“Our Brand Is Crisis,” premieres on Friday night in U.S. movie theaters, focuses on the team of U.S. electoral strategists hired by the Bolivian president and candidate to his reelection.
The movie, produced by George Clooney and starring Sandra Bullock in the lead role, is a fictionalized remake of the 2005 documentary of the same name that portrayed the 2002 Bolivian election of Gonzalo “Goni” Sanchez de Lozada.
It was conceived as a humorous satire of the cynical campaign tactics used by the Greenberg Carvill Shrum consultants, a U.S. group hired by Sanchez de Lozada in a bid to improve his image after a tense first presidential term.
Washington publicly supported Lozada's candidacy against Evo Morales, who was then portrayed as a cocaine terrorist: three days before the vote, the U.S. ambassador publicly warned Bolivian voters against "those who want Bolivia to again be an exporter of cocaine."
Thanks to a sophisticated campaign, Sanchez de Lozada won the election in a coalition with other parties, including two that were part of the previous dictatorship led by General Hugo Banzer.
His time in office did not last long. On Oct. 17, 2003, he fled the country on a commercial jet, after the “Black October Massacre” in which over 60 people including men, women, and children were indiscriminately mowed down by the military’s bullets – under Sanchez de Lozada’s command.
Bolivian protesters from El Alto were then demanding the nationalization of Bolivia’s natural gas reserves, and rejected the export of the country's reserves to Chile. When Evo Morales was elected in 2006, one of his first executive decisions was the nationalization of Bolivia’s natural gas reserves.
Sanchez de Lozada currently lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland, a wealthy suburb of Washington, D.C. A Bolivian extradition request filed with the U.S. government insists that he return to Bolivia to face trial for genocide and crimes against humanity.
But up until now, the U.S. government has shown no interest in complying with the extradition request.
For the residents of El Alto, every year on Oct. 17, now nationally declared Bolivia’s “Day of Dignity,” they continue to march until Sanchez de Lozada is brought to Bolivia to face trial and finally close the book of the bloody story of Black October.