Letters & Opinion

OAS and Elections in Bolivia and Dominica Part 4 — It’s all about the Money!

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Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

THE recent Bolivia elections turned out to be a final battle between the powerful rich minority and the poor majority over who controls the nation’s resources, especially on the heels of the extremely positive outlook for lithium sales globally.

Bolivia is still among the poorest nations in Latin America, but it sits on the world’s second largest supply of lithium, the main ingredient in batteries and a necessity for driving the electric car revolution, which is estimated to triple in worldwide value in just over a decade.

President Evo Morales and his Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) administration had just moved to cut out the local and transnational middlemen and take Bolivia into direct production of lithium batteries when the rich minority were handed an electoral fig leaf to carry out a military-backed coup and wrestle democratically-won state control from the hands of the majority.

Within the past week, the Dominica elections campaign has been dogged by biting claims and counter-claims, allegations and denials regarding unproven allegations of scandals involving everything from sale of diplomatic privileges to money laundering, all associated with the island’s Citizenship by Investment (CBI) scheme.

Both major party leaders have been named and each has denied all claims, charges and allegations, while whistleblowers have walked back their talk — and externally-generated stories continue to fly about non-existent banks legally moving millions and fake investors entrapping unsuspecting persons to tell long tales about being able to buy favours through quid pro quo arrangements with both government and opposition at the same time.

In all of this, the intention is to expose CARICOM governments in a bad light for appearing to be doing the same things done everywhere else where money talks and walks and matters most in elections.

All this comes against a background of decades of steady external efforts to encourage CARICOM governments to change or enact laws to adopt supposedly ‘politically correct’ approaches to governance that have failed elsewhere or resulted only in continuing creation of new ways to get around the new restrictions.

The Organization of American States (OAS), for instance, has over the past three decades fought an unsuccessful battle to get CARICOM member-states to adopt laws governing Elections Financing.

Such laws exist in Europe and the USA where political contributions are supposed to be registered and declared to reduce the role money plays in politics and elections. However, money continues to walk and talk in elections like never before on both sides of the Atlantic.

Talk aside, Caribbean politicians, like elsewhere, will most be unwilling to publicly list all financial contributors for their election campaigns and the amounts contributed. That is still largely unthinkable in these young nations still grappling with the challenges of growing-up independently.

Indeed, like elsewhere, big business people guarantee their influence over the next government ahead of any election by contributing to each of the two major parties contesting.

It costs millions to fight national elections in CARICOM member-states, just as it eventually takes millionaires with access to billions to eventually run for the office of Prime Minister of the UK or President of the USA.

Caribbean election candidates don’t normally have to declare their assets before running for office and most politicians don’t even do so accurately after taking government office.

Likewise, most see and treat elections as stepping stones to prosperity, with those who return to private life as poor as they entered public office derided as ‘failures’ or plain ‘stupid’, instead of respected for their honesty.

Politicians are almost naturally expected to eventually emerge or retire from politics with visible proof of profitable plumage, like property acquisitions beyond income value or creation of new family businesses than entirely depend on political patronage.

Sad but true, most politicians will tell you that when it comes to elections, ‘It’s all about the money.’

Likewise serving in office, no matter the position.

Money has always been and is still seen as always having a more negative than positive effect in and on politics.

But until it loses the value of the paper it’s printed on, money will continue to play its role influencing election outcomes here, there and everywhere!

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