Courtesy Reuters

Bolivia's Claustrophobia

BOLIVIA'S position in South America is unique. Geographically, she is almost in the center of the continent. Politically, she occupies a strategic situation as the only country bordering on all four of the so-called "ABCP Powers" -- Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru. These larger nations are therefore vitally interested in Bolivia's political activities and in her economic development. But unfortunately for Bolivia -- and for the peace of South America -- she is a landlocked country under a constant fear of economic strangulation by her more powerful neighbors. This fear has several times within the last century led to wars or threats of war. The recent conflict in the Chaco (where a definite peace settlement has not yet been reached) was directly caused by Bolivia's search for a port on deep water. Having failed to obtain such an outlet by war, she has now turned to the peaceful negotiation of economic agreements with her four large neighbors in order to remove the political and physical barriers to her foreign trade. On the success of this policy depends in no small measure the preservation of peace in South America.

Except for Tibet there probably is no country in the world where trade is more impeded by geographical obstacles than in Bolivia. The Bolivian plateau averages 12,000 feet in altitude and is walled in on all sides by the two principal ranges of the Andean Cordillera, varying in height from 20,000 to 24,000 feet. The lowest passes through these barriers are between 12,000 and 14,000 feet high. The cost of constructing railways and modern highways over these tremendous ranges is prohibitive for a country of Bolivia's limited financial resources. Consequently, the four railway lines which were built during the last half century to link the plateau with the Pacific and with Argentina were financed by foreign capital.

Lack of more such capital has so far prevented similar success in surmounting the mountains that wall off the tableland from the tropical lowlands to the east. Though the eastern part

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