Pipelines of Discontent

Nov 7, 2003

Bolivians threw out a government over plans to export natural gas. Bolivia and other gas-rich Latin American countries risk forfeiting forever the North American market that is theirs to lose.

It seems incredible that Bolivians, one of Latin America's poorest people, would topple a government because the country wanted to ship natural gas to North America, a plan that would generate billions of dollars in export revenues. Days of street fighting that left over 60 people dead forced Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada to quit as president and flee to the US. Opposition to gas exports was the trigger for an uprising that escalated into a battle against the government and its policies that few people believed would ease poverty or restart the stalled economy.

Carlos Mesa, Sánchez de Lozada's vice president, took over the government and immediately called for a referendum on the $5 billion-$6 billion gas project. "Whether the result is going to be good or bad is something else, but at least we have something we are driving towards, because before we had nothing," he said....

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