Bolivia: a lot of circus, but no bread

Hugo Marcelo Balderrama

The Roman poet, Tenth June Juvenal, in Satires, immortalized the phrase: panem et circenses (bread and circuses). It arises at a time when the corruption of Rome had destroyed all traces of institutionality. Juvenal maintained that bread and circuses were the most fervent desires of a people raised on vice and softness.

Centuries later, Lorenzo de’ Medici, Florentine poet and politician, perhaps paraphrasing Juvenal, said: pane e feste Tengono il popolo stillo (bread and parties keep people silent).

Both phrases refer to the fact that the peoples must be given spectacle and entertainment so that their attention does not rest on their miserable living conditions or on the corruption or errors of their rulers, but rather be distracted by the truculent farces. The fascists, socialists and NAZIS of the first half of the 20th century were masters of political choreography. In addition, to turn political acts into great theatrical scenes to entertain the masses.

On this side of the world things are no different. In fact, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez or Evo Morales are specialists in organizing circus shows, or taking advantage of those that already exist, for example, the carnival.

From the end of January and the beginning of February, many municipal authorities, throughout Bolivia, spoke of the possibility of normalizing carnival activities after two years. Jeyson Auza, Minister of Health and Sports, declared that each Mayor’s Office must analyze whether the carnival festivities are held, according to the epidemiological reports of recent weeks. In short, welcome King Momo.

However, while television channels, radio stations and influencers flood homes with slogans in favor of our “beautiful” carnival customs, the rating agency Standard & Poor’s reduced Bolivia’s rating to B+ with a negative outlook. Also, highlighting the risk of a downgrade in the next six to twelve months. Especially because of the fiscal deficit and the increase in public debt. The latter, according to their estimates, could exceed 60% of GDP by 2023.

On the other hand, in its 2022 Economic Freedom Index, the Heritage Foundation placed Bolivia 169th out of 184 countries. That means that, at the regional level, we are only slightly above Cuba and Venezuela. What a consolation!

However, to all of the above we must add another aggravating factor: the difficulty of accessing financing to sustain the Bolivian Productive Social Community Economic Model (MESCPB). More specifically, and although Jorge Richter (presidential spokesman) said: “It is not a dramatic issue,” the government is having problems obtaining the 2,000 million dollars that, by the way, would be used to finance the bonds maturing in October 2022, 2023 and 2028 (for a total of 3,000 million dollars).

The truth is that, if the government fails to place the bonds on the international markets, the country will have to pay a maturity of the 2012 bonds this year for a value of 500 million dollars, at a time when international foreign exchange reserves are not They even reach 1,500 million dollars.

Finally, it is a fact that the Federal Reserve, sooner rather than later, will increase rates. Therefore, it will be much more difficult for the regime to obtain financing. But don’t worry, things are going “well” because, after two years, we will have Corsicans, murgas and a lot of alcohol in the streets. Total, the circus is the important thing, even if there is no bread.

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