South America's Andean countries are rattling the continent like
a fidgety fault line. From Ecuador to Bolivia to Peru, the dawning
months of 2000 have lurched from a political coup to paralyzing
All serve as reminders that the post-cold-war promises of
democratization and economic betterment through globalized markets
have left many Latin Americans frustrated and poorer than they were
a decade ago.
*In Bolivia this week, protests sparked by a water-system
privatization plan turn violent, pushing President Hugo Banzer to
declare martial law Saturday and warn that democracy itself is
*In Peru, 30,000 people in Lima chant "Down with the dictator"
Tuesday as results from Sunday's presidential election trickle in.
Suspicions of fraud are growing as incumbent President Alberto
Fujimori's lead widens.
*In Ecuador, Indians and mid-level Army officers opposed to the
government's economic program bring down a president and for a brief
time in January install a military government - until international
pressure effectively ushers the vice-president into power.
*In Colombia, President Andrs Pastrana has proposed a referendum
to close down a corruption-plagued Congress until new elections can
*In Venezuela, public opinion is beginning to turn against a once
wildly popular former coup leader turned president, Hugo Chvez.
After more than a year in office, he faces a tough reelection bid in
"We are seeing what happens when the big expectations created for
economic and social improvement collapse into the frustration of
unfulfilled promises," says Alfredo Keller, a public opinion analyst
The process of globalization - exposing Latin America to a market-
oriented, private-sector economy and international standards for
democratic rule and human rights - has ushered in tremendous change
that has benefitted some segments of the population, analysts say.
Some workers have better access to goods and efficient services,
with expanding options for political involvement and freedom of
But for much of the middle and lower classes, observers add, the
economic horizon has darkened. Those too poorly educated to benefit
from new opportunities in a knowledge-based society are marginalized
further, widening the world's worst rich-poor income gap. And as
state-run industries have closed, whole sectors of the industrial-
era economy have withered.
Privatizations, such as the planned waterworks sell-off that
touched off Bolivia's strife, are seen benefitting only the
financial elite. One of the principal entrepreneurs involved in the
Bolivian package is a member of the ruling coalition who has become
wealthy off government contracts. Meanwhile, some residents stewed
over a a big water rate hike (see story right).
But if the Andean countries are most destabilized by this process
of global change, it is because here more than in other countries of
the region, economic upheaval has not been matched by equally swift
political reform and modernization.
"The Andean countries offer the worst example of an inability to
adapt to the forced march of globalization," says Bruce Bagley, an
Andean specialist at the University of Miami. "It's the demise of
the old system of governance that doesn't work anymore, without a
more modern and efficient system to replace it."
Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and even countries of Central America -
some still torn by warfare a decade ago - are doing a better job at
reform, analysts say. …