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La Liga de Las Americas

The Price of Fire unearths Bolivia’s struggle

By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Cleveland Correspondent


Cleveland, April 2007: Benjamin Dangl arrived in Boliva on a bus ride through Peru. Angry Bolivian grandmothers greeted his bus at a blockade by pelting grape-fruit sized rocks at it. Bewildered he hid beneath the seat but was soon sucked into the political and social unrest of his host country.


He had arrived at pivotal point in Bolivia’s history and his curiosity lead him to chronicle the events around him by interviewing the people at the heart of the struggles against neo-liberalism and fight for basic necessities.


Surprised by the lack of interest and media coverage of Boliva in the United States, Dangl spent five years as an independent reporter for Z Magazine, The Nation, and The Progressive. His articles eventually became the foundation of his newly released book, ‘The Price of Fire: Resources Wars and Social movements in Bolivia’.


“The title of the book relates to access to basic elements of survival like water, gas, land, coca, employment, and other resources,” said Dangl.


The Price of Fire book promotion caravan made a brief stop at Cleveland’s C-Space to shine the spotlight on the clashes in Bolivia between corporate, people's power and the role the country plays in Latin America.


Dangl hopes the book will enlighten U.S.-Americans of the complicated issues taking place in Bolivia and the role U.S. policies and corporations play in igniting them.


“The Gas Wars transformed Bolivia and opened up possibilities, the people lost the sense of hopelessness and rallied for change,” said Dangl. He hopes reading the book agitates the U.S. grassroots to ignite the same revolution and work for change at home.


Dangl says the election of indigenous president Juan Evo Morales  in 2005 empowered Bolivians seeking nationalization of the country’s resources. The book comes at an important time when the U.S. government has refocused its attention on the drug-war, especially on Bolivia’s production of coca leaves. Coca is the largest source of livelihood for most Bolivians, and contributed to one-third of the world’s cocaine in the nineties.


He says there is a prominence of agents investigating cocaine trails in the area and an American asking questions is common cause for suspicion. He traveled with a Union member to vouch for him and was able to interview many natives who add unique and colorful anecdotes to the book.


“They provide a human face to the issues and make the book fun to read,” he says. Matt Dineen agrees, “It is almost poetic and definitely more accessible.” Dineen is Dangl’s college friend and organized the promotional tour through eleven cites in the north eastern U.S. including Detroit, Chicago, and Boston.


Since its release in March 2007, the book has received much praise and is being translated into Spanish. He is a New York native and graduate of Brad College. Dangl has set eyes on Paraguay for his next book. To read more about the book and the reviews it has received visit www.boliviabook.com and to keep up with the author’s memories of the book tour visit his blog: http://upsidedownworld.org/blog/.





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