,000 readers each day. And we don’t charge you a dime.

Please, use our brand new secure shopping cart to make a tax-deductible donation to CounterPunch today or purchase a subscription our monthly magazine and a gift sub for someone or one of our explosive  books, including the ground-breaking Killing Trayvons. Show a little affection for subversion: consider an automated monthly donation. (We accept checks, credit cards, PayPal and cold-hard cash….)
button-store2_19

or use
pp1

To contribute by phone you can call Becky or Deva toll free at: 1-800-840-3683

Thank you for your support,

Jeffrey, Joshua, Becky, Deva, and Nathaniel

CounterPunch
 PO Box 228, Petrolia, CA 95558

Screening Films in Bolivia

Where the Movie Villains are American

by JAMES McENTEER

Cochabamba, Bolivia.

On my first trip to Germany, shortly after college, I learned the power of media conditioning. I had grown up watching World War Two movies on television, filled with villainous Nazis. "You vill tell us vat ve vant to know. Ve haf our vays to make you talk " Surrounded by German speakers, whom I had only ever heard as menacing movie stereotypes, I felt my heart rate gallop.

An evening at Munich’s Hofbrau Haus, where beer drinkers hoist liter steins and occasionally break into song, felt like the ominous prelude to a putsch. Wasn’t this how National Socialism got its start? Had I visited Japan then, my reaction surely would have been the same, since two-dimensional "sneaky Orientals" were also staples of war and post-war era American movies.

Now I live in Bolivia, where the most treacherous movie villains in local films are Americans. Hollywood movies show here too, but in Bolivian productions Americans are violent and diabolical.

For instance, currently playing in Bolivian theaters is Antonio Eguino’s, Los Andes No Creen En Dios, (The Andes Don’t Believe in God), set in the mountain mining town of Uyuni in the 1920s. Germans in this film are savvy, industrious prospectors. The sole British engineer is a pompous drunk. But the Americans are rough, unshaven, gun-toting spaghetti-western thugs. Three gringos rob a mining payroll, blow up a train and shoot the passengers.

The robbery has historical resonance with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. After fleeing the United States, they stole a mine payroll in southern Bolivia and died in a shootout with Bolivian authorities in 1908. If the American desperado is one stock U.S. villain, another is the corrupt U.S. official.

American Visa, released in 2006, tells the contemporary story of a Bolivian schoolteacher named Mario who wants to go to the United States to see his son in Miami. Like many other Bolivians (and Latin Americans), Mario must endure expensive, humiliating procedures to obtain a visa.

When the U.S. consul sneeringly refuses him, Mario turns to the black market, where an illicit American visa goes for five thousand dollars. Mario pawns his gold jewelry, then desperately decides to rob the pawnshop. When he finally buys the black market visa, he is appalled to learn that the person supplying it is the U.S. Consul himself. "Don’t worry, teacher, the visa’s good," the Consul tells him. But Mario, undone by the theft he has committed to procure the visa, never goes to the United States.

"American Visa" is cinematic revenge against U.S. bureaucrats who stonewall Bolivian visa seekers in the belief that they intend to stay and work illegally. Like many developing countries, Bolivia depends on remittances sent home by nationals working abroad, legally or not. In a real-life act of vengeance, the Bolivian government recently imposed a visa requirement for U.S. citizens visiting their country.

American officials are more flamboyantly corrupt in Rodrigo Bellot’s movie, Quien Mato a la Llamita Blanca? (Who Killed the Little White Llama?).

In Bellot’s satirical road picture, the American DEA official in charge of cocaine eradication in Bolivia is also a major drug trafficker.

He hires a pair of indigenous, small-time hustlers to drive a shipment of cocaine to the Brazilian border where he intends to have them busted. This cynical, hypocritical gringo is awarded the country’s highest honor. Bellott presents the U.S. war on drugs as an elaborate American ruse to make huge profits and set up Bolivian fall guys in order to look virtuous in the process.

Though Bolivian President Evo Morales has not joined Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in calling George W. Bush the devil, contemporary Bolivian movies depict Americans as various sorts of demons. Such heavy-handed portrayals reflect a long-term cultural distrust of U.S. motives in South America and a frustration with U.S. attempts to dictate terms of assistance to Bolivia. Only now those sentiments are expressed in movies, not just graffiti scrawled on adobe walls.

Someday a Bolivian visiting the United States may feel nervous to find himself surrounded by the scheming, soulless gringos he knew about only from Bolivian movies.

JAMES McENTEER is the author of Shooting The Truth: The Rise of American Political Documentaries (Praeger, 2006). He lives in Cochabamba, Bolivia.