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A Dollar A Day: The New Silver
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A Dollar A Day: The New Silver
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Colombian Microcredits
In developing nations such as Bolivia, lack of capital and restrictions on access to credit affects everyone, from individuals trying to start tiny enterprises in order to support their families, all the way up to large, state-run companies. This film profiles three people who run very different businesses, but who share many of the same problems.
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Segment 1

TITLE
EMF Films and Global Visions & Associates present
TITLE
A Dollar A Day
TITLE
The New Silver
TITLE
A film by Alexandra Jansse
MARTIN OLMEDO [Ex miner]
Tio, please give us silver. Give us silver. Give us plenty, please.
VOICEOVER
In 2003, Bolivia erupted over proposed policies regarding the ownership of its newly found gas reserves.
TITLE
The Gas War. October 2003. El Alto, Bolivia
PROTESTER 1
Civic war, brothers!
PROTESTER 2
They killed my son.
TOMAS BRAVO [Entrepreneur]
It's hard to explain what happened. There is a lot of inequality in our country. The ruling class has a lot of money. Others cannot even eat, and survive, working day by day. It started at that crossover. The military were all over. A demonstration came from the university. They provoked the military with molotov cocktails.
VOICEOVER
During the demonstrations, police actions against the students caused a mass riot in which scores of innocent people were brutally murdered.
TOMAS BRAVO
It was chaos. There were blockades made of bottles and stones. All of that as a consequence of the fact that the population reclaims the gas for the people.
VOICEOVER
The people feared that President Sanchez de Lozada, called Goni, would export the gas and cause them to lose their fair share of profits.
PROTESTERS
Goni, murderer! Goni, dictator! The people don't want you!
VOICE
President Goni was forced to abandon his post like a thief. He disappeared. He fled to the United States. A new government was installed.
TITLE
Carlos Mesa: New President
CARLOS MESA [President of Bolivia, 2003-2005]
My first promise is a revision of the gas law. This was your demand. I agree that it is not fair when out of two partners one gets more than the other. In Bolivia the investors said: Let's start to divide. But the Bolivians said: What we receive is not enough.
TOMAS BRAVO
The government should share our wealth with the people. Otherwise it goes like with the mines. They extracted all our resources and left us in poverty. Our hills are like plundered graveyards. That should not happen with the gas.
TITLE
Potosi: mining area
VOICEOVER
The once-bountiful silver mines were plundered by the Spaniards during the colonial era. Only the Bolivian elite profited. Now, miners chip out a bare existence in the dangerous old tunnels at the expense of their health. Maria Cabana Olmeda and her husband Martin are typical of the families who must survive on the dust of silver.
CHILD
Daddy, here is your tea.
MARIA CABANA OLMEDA
Andrea, shouldn't you get up? You stay in bed, mother. Go and get bread. No detours! Come right back. Hurry up!
VOICEOVER
Living in poverty, Maria and Martin are trapped by their lack of recognizable assets and no access to capital.
MARIA CABANA OLMEDA
When my husband was working in the mining cooperative, he drank a lot. We were separated for two years. Now that he is ill, he doesn't drink anymore. He's unemployed and stays home. As a girl I wanted a good man. It was my dream to leave this place. But I'm stuck here for the rest of my life. I was 15 years old when my son Mario was born. Then we got a second and a third child. Summing up, I have eight children. Mario, Beimar, Dennis, Johnny, Roger, Vladimir, Jaime, Jesus. Those are their names.
TITLE
La Paz
VOICEOVER
Lack of access to capital is not only a problem for poor people, but also for poor nations like Bolivia.
JAIME BARRENECHEA [President, Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB), state oil and gas company]
Later, I will go to the club to swim.
DAUGHTER
OK.
VOICEOVER
As president of the state oil and gas company, Jaime Barrenechea is enmeshed in this problem.
NEWS REPORTER
The gas is a springboard for the development of Bolivia.
JAIME BARRENECHEA
I will be busy out of the office most of the morning.
VOICEOVER
The new administration is proposing a gas law to deal with the issue of imbalance of profits that caused the riots. But it's a dicey situation.
JAIME BARRENECHEA
Everybody is talking about that gas law.
VOICEOVER
Jaime is afraid that taking too much profit away from the multinational investors will scare them away.
