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Evo’s Travails

The Chávez disciple is rapidly losing public support in Bolivia.

9:10 AM, Nov 15, 2011 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
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Bolivia has an abundance of natural resources, including massive natural gas and lithium reserves. Yet during its recent commodity boom, “private investment remained modest because of the uncertainty created by the lack of rule of law,” notes Jaime Aparicio Otero, Bolivia’s former ambassador to the United States. The country is suffering from “hyper corruption in nationalized state enterprises,” which “has broken the fragile investment trust,” and its “democracy” no longer deserves the name. In the World Economic Forum’s 2011–12 Global Competitiveness Index, Bolivia ranks 114th out of 142 countries and territories for the quality of its transportation infrastructure, 123rd for the quality of its institutions, 136th for property-rights protection, 136th for technological adoption, 136th for overall goods-market efficiency, and 140th for overall labor-market efficiency. Such a poor, small, landlocked nation can’t expect to attract significant private investment when its government (1) flouts the rule of law, (2) weakens public institutions, (3) nationalizes important economic sectors, (4) tolerates or promotes wanton corruption, and (5) gives every indication that its long-term ambition is to create a Venezuelan-style autocracy.

Chastened by his recent setbacks, Morales has agreed to restore normal diplomatic relations with the United States. But he is still rejecting a DEA presence on Bolivian soil: Last week, Morales told reporters that “dignity and sovereignty” precluded him from allowing U.S. drug agents to return. The onetime coca grower is, at heart, a ferociously anti-American leftist and a loyal disciple of Hugo Chávez. Unfortunately for his countrymen, it seems Bolivia won’t make any real economic, social, or political progress until Morales leaves the presidential palace.

Jaime Daremblum, who served as Costa Rica’s ambassador to the United States from 1998 to 2004, is director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Hudson Institute.

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