Reading Bolivia in the U.S. Press

March 20, 2008

It reflects recurring distortions in mainstream journalistic writing on Bolivia. There are a few outright falsehoods, like the "indigenous militias," but beyond inaccuracies, U.S. reporting on Bolivia is misrepresented by the language and narrative form, shaped more by external perceptions and strategies than by Bolivian reality.

If one reads the mainstream U.S. press to understand recent events in Bolivia, the following composite story emerges: Bolivia is a deeply divided and fractured country of profound cleavages, bitter fragmentation, and civil conflict. Most of this can be attributed to the country's new president, Evo Morales, elected in late 2005. A member of the Aymara ethnic group and Bolivia's first indigenous president, Morales is trying to give Indians a bigger role in government and a greater share of the economic pie. This has exacerbated tensions between Indians and the light-skinned descendants of the Spanish elite and inflamed regional tensions between the free-market-oriented east and the socialist tendencies of western Bolivia. Venezuela's Hugo Ch

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