JAIME BARRENECHEA
The government sent a new gas law to the parliament. The endorsement of a bad law could result in the opposite of what we want. First, the state will not collect enough money for the treasury. Secondly, the foreign investments will stop growing. So it is a delicate issue. We urgently need to define this law with acceptable conditions for the state and the multinationals. Otherwise the gas exploration will be postponed. I worked for 25 years in the private oil industry now it is my turn to work for the state oil and gas company. In October 2003, after the gas war, we had a change of government. President Mesa invited me to take the director's post in the state company. All the attention of the Bolivian population is focused on the gas. The Bolivian state company should regain control over its resources.
TITLE
Head office, state oil and gas company
JAIME BARRENECHEA
At what time is the meeting with the commercial people?
WOMAN
Two-thirty.
JAIME BARRENECHEA
Make sure Jorge Barraca knows. Thanks. We are now working on something very important. It is about finalizing a credit with a befriended country, China. China delivers the necessary capital to connect Bolivians to gas. Obtaining capital is extremely important in Bolivia. It is a very poor country and we need capital for these kinds of investments. We also need huge investments for the production and transport of gas. This cannot be a loan. It should come from multinationals that provide venture capital.
TITLE
El Alto, satellite city of La Paz
VOICEOVER
Caught in the tight financial constraints caused by the same social and political dilemmas, small business entrepreneurs like Tomas Bravo are also struggling to gain access to capital.
SIGN
Pressure tubes for all purposes
CUSTOMER
This one is good, they say.
TOMAS BRAVO
Yes, and then you also need this one. Sure we need one like this, which brings this together. I started my business in El Alto since the economy is more dynamic here. There is much more money here than in the center of La Paz, or other departments. The people work harder. They sell sodas and oranges. They just try harder. As an independent I earn more. This is thanks to my brother. He brought me to La Paz. He also gave me a hand with my business, with materials, and he also helped me to pay my first bank loans. What I need is 4,000 dollars. I want to spend 1,500 dollars on a new machine. I need capital. Do you think I will get another loan?
BROTHER
If you want a loan, you have to plan it well. You have to make a plan that convinces the bank. Secondly, the shop you started here this year does well. It is like a tree that bears fruit. And now you want to plant these fruits in Taquinia, and that seems interesting.
VOICEOVER
Like Tomas, Maria has dreams. While she earns a small income from selling her pigs, she has hopes of starting new business ventures. And, like Tomas, she needs access to capital.
MARIA CABANA OLMEDA
I would like to put my kiosk right over there. Where the miners can come and buy from me. My battery charger will be right there, so my shops will be close to each other.
VOICEOVER
Maria's need to fulfill her ambitions is made more urgent because of Martin's deteriorating health and inability to work.
MAN 1
Tell me, Martin, how long have you been out of work now?
MARTIN OLMEDO
I've been unemployed for three months, because I have some health problems. There were enough others, and they fired me.
MAN 1
You don't have a pension either?
MARTIN OLMEDO
No.
MAN 1
Why aren't you getting a pension?
MARTIN OLMEDO
I couldn't pay anymore.
MAN 2
Does your wife work, does she help you a bit?
MARTIN OLMEDO
Yes, she works.
VOICEOVER
Maria also needs to cover the tuition expenses of her oldest son and daughter so they can move on to a better life. Her son Mario contributes to the family income by working at the television relay station at the top of the hill. He takes turns manning the station around the clock with other family members. Once a beautiful shrine, the station is a cold and isolated place to live and work.
MARIO OLMEDA
Hello, yes. Channel 41 is okay.
MARIA CABANA OLMEDA
My son works up there at the relay station. He gets a salary every month. We have to pay everything from it. All shopping, vegetables, clothes. Tuition fees. It is not enough. Here is your food. Did anybody phone you?
MARIO OLMEDA
No.
MARIA CABANA OLMEDA
Nobody called you? Here is your food.
MARIO OLMEDA
How is father?
MARIA CABANA OLMEDA
He has an inflamed chest and is walking with difficulty. He could not sleep last night. The agitation makes it like that. He is coughing continuously. The baby was crying too. We could not do anything. The baby cried till 4 o'clock. Were you cold last night?
CARLOS MESA
Looking back at the past, living now, and confronting our future. We have to be well informed about our gas, in order to take the best decision. Each time you see this symbol, beware! We talk about what is most important. Gas is important for all!

