Dangl, Benjamin. THE PRICE OF FIRE: RESOURCE WARS AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS IN BOLIVIA. 2007. AK Press. USA & Scotland.

´The history of Latin America has been one of expropriation… Resources, and with them workers´ rights and public services have been squashed in a post—colonial free for all´.

The Price of Fire by Benjamin Dangl - Book Review

Dangl, a young USA writer, travels through Latin America learning about the past and present history—in—the—making events of our southern neighbours. The main focus is Bolivia but he puts it into context with reports from surrounding countries as well. Recent events in this small mountainous country — the plebiscites on the elected President, Evo Morales, and state governors, that were demanded by the US—backed wealthy who want to make a new country of the petroleum—rich region — confirmed that a majority of Bolivian people want a new government that answers to citizens and their social movements that protect and empower people & save their resources. In spite of incredible resources — petroleum, iron and other metals — Bolivia is the 2nd poorest country in this hemisphere.
The citizen—organized Gas War in 2003, a popular uprising reversed corporate policies and ousted a president. They were empowered by the success of another social uprising in Cochabamba, a Water War against the privatization of water and its sale to the Bechtel Corporation which saw Bechtel chased out — and inspired many richer more powerful groups and places around the world to fight to keep their water public. It was in these movements that the leadership skills of activist Evo Morales — the first indigenous president in Latin America — were honed.

´In the 1980s, the policies that enforced those beliefs came together under the umbrella of “neoliberalism.”… Neoliberalism´s objectives were the deregulation of the economy and the attraction of foreign investors. Across Latin America, trade barriers were removed, labour and environmental laws were loosened, tax breaks were given to foreign companies, and public telephones, water systems, railroads and electricity were “privatized” and sold…education, healthcare and public transportation were slashed.´

This is the program for not only Latin America, but the world. The people of Latin America have provided incredible and courageous resistance to this program — to the shame of those of us who are apathetic and politically ignorant in wealthier lands. This resistance takes different forms across Latin America; those who occupy land, some who take over factories, others create social movements that topple governments. Dangl gives good reports from around the continent on these exciting waves of change, but I was most fascinated by his personal accounts of social groups in Bolivia that provided the hope, organization and strength for political change. He was right there on the streets during many events and it makes gripping reading. From the feminists in Mujeres Creando who create the ways and means for women to overcome traditional oppressive values and customs so they can participate fully in society to Teatro Trono, a theatre group founded in the 1980s to ´reclaim democracy through theatre and art´ with those who are normally exclude from artistic expression — homeless children, poor miners and many others. Social movements were the creative force for resistance.

´…nowhere else In Latin America did corporate globalization wreak as much havoc as it did in Boliva. Nowhere else has the people´s resistance been so strong.´

The Price of Fire is a great antidote to our ignorance and apathy, full of lively current history and stories to inspire all who long for social change but are not engaged in the process. We face the same fate if we don´t see the parallels and start organizing.

Filed under Benjamin Dangl, Book Reviews