Thursday, May 11, 2006

Ending Exploitation

Evo Morales, the socialist President of Bolivia, defended the country's move towards nationalizing major industries at an economic forum in Europe today. Morales has come under great scrutiny for his decision on May 1st to nationalize Bolivia's hydrocarbon industry in order to use the profits for social programs. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has implemented a similar system with the oil industry.

Morales told reporters, "For more than 500 years our natural resources have been pillaged and our primary goods exported. This has to be ended now.” Spain’s Repsol, Britain’s BG Group, and France’s Total will all be compensated for the assets that are being seized by the Bolivian government, but Morales sees no reason to compensate for lost profits since these companies have so richly benefited from hydrocarbons in Bolivia.

Morales and Chavez have attracted criticism from more conservative Latin American leaders, most notably Vicente Fox of Mexico. "Mexico’s position is totally clear, we will strive for greater integration at all levels -- for opening of markets, fair trade, stronger consumer potential that at the same time creates new jobs,” says the Mexican President. Fox has little foundation for criticizing leftist leaders in Latin America, as he has overseen years of oppression and economic collapse in Mexico. Fox may talk a good game by ostensibly endorsing "fair trade", but his support of NAFTA undercuts any credibility he can muster. NAFTA has allowed American corporations to exploit cheap labor, natural resources, and poor citizens in Mexico. Fox is a former executive of Coca-Cola, which has benefited from NAFTA at the expense of Latin Americans. Many have labeled Fox the hispanic Uncle Tom for bowing to Coke and other imperialist companies.