Here in Arica we are from the first row looking to the bolivian crisis. I see amazed the tons of rampant ignorance, demagogy and cheap rethoric used by politician and journalists to explain it. I think that one of the worst errors from the analysis is the racistic approach or their equivalent, the fight of classes approach.
The canonic explanation about Bolivia is that the country has an high percentage of quechua and aimara population, they are uneducated, easily cheated by populist leaders and -opposite to the "white" majority in the oriente they are living in starving during centuries, so, the riots and social unrest are just an expression of ancestral revindications which exploded since the Hugo Banzer rule.
This view is absolutly untrue; the quechua and aimara population tends to be underestimated due racist perjudices but they are in general extremely clever and hard workers, those cultures has a milenary background and extraordinary plasticity wich has allowed survived well and healty up to this modern times. Indeed in Bolivia those "coyas" (generic name to meant indians) are taking the economic power, specially in commerce and industry, since a long time, which provokes the long rivality with "cambas" (name of the wither people from orient provinces such as Santqa Cruz and Cochabamba). The big economic differences between La Paz and other altiplanic departments and the orientals as Santa Cruz and Cochabamba lies principally in the exceptional richness on natural resources of the oriente several orders of magnitude bigger than the famelic resources in the high plateau. However in the oriental provinces the big money is in hand of collas (indians) except for ancient aristocracies and new riches due drug traffic.
The traditional explanation is a fake told not only abroad, but also in the own Bolivia where the white upper classes are fiercing racists and full of anger against collas, and it is very useful also to cover the real reason of the actual crisis, which is pollitically incorrect to mention: the erradication of the coca crops during Banzers rule.
Bolivia is a big country with few people, about 8 million souls so any economic shock on some hundred of thousands people can be desvastating for the entire country. The former president Victor Paz Estenssoro, whose legacy of prosperity and stability lasted a record of over 15 years, which is a long time for bolivian standards, was rigth when not consent to the ask of USA goverment to eliminate the coca crops, he knows their people good enough to foreseen the social debacle which would follow this action. So, during those prosperity years the coca crops was absolutly legal and gives to farmers an estimate of US$ 600 million a year, free of taxes wich feed a long chain of industries and commerce not only in Bolivia but beyond, the free zone in Iquique (Chile) boomed based in those millions and also another millions bucks from Peru.
Not only the farmers but also a huge chain of people in many other activities made their living around the coca dollars; salesmen, transportists, importers, and industries of all kind was running with those money. I was in Bolivia several times in late 80s, when I run an import export in the free zone and the country was growing, prosperous and socially ordered. Never heard any claim against chileans or transnationals, people was busy earning his living and the country was steadily improving.
Just imagine if any of you folks was running during many years a profitable and legal crop in your farm, then, overnigth goverment declared that your cultive is illegal and fill your farm with poison wich makes impossible any other cultive in a soil wich per see only grows coca. ¿What all those people does?, ¿and their families and all the chain of people which used to earn their with related business?. At first they react with stupor, frozed, then they begun to leave their farms going to La Paz in search of a new starting. ¿Where they settle down? in El Alto which booming with hundred of thousands of people with nothing to do. Those people raise Evo Morales and Mamani to the power, those are decided to anything because they loose all, those are blocking roads and ask for "go out all the politicians"
It is not strange that those people was cheated by populist leaders, it is not the ignorance the reason they are mad against chileans, transnationals and they demand for gas expropiation despite this will surely bring more poverty. It is simply the stored anger for people who has lost their way of life overnigth, they uded to be prosperous and now they had nothing at all, they need someone to blame, that´s all.