Bolivian pre^jtlent Evo Morales together w i t h Venezuelan president H i ^ o Chavez on the balcony of the Presidential
Palace, La Paz, Bolivia, just after Morales was sworn in as president, January 2 2 , 2 0 0 6 .
PHOTO BY GUIOMAR DE MESA/FOTOSBOLIVIA/THE IMAGE WORKS
Bolivia and the Changing Shape of U.S. Power
N NOVEMBER 2011, BOLIVIA AND THE UNITED STATES
signed a "framework agreement" to resume diplo» ' matic relations, more than three years after President Evo Morales ejected the U.S. ambassador on charges of conspiracy. In contrast to the diplomatic breakup, which made international headlines, the reconciliation, held in Washington and presided over by a Bolivian vice minister and a U.S. under secretary, was sparsely covered in the news media.
Afterward, Bolivian vice minister for foreign relations
Juan Carlos Alurralde declared that future developments between the two countries would be based on principles of "mutual respect and shared responsibility"' While at
Ethan Earle holds a master's degree in international relations from FLACSO-San Andrés in Argentina, He is writing his thesis on the history of relations between Bolivia and the
United States. He currently works as a project manager for the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation's New York office.
12 NACLA REPORT ON THE AMERICAS
first glance this statement looks like diplomatic boilerplate, on closer consideration it reveals a major shift in the history of the two countries' relationship. For the first time, the United States has let Bolivia—a small, poor, and geopolitically disadvantaged country—reframe the terms of the bilateral relationship through a progressive (and aggressive) campaign to halt what Morales has repeatedly characterized as a history of imperialism. Moving beyond
Bolivia, this event also has potentially important implications for power dynamics throughout the region.
Since at least World War II, when the United States became interested in the country for its tin deposits, it has dictated the terms of its relationship with Bolivia. Ranging from its demand for natural resources to a fear of falling
Communist dominoes, from military outposts to the war on drugs and experiments in neoliberalism, U.S. actions in Bolivia have in many ways been representative of its behavior in Latin America as a whole. Morales's September 2008 expulsion of Ambassador Philip Goldberg, part
of a diplomatic firestorm in which he also expelled the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and appropriated certain U.S. Agency for International
Development programs, was a fierce response to this historical dynamic of domination followed by dependency that in turn opened doors to new forms of domination.
Many on the international left have long considered Morales and his MAS party to be shining examples of an emerging political "pink tide" in South America, driven by widespread rejection of U.S.-style neoliberalism. In this context, Morales's 2008 actions were viewed as an achievement, a mile marker in the continent-wide movement away from the long shadow of the United
States. As such, the recent reconciliation has been greeted with quiet disappointment by many left-leaning observers. There seems to have been a collective knee-jerk aversion to taking a second look at something that at first glance portends a backslide in
Bolivian and indeed regional independence. Meanwhile, some in the
Bolivian and international left who have become increasingly critical of the MAS see the agreement as yet another step down the slippery slope toward "reconstituted neoliberalism," in the phrase of historian
Jeffrey R. Webber, or "neoliberalism with an Indian face," as Aymara political leader Felipe Quispe Huanca has put it."^ As a result, there has been a broad failure to note something that is truly significant for anyone who feels that Bolivia and all of
Latin America would benefit from more "mutual…