sábado, junio 11, 2005

El corazón de la oscuridad

La crisis en Bolivia es un recordatorio de cuánto camino todavía le falta recorrer a América Latina ?tras casi 200 años de independencia--para alcanzar la verdadera prosperidad y estabilidad tan anhelada.

Esta región sigue mostrando la extraña mezcla de islas de modernidad en mares de pobreza que caracterizan a todo el mundo emergente. Pero hay casos en donde ese traslape de dos mundos es verdaderamente espeluznante, como muestra la siguiente anécdota sobre el Congo, tomada de este artículo de The Economist:

Veronique, an office worker, was separated from her daughter by the war. When peace broke out, she booked an aeroplane ticket for her (penniless) girl to rejoin her. But before the daughter could board the plane, she was detained. Her yellow fever vaccination card had been stamped by rebel health authorities, and so was invalid, the officials tut-tutted. Alas, she had no money for a bribe.

But Veronique was able to send her the equivalent of cash by mobile telephone. She bought $20 worth of telephone cards. These give you a code number which you key into your phone and thereby ?recharge? it with pre-paid airtime. Veronique called the obstructive officials and gave them her code numbers to recharge their own mobile phones. It took only minutes to send her bribe across the country?faster than a bank transfer, which would in any case have been impossible, since there is no proper banking system.

That's Congo. Private cellphone networks and private airlines work because the landlines do not and the bush has eaten the roads. Public servants serve mostly to make life difficult for the public, in the hope of squeezing some cash out of them. Congo is a police state, but without the benefits. The police have unchecked powers, but provide little security. Your correspondent needed three separate permits to visit the railway station in Kinshasa, where he was stopped and questioned six times in 45 minutes. Yet he found that all the seats, windows and light fixtures had been stolen from the trains.

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