Segment 2

TITLE
Province of Tarija
JAIME BARRENECHEA
Look! Millions of dollars have been invested in the oil and gas sector of Bolivia. Very necessary. This plant demanded an enormous investment. On top of that came the investment in the pipeline they are building. Because of the difficult topography, the costs have increased tremendously. We need to find a balance point so that the multinationals remain working here and continue to invest, and that the people in the country feel the benefits from those investments.
VOICEOVER
While the natural resources that fuel this Santa Margarita plant are owned by Bolivia, the plant itself is owned by the Spanish multinational company, Repsol.
WORKER
Welcome to Santa Margarita.
JAIME BARRENECHEA
How are you?
VOICEOVER
The contract for this operation requires the state, represented by Jaime, to extract the natural gas, liquefy it, and pipe it to Brazil. But, in an attempt to create a more just balance of revenue to the state, the new gas law levies a greater tax on investors like Repsol.
WORKER
The plant is now technically fully operational. We are only waiting to have the export line ready, to be able to start operations.
JAIME BARRENECHEA
Great, because once this plant starts supplying gas to Brazil, it is a great new source of liquid gas. That will increase the collection of royalties for the National Treasury and for the Province of Tarija. We need the plant to be ready for production as soon as possible.
VOICEOVER
In an attempt to settle their differences, Jaime hosts a meeting with Repsol managers.
TITLE
National state oil and gas company, St. Cruz
JAIME BARRENECHEA
We need to incorporate the production of the Margarita field in order to export gas to Brazil. Therefore, we would like to know when your plant will start its production.
JULIO CAVITO [President, Repsol Bolivia]
It is very much affected by the new gas law. The current formulation of the law really holds back further investment to obtain liquid gas out of the natural gas.
JAIME BARRENECHEA
But the state company invests in this plant. I am not joining in order to lose money.
JULIO CAVITO
Let's not lose faith. But, please use your influence to bring some order to the proposed law. Ironically, the way it is formulated now, such a law is not in the national interest. The way the law is now, it is better for us not to produce liquid gas at all.
VOICEOVER
While Jaime knows he must respond to Repsol's demands and retain their investments, his first obligation is to the nation.
JAIME BARRENECHEA
If there is a tax framework that puts too much pressure on private capital there are many investments that will not take place in this country. It is possible to increase our income, but we need a balance. We have to be aware of what game we are playing with our gas reserves not only in South America, but on a global scale.
VOICEOVER
To further complicate Jaime's dilemma, many feel that the state's first priority is to pipe gas directly to the millions of Bolivians homes that are without it.
TOMAS BRAVO
When I married Patricia Ramos I was only 17. We have three fantastic kids now. Living in Villa Pavon, I am grateful for all the help offered by my father-in-law. My first shop is successful. That is why I am thinking of obtaining a new loan to open a second shop.
VOICEOVER
Tomas has his own dilemma. While he needs a new loan to expand his business, he still owes money on his original loan. On the advice of his brother, he has worked hard to prepare his case and enters the bank with confidence. But, like Repsol, the bank holds the cards.
TOMAS BRAVO
Herman, I have a project I want to show to you. Let me explain. I need your assistance to get money. As you can see, I need an amount of $4,000.
HERMAN [BancoSol]
Is that on top of the loan that you already have? Because you already have a credit.
TOMAS BRAVO
That's right.
HERMAN
How much is your balance?
TOMAS BRAVO
$1,200 in the minus.
HERMAN
So that means that your new debt will be $5,200. That is with an interest rate of 26 percent per year. We see that this adds up to 40 percent in 36 months. What kind of guaranty can you offer?
TOMAS BRAVO
At this moment this could be the machine that I am going to buy and the machine that I already have invested in.
HERMAN
The guaranty is with collateral?
TOMAS BRAVO
Yes, with collateral. Otherwise, with an additional guarantee like the land of my brother. Can we consider that?
HERMAN
With the collateral of the machines alone it is difficult to obtain authorization for that amount. You need to make $412 of net profit to maintain this shop. You say that you make $262 a month. There is a difference of $140. So, it is very premature to say yes or no to this project. But I have an idea of what you've shown so I am going to call you tomorrow.
TOMAS BRAVO
OK, in any case take my card.
