The Greater Implications of Bolivian Sea Access
First, Jose Mujica of Uruguay is one of my favorite world leaders. I can’t say I agree with him on everything, but I think it’s cool that he’s one of few politicians that can actually claim to be “one of the people”. This guy cusses in public speeches, doesn’t pull punches, dresses in worn old clothes, lives on a ramshackle homestead outside Montevideo and drives an old VW bug. Oh yeah, he also got into politics as a radical left-wing guerrilla, throwing molotov cocktails and kidnapping bankers. It’s hard not to pull for the guy when you compare him to the cast of characters we get in the US.
In the Spanish speaking international media they bring this guy up more often than they do in the Anglosphere (makes sense) and the rumblings around South America for Chile to give Bolivia back access to the Pacific Ocean. Mujica has been outspoken over the need for Chile to give them back a corridor to the ocean and just gave them (and Paraguay) open access to Uruguay’s ports to lessen Bolivia’s reliance on Chile.
A lot of South America’s recent growth has come from demand for agricultural and mineral products in China, so access to the Pacific or at the very least good ports has been crucial for the region. I believe Bolivia and Paraguay are the two poorest countries in South America and I suppose more difficult foreign trade has helped put them in that situation.
I can see how this looks like an unimportant story, but to me it’s another sign of increasing solidarity among South American nations (well, ok, Chile is apparently being difficult) and increasing ties between South/Latin America and China. Traditionally this has been our “back yard” and currently our approval ratings are about as low in South America as it is in the Middle East (which is low) and the Chinese have already put tentacles well into the continent and her resources. Just another sign of the coming multipolar world, with increased Chinese influence abroad and Latin America clicking together as a populist-left alternative to neoliberalism with guys like Mujica, Morales, Correa and Maduro as heads of state and center-left Brazil kind of anchoring things for them.
Also, Montevideo has a nice, underused port. I remember the main building being really cool. Great architecture in that city.