July 25, 2012

Bolivia's Relations with Brazil

MABB © ®

There is a crisis brewing in the, up to now, normal diplomatic relations between the Bolivian government and the Brazilian administration. Culprit, for the moment, would be the former Senator Roger Pinto (CN), who in his efforts to investigate corruption cases in the Morales government has found evidence that strongly points to the participation of high officials in dealings with organized drug trafficking organizations. 

Pinto came accross police protocols and reports that described how Juan Ramon Quintana (current Minister of the Presidency and at the time of the event Director of the Bolivian Agency for Regional Development)  together with a public official (also former Miss Bolivia), Jessica Jordan, arrived, entered and after some time left with two hand bags, the house of a known Brazilian drug trafficker, Maximiliano Dorado Munhoz.

As a result of Pinto's investigations the Bolivian government accused Pinto of corruption and other charges and tried to bring him to jail. Pinto, on his part, went to the Brazilian embassy in La Paz where he stayed and asked for asylum because of political persecusion. The Brazilian government, after hesitating a bit, accepted Pinto's application for asylum. In addition, the Brazilian news magazine, Veja, published a report entitled "Bolivia, the Cocain Republic" (Portuguese), which was based on the leaked documents of Pinto's investigation. This was the beginning of the rocky road the Bolivian-Brazilian relations are going through now.

Meanwhile, Pinto has been in the Brazilian embassy for over 50 days (since May 28) now waiting for his permission to leave the country. The Bolivian government, instead, has denied Pinto's request and is forcing him to stay in the embassy withou the possibility of leaving the premises. Roger Pinto wrote an open letter to Morales accusing the president with abuse of power (here is text of the letter). Other people have concurred with Pinto and wrote opinion pieces denouncing Morales' arrogance (the arrogance of Evo). To top it all off, the Bolivian government has made not so diplomatic statements. Officials have called the Brazilian embassy a small jail that holds small-time criminals, also other officials have called the decision "wrong" and "bewildered".

As you may imagine, the relationship between the two countries has suffered severely as a result of this impasse. On the one side, the Bolivian government has shown its deep dissappointment that the Rousseff administration has granted Pinto asylum. This was received as an afront by the Morales government because it basically accepts that Pinto is being persecuted and that he would not have a chance to have a fair trial if he were to dispute the accusations.

On the other side, the Brazilian administration has had a tradition of granting asylum to politically persecuted people and has not been able to brake with that tradition. Additionally, while the relationship between Lula and Morales was very positive, the relationship with Dilma has been very reserved. Lastly, the Brazilian administration stil remembers the nationalization of a Petrobras subsidiary by Morales.

The relationship between Bolivia and Brazil is, in my opinion, one of mutual dependence. Brazil and Bolivia are dependent on the sell and buy of natural gas. If the one stops buying/selling the two parties will suffer consequences. It is a delicate situation indeed, one that will take time to mend.

I am very interested in seeing how will this dispute between the two governments will come out.