HERMAN
Perfect.
TOMAS BRAVO
Please study my situation, here is my proposal.
MARIA CABANA OLMEDA
Hello Teofilla, what's up?
TEOFILLA JAVIER RAMOS
I am washing the miners' dishes.
MARIA CABANA OLMEDA
Monday at two we have a microcredit meeting. Are you coming?
TEOFILLA JAVIER RAMOS
Where is it?
MARIA CABANA OLMEDA
At the same place. So, okay, at two. I'll see you there.
TEOFILLA JAVIER RAMOS
Bye-bye.
VOICEOVER
Microcredit is a small loan, often offered to start-up businesses by non-government organizations, or NGOs, rather than banks.
MARIA CABANA OLMEDA
I've lived here since I was eight years old, in this mine entrance called la Roxana. My father abandoned us when I was only three years old. We suffered a lot. We had to fetch water and wood all the way to Guachachi. It was a long way to get water. We supplied food and water to the miners to clean their hands to wash their mouths, and their lamps had to be charged. We cooked and slept in the same room. We did everything in the same room. The memory hurts. It makes me cry. It was Christmas. When I went down into town, everybody had toys, bikes, dolls, and I had nothing. And I had nothing. I suffer very much remembering this all. I don't want to remember it. It hurts too much. I had no father to ask why I didn't have at least some toys to play with. I just took the cooking kerosene and went back to the mountain. I cried a lot and asked my mother why she didn't buy anything for me. "Baby," she said, "we do not have the money to buy dolls." To celebrate Christmas we only had a paprika to prepare. I suffered so much here in the mine entrance. We had to walk down and up by foot again and again. It hurt a lot to constantly walk. This is why I cannot read nor write.
VOICEOVER
In areas like Potosi, where banks will not give loans to poor people without recognizable collateral, their only option is to get microcredit from NGOs like Crecer. Maria has been able to form a group of women who have qualified for their microcredit loan from Crecer by guaranteeing that each will cover for the other in case of default.
CRECER ORGANIZER
I give the money to the board of directors, to the treasurer. We start counting, together with the group. After counting we will discuss our plans. Count this, Maria: $4,000 is what we need to count. The communal association is obligated to pay an interest of 21 percent for a period of 24 weeks. This means a total amount of interest of $2,000. This is the amount that this group has to pay back. You have to pay back $2,000 to the institute.
MARIA CABANA OLMEDA
It is important that you show up in time for our meetings. It is a guideline of our bank that the board of directors manages the money. Together we are responsible. By doing business, this amount of money should increase.
CRECER ORGANIZER
Teofilla Javier Ramos, what are you going to use the money for?
TEOFILLA JAVIER RAMOS
I'm going to sell sandwiches.
MARIA CABANA OLMEDA
Here is $200. Please count it yourself.
TEOFILLA JAVIER RAMOS
That's right. Thanks.
MARIA CABANA OLMEDA
It's real money, you can trust it.
CRECER ORGANIZER
Maria Cabana Llanos Olmedo, $200. What are you going to use the money for?
MARIA CABANA OLMEDA
I am using the money to buy a kiosk. This way, I will make more money. I'll have electricity installed in my house and I will install my battery charger.
CRECER ORGANIZER
Very good. Sign the paper here, Maria. Here. That's it.
MARIA CABANA OLMEDA
Yes.
CRECER ORGANIZER
Money so you can work.
MARIA CABANA OLMEDA
Yes, thanks. Now I'm going to celebrate.
WOMAN
You are not going to buy joints?
MARIA CABANA OLMEDA
This very afternoon!
VOICEOVER
Part of the reason that BancoSol is so tough on Tomas is that they themselves must justify the loans they grant to their own investors.
INVESTOR
Hello.
TOMAS BRAVO
Sorry. My hands are a bit dirty.
JHONNY UGARTE [BancoSol]
These are the representatives of IFC, investors of BancoSol. They would like to know a bit more about the way you run your business.
TOMAS BRAVO
I work with pressure tubes. This one for instance has to be replaced, because it is burned. Sorry, I almost hit you by swinging this tube.
INVESTOR
What motivated you to open your own shop?
TOMAS BRAVO
My employer was cutting the salaries due to the economic crisis. In 2003, I earned half of what I made in 2002. With a salary like that I could not support three children.
