Once You Pop, You Can't Stop

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Bolivia's economy is in the crapper, and the last week has seen violent clashes between protestors and police, with perhaps 65 people killed. But you know who's really suffering down there? Privileged American tourists:

The couple has been living on Pringles potato chips and chocolate bars since the violence began Sunday but occasionally treat themselves to a meal in the hotel's restaurant, where prices have skyrocketed in the wake of the unrest. Sounds of detonating tear gas are constant, and their efforts to get a breath of fresh air are met with soldiers' urgent commands to return to their hotel room.

When the couple returns to San Francisco, they might want to take President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada with them. The man has just resigned, with replacement Carlos Mesa promising new elections as soon as possible.

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  1. “Sounds of detonating tear gas”? What in the hell is detonating tear gas, and just what sort of sound does it make?

  2. “Ooh! There goes another, uh, tear gas thingie. Detonating.”

    “I want some fresh air. You think that solider will let us out now?”

    “Another tear gas! Maybe we should wait…pass the pringles.”

  3. Hey, emergencies like this call for improvisation. It’s got to be tough on those reporters to be cut off from their usual sources for quotes: cabdrivers and translators. Thank goodness for tourists.

  4. While my sympathy for the tourists’ plight has me virtually beyond words, the idea of chocolate covered pringles is rather appealling.

    On the subject of Bolivia, it’s definitely a mess and while I’m not extremely versed on the situation, there’s a couple things I’ve noticed. One is that in the coverage I’ve read and heard about this, it’s always blamed on the people being fed up with the failed free market system. The riots kicked off due to the govt plan to export natural gas. But how is the govt controlling this market really a “free-market”?
    What’s more, there was one little tidbit that I think is much more at the root of the problem and also hardly an example of a “free-market”:

    “The proposal also underscored spreading popular distrust with the government’s U.S.-backed policies against the growing of coca, the source of cocaine. The crackdown has deprived thousands of poor Indian farmers of their livelihood and plunged the president’s popularity ratings into the single digits.”

    Strike another victory for the War On Drugs.

  5. On top of all this trouble, we must not forget that Mesa cost the Cleveland Indians the 1997 World Series.

  6. To Bern:
    That was Jose Mesa, not Carlos.

  7. “Once you pop you can’t stop” sounds like a story from “Tales of Rush.”

  8. I’ve been living on Pringles and chocolate bars since 1983, and you don’t hear me bitching about it.

  9. When privatization came to Bolivia, the Bolivian government sold its assets for pennies on the dollar; Bolivians should be pissed at such rampant cronyism.

  10. Plus the seventy-percent “indian” population is tiring of being screwed over by their “white” masters.

  11. South America really should stop all this political nonsense and get back to what it does best — soccer riots!

  12. I don’t know about tear gas “detonating” but the police launchers make a quite distinctive pop as they fire a cannister.

    We aren’t talking about the pocket-size stuff here.

  13. Yeah, I don’t understand the snarky comments about tear gas. Some varieties of tear gas canisters most certainly do detonate.

  14. I assume it was a grammatical complaint. It’s not the gas that detonates.

  15. I guess it’s the weekend. It is, isn’t it?
    But the degeneration of Reasonable folk into the sound of one hand clapping and the sound of tear gas cannisters detonating is the best we can produce. Oh well.

    The bottom line on this post is that another country BESIDES Columbia is being ravaged by US durg policy. Bolivia we had not heard of just as we had not heard of Laos and Cambodia.

    The Domino Theory de ja vuing all over again.

  16. Since when do “privileged” toutists go to freaking Bolivia? Have they not heard of Rio? Or the Cote D’Azur? How about the Costa Del Sol? As for gas detonating, stop eating at Taco Bell.

  17. Though their week of sight-seeing was ruined, the couple says the cultural awareness they gained meant the vacation was not a total loss… [Reimuller, another tourist] said that although he was scared, he feels privileged to be in Bolivia at this historic time. “Bolivia is one of the last strongholds of indigenous values,” Reimuller said. “It needs to be preserved in our world.”

    I see a profit opportunity here. Prat-tourism with staged or scheduled revolutions.

  18. That’s what I read when I see “has deprived thousands of poor Indian farmers of their livelihood.” And it looks belittling to me to suggest that coca is all the indigenous people are capable of. Coca may be their most profitable option, but it isn’t their only option and it doesn’t entitle them to it.

    When the US gov’t cuts defense spending and/or funding for space programs, people in my industry lose jobs. But it’s not like they’re being “deprived of their livelihood,” they say, “Damn, I need to do something else.”

  19. Coca is profitable to grow because it is cheap to grow.

    With coca you can plant it and leave it; it requires very little in the way of weeding or other maintenance. The seedlings are cheap too, as the system of manufacture.

    With bananas, for example, you have tremendous capital inputs that make it very difficult for your average farmer to grow them. That’s why only the richest coca growers have adopted “legal crops.”

    Growing coca is profitable for small farmers because they can’t afford to grow anything else; it tends to come down to a choice between growing coca and peonage.

  20. Citizen,

    That line probably wasn’t meant to be taken that literally. When someone is fired, he feels like he’s being deprived of his livelihood, that is his source of income has been severed, even if he eventually finds another job. Still, perhaps it’s good that we point out that the line shouldn’t be taken literally and is merely a manner of speech or whatever you call that (drawing a blank right now).

  21. “The proposal also underscored spreading popular distrust with the government’s U.S.-backed policies against the growing of coca, the source of cocaine. The crackdown (get it? crack down?!)has deprived thousands of poor Indian farmers of their livelihood and plunged the president’s popularity ratings into the single digits.”

    Because for the last 10,000 years all the Imari indians had been growing was coca. In fact, that’s all they’ve ever grown since they figured out how to make coca bread, coca cassarole, coca pizza, coca puffs, coca-burgers, etc. Good for you guys with the successful revolution and all that, but I don’t buy the line that coca is the only thing that Bolivia or its inhabitants are any good for.

  22. “I don’t buy the line that coca is the only thing that Bolivia or its inhabitants are any good for.”

    Whose line was that? Or is this one of those let them eat cake dismissals akin to Hilary telling insurance agents surely they could find another job?

    Of course Bolivians could switch to something other than coca (eventually). But evidently growing coca is their most profitable option, or else they’d likely be doing something else all ready.

  23. If they’re living on potato chips and candy bars in a closed room, no wonder they’re so desperate for fresh air.

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