Bolivia’s Transition 20:00, 2004 (Ref: SA04408)


Bolivia is a country fractured for centuries by language, race and class. Now, there is a newer fault line – globalisation. In this documentary, Bolivia’s Transition, we travelled there to find out if it is a curse or salvation for the country. Bolivia is one of the most troubled nations in the region and the poorest country in South America. But as we see, its society is divided into the rich elite and the very poor. But more interesting is the emergence of native indian power that gave the anti-globalisation movement its cutting edge. Bound by ancient traditions, these Aymara and Quechua Indians make up 60% of the population.

For centuries, they formed a vast underclass – social and political outcasts in Bolivian society. What helped to mobilise them? Bolivian troops sent in under American orders to destroy the cocoa leaves. Cocoa has long been a staple of Indian medicine and religious ceremonies. Because of the eradication campaign, thousands of Indians lost their livelihood. The issue propelled the leader of the cocoa growers, Evo Morales into national prominence. He portrayed the campaign to stamp out cocoa and globalisation as part of the same effort to impoverish the Indian majority. It was an argument that made his Indian Socialist Party the most powerful opposition force in the Bolivian parliament. Its mission, to undo two decades of free-market reforms and return industries to state control. And Bolivians know a few things about globalisation. You only have to visit the city of Potosi to understand the depth of their fears. It was in the mountains of Potosi that hundreds of thousands of Indian slaves died. They were forced underground for months on end to mine the vast silver deposits that enriched the Spanish empire for two centuries. And it continues today, but now it’s the multinational corporations that are widely seen as stripping the country of its wealth of natural resources such as gas & lithium.