INVESTOR
How did your life change?
TOMAS BRAVO
Lots of things changed. Before, I was like a slave of my employer. The bank loan I got gave me the chance to improve and to grow. But you also need strength of character.
INVESTOR
Some people do not even make it with credit.
TOMAS BRAVO
Yes, I have seen those cases. But personally, I do manage.
INVESTOR
What is your monthly turnover?
TOMAS BRAVO
This month I officially billed for an amount of $220.
JHONNY UGARTE
For many of our clients the only thing they could guarantee was to form a group of three, four, or five people and through this guarantee mechanism they could share a credit.
INVESTOR
So what changed? What happened?
JHONNY UGARTE
Since the guarantee was based on solidarity, a guarantee shared among the people, those that remained in the group had to pay the debts of their group members. This started to generate some bad experiences for some people. They said: "I don't want to pay another person's debts." "I do not want to give anymore guarantees." Or in other cases, some people's business grew fast and the group solidarity credit was not enough to cover this kind of request. So they started to ask us for other forms of credit. What a fool. So the bank now manages "solidarity credits," individual credits, credits for much higher amounts.
VOICEOVER
As the director of the state oil and gas company, not only does Jaime have to manage international deals, but also the delivery of gas and oil to the local market.
JAIME BARRENECHEA
The gas that we administer comes from this kind of plant. These bottles are inconvenient for the population and very expensive for the government. Each year we spend $50 million on subsidies for liquid gas to maintain a low price for the population. So we should replace these bottles with connections to people's homes.
VOICEOVER
In order to provide direct gas connections, inexpensive long-term loans must be obtained.
JAIME BARRENECHEA
We can get sufficient materials to deliver natural gas to 130,000 households in Bolivia. That Chinese government agent promotes exports with these kinds of loans. What are they called? Concessional? The conditions are very special, no?
WOMAN
Yes, the interest is 2 percent over 20 years. The first nine years are for free. So after nine years we start to pay.

Segment 3

TOMAS BRAVO
Good evening. Can I get a Tampico?
STORE EMPLOYEE
Which flavor?
TOMAS BRAVO
Orange. And five eggs, please.
NEWS ANNOUNCER
Jaime Barrenechea and the federation of neighbors of El Alto signed an agreement today to install domestic gas connections. The gas will be delivered to every household. The neighbors of El Alto will collaborate in the layout of connections to 22,000 houses and 48 educational centers.
TITLE
Inauguration of El Alto Gas Distribution Center
VOICEOVER
The first gas connections were made in El Alto on the very spot where, two years before, the fiercest mass riots took place.
JAIME BARRENECHEA
It is different than connecting water. Gas involves pressure. It contains a potential risk. So it's a delicate venture. The neighbors contribute 30 percent to the costs of the work. That's very important. They leave their daily tasks in order to work here. They contribute from their salaries.
WOMAN
We agree, we all agree to work.
MAN
I live here, and this place is completely abandoned every day. Only today they are working!
JAIME BARRENECHEA
Sure, I just explained it a while ago. I am not a magician. If it were up to me I would wave my magic wand so that everybody gets gas. We need the money to buy materials, to transfer it to the micro businesses. The salaries of the people have to be paid. So bit by bit we have to advance. In El Alto there are almost one million inhabitants!
SIGN
We Charge Batteries. Open 24 Hours
MARTIN OLMEDO
That is okay, keep it like that.
VOICEOVER
Maria's new business puts added demands on her entire family.
MARIA CABANA OLMEDA
On this battery charger I can connect batteries for 25 lamps. My husband is going to help me to charge the lamps, and to fill the water. He also distributes the lamps. The work of charging the batteries is a bit difficult for me. You have to check them at one, two, and three in the morning. Sometimes we cannot get any sleep. Good morning. Good morning, Apolinar. I want to tell you about my lamp-charging business. It's closer than in Calvario for which you have to go up and down. That takes you double the time. Just bring your lamps to my shop to be charged. It costs only a peso and I'm open 24 hours a day. You can pick them up whenever you need them. I got the money from Crecer. My husband is ill. Therefore I work with this money.
MAN
What's the deal? Can we get a credit?
MARIA CABANA OLMEDA
Weekly I can charge the lamps. But I need to speak with your boss. Only he can decide about the guaranty on a credit. So are you coming to charge your lamps?
