Last week, the Wall Street Journal ran a story on how Bolivia is allegedly turning into some sort of South American Afghanistan. As people living on this side of the equator, it is not very accurate – and it doesn’t try to be.
Titled “Bolivia’s descent into rogue state status”, journalist Mary O’Grady asserts that, just like Afghanistan after the Soviet occupation, Bolivia might turn into a “(…) a petri dish in which a culture of organized crime, radical politics and religious fundamentalism festered (…)”.
She even says president Evo Morales is responsible for creating “a repressive narco-state that advocates for coca growers.” So far it sounds like the perfect setting for the next Rambo movie.
Bolivia is a multiethnic (mostly Quechua and Aymara) and multicultural country (whit over 30 official languages) in which coca plantations are the foundation of its economy. Evo Morales is Bolivia‘s third president in the history of the Republic to be elected by an absolute majority of the votes. He is also the first president of indigenous descent (more specifically, Aymara,) turning him perhaps into the most representative president ever elected in the country.
Now let’s see. O’Grady has already written articles on Venezuela (calling it “a state where citizens have to choose between having a nation of their own or access to toilet paper“) and Cuba (where the Castro brothers “are simply unable to contain their brutality“) that had such inaccuracies that were even criticized by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter. She strongly rejects the ALBA (the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas) of which Venezuela, Cuba and Bolivia are member states. She’s an editor of the Wall Street Journal, and her opinion columns on Latin America are at the core of the newspaper’s depiction of the region.
The “facts” behind her reasoning for considering Bolivia such a vile place are ridiculous and an insult to the readers’ intelligence. Her conclusions revolve around the death of seventy-five-year-old José Maria Bakovic, a former World Bank infrastructure specialist (caused by heart failure related to the high altitude of La Paz,) Iran’s participation in the ALBA as a non-voting member, and the most James-Bondesque of them all, the alleged death of a man whose final words to some unknown individual could have been the name of a Somali terrorist group.
Her latest piece will have you frowning several times. Her sources are unrealistic. She talks about “unconfirmed but credible reports,” backed up by “one witness (who) told a Bolivian source of mine (who asked to remain anonymous for reasons of safety)” that the government was issuing passports to Iranian citizens. After such an interesting approach to investigative journalism, she goes on to base her entire view on Bolivia’s alleged terrorist alliances, drug dealing and human trafficking at the core of its foreign policy on the information provided by “one Bolivian I know”.
Let’s look at the facts. The Wall Street Journal – owned by right-wing media tycoon Rupert Murdoch – has a tendency to politically portray Latin America in a picturesque manner that seems stuck in the collective imagination of Hollywood producers from the 1980’s. We’re still all a bunch of far away countries with exotic, complicated Spanish names, ruled by bloody dictatorships or extremely corrupt governments, where people have never heard of an iPhone and marvel at the thought of a skyscraper. To them, we’re all still fighting mustached, medal-wearing generals who mysteriously speak English with a funny accent. To them, we’re still fighting the bad guy from Romancing the Stone in 1984.
Fortunately for us, Sasha Baron Cohen managed to change that stupid misconception to Central Asia or Northern Africa and now the rest of the Western world thinks bad people come from there. But not for the Wall Street Journal.
Here are some quotes from some recent WSJ articles about South America, courtesy of Mary O’Grady’s editorials:
2. On her coverage of the student protests in Chile, she disdained student activism based on a ridiculous “middle-class sense of entitlement” (to services such as free education). She is perhaps forgetting that citizens pay taxes.
3. When referring to the Media Law in Argentina, O’Grady claims that “President Cristina Kirchner wants to return the nation to those days (when Argentina lost its independent judiciary during the military government from 1976-83), albeit with her own brand of tyranny.”
4. As she provides an economic analysis of the region, she admits that a successful Pacific Alliance (Chile, Colombia, México and Perú) could be a strong counterweight to the retrograde protectionism and statism of Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina and Bolivia.
I’m the first to criticize the local Government when needed. But there’s a difference between criticizing policy and dismissing everything we do as a region because in somebody else’s eyes we’re backward people who don’t really understand democratic values and aspire to learn about freedom from the only country in the world with a monopoly on liberty. “Teach us, oh, great one!” and other stuff.
Then again, considering that the Wall Street Journal shares an editorial line with Fox News, it may take them a while to understand that.
(Story via The Wall Street Journal)