MAN
We have to consult our boss to see if he can give us the warranty.
TITLE
La Paz
VOICEOVER
In addition to the minor, low-interest loan from China to cover the direct connection of gas to households, Jaime has been pursuing major Chinese business conglomerates for mega venture-capital investments.
JAIME BARRENECHEA
I just received good news. A group of Chinese confirmed an investment of $1.5 billion. They want to start the production of gas fields in Bolivia. They confirm an investment of about 1.5 billion dollars. This is the proof that they want to start their activities.
VOICEOVER
Despite the huge Chinese investment, Jaime knows that he cannot relax his quest for additional capital.
TITLE
Tarija
JAIME BARRENECHEA
Imagine the impact we will have when we can produce larger volumes of gas and deliver that gas to the people.
VOICEOVER
He shares his concerns with his friend Roberto, who doesn't fully understand this highly complex situation.
ROBERTO
If the companies that work here want to leave, let them go. We have got the Chinese. They can replace them.
JAIME BARRENECHEA
No, definitely not. We need opportunities to be added, not to replace others. In no way can we afford to lose them. The country can't afford to go deeper into debt. We only have access to concessional loans. There are guidelines from the World Bank and the IMF which prevent us from obtaining sufficient credit for this development. The money invested will never reach the people if we can't create a legal framework that allows us to collect higher royalties.
TOMAS BRAVO
Good afternoon.
MR. LOIASA
Hello Tomas, this is Mr. Loiasa.
TOMAS BRAVO
How are you, Mr. Loiasa?
MR. LOIASA
They have looked at the proposal, and they told me that it is viable. But you need to provide an additional guaranty. Please come by the office with your proposal.
TOMAS BRAVO
I intend to come by in the afternoon.
MR. LOIASA
All right.
TOMAS BRAVO
See you then. I have to provide an additional guaranty because I do not have enough to offer. When banks lend you one Boliviano, they ask two Bolivianos guaranty. The bank never loses. It has to be double the amount.
MARIA CABANA OLMEDA
Here are the lamps. Which ones are yours? The fat one? Take it easy, take it with care. This one is yours too?
MAN
Yes.
MARIA CABANA OLMEDA
I am happy for Mario, because my son is studying to become a guide. That's the dream of my son. I am proud of that.
MARTIN OLMEDO
I want him to study, so he doesn't have to work in the mines. I do not want him to work like I did, I do not want him to suffer.
JAIME BARRENECHEA
We are waiting for the new gas law in order to proceed with deals with Brazilian and Spanish companies. It is obvious that the negotiations are dragging on and on because there is no gas law yet. Our company urgently needs a definite new gas law with a framework that allows us to take off with new projects.
VOICEOVER
In 2005, both President Mesa and Jaime Barrenechea were forced to resign. Political turmoil regarding the new gas law persists.
PATRICIA [Tomas' wife]
Hello Tomas.
TOMAS BRAVO
What is that?
PATRICIA
Come here. How are you?
TOMAS BRAVO
How are the kids?
PATRICIA
Okay.
TOMAS BRAVO
Mr. Loiasa of the bank called me.
PATRICIA
What did he say?
TOMAS BRAVO
It was about the project. We need a personal guaranty. I do not know how we can realize that.
PATRICIA
Why?
TOMAS BRAVO
They say the plan is feasible. But we need a personal guaranty. I have to go back to the bank. I have to talk about it to Javier. Let's see what he says. I tried to do it with my collateral but they do not accept it.
PATRICIA
I will talk to Brigit's sister. What do you think?
TOMAS BRAVO
I don't want to do the guaranty in that way. But I will think about it, see what we can do.
PATRICIA
Don't you want a coffee or a soft drink?
TOMAS BRAVO
Later.
PATRICIA
Okay, go and see the children.
VOICEOVER
Three months later, Tomas Bravo's loan was partially approved.
BOY
Here's the bread.
VOICEOVER
Maria continues to fund her children's education with her battery charging business. Although so far she's been able to manage her credit, she knows she has a very tough road ahead.
MARTIN OLMEDO
Here's a cigarette, please help us.
VOICEOVER
A few months after filming, Maria's husband Martin died at age 38 from respiratory problems caused by working in the mines.
TITLE
[end credits]