Bolivia's leader boots U.S. agency for 'interference'
LA PAZ, Bolivia — President Evo Morales on Wednesday acted on a longtime threat, expelling the U.S. Agency for International Development accused of seeking to undermine Bolivia's leftist government.
Morales harangued the top U.S. diplomat for calling the Western Hemisphere the “backyard” of the United States.
Bolivia's ABI state news agency said USAID was “accused of alleged political interference in peasant unions and other social organizations.”
Morales has accused the agency of funding groups that oppose his policies, including a lowlands indigenous federation that organized protests against a Morales-backed highway through the TIPNIS rainforest preserve.
In 2008, Morales expelled the U.S. ambassador and agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for allegedly inciting the opposition. On Wednesday, the president said the United States “still has a mentality of domination and submission” in the region.
“They surely still think they can manipulate here politically and economically,” Morales said. “That belongs to the past.”
Morales told the crowd he “laments and is condemning” Secretary of State John Kerry's remark — in testimony on April 17 to the House Foreign Affairs Committee — that “the Western Hemisphere is our backyard. It's critical to us.”
Although Morales did not provide evidence of alleged USAID meddling, funds channeled through it have been used in Bolivia and its leftist ally Venezuela to support organizations deemed a threat by those governments.
But there is not much aid left to cut.
As U.S.-Bolivian relations soured and Washington canceled trade preferences, total U.S. foreign aid to the poor, landlocked South American nation has dropped from $100 million in 2008 to $28 million last year.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell called Morales' allegations “baseless” and said the purpose of USAID programs in Bolivia has been, since they began in 1964, “to help the Bolivian government improve the lives of ordinary Bolivians.” in full coordination with its agencies.
“The current Bolivia portfolio consists of health and environment efforts and the overall size and scope of the mission is a shadow of what it once was,” said Mark Lopes, USAID's deputy assistant administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean.
An agency statement said the expulsion means the end of programs that have helped tens of thousands of Bolivians, particularly children and new mothers in underserved rural areas who have benefited from health, nutrition, immunization and reproductive services.
Analyst Kathryn Ledebur of the nonprofit Andean Information Network in Bolivia was not surprised by the expulsion, but by the fact that Morales took so long to do it after repeated threats, which she believes diminishes its political impact.
“USAID alternative development efforts tied to forced coca eradication provoked his mistrust,” she said of Morales, a longtime coca-growers union leader before his December 2005 election as Bolivia's first indigenous president. Since U.S. assistance has “dwindled to a trickle,” the financial impact will be limited as well, she said.
Ledebur said Morales was also upset that USAID money reached lowland regional governments he accused of trying to overthrow him in 2008. Lopez said all agency democracy-promotion programs in Bolivia ended the following year.
In a 2010 Freedom of Information Act request, The Associated Press asked USAID for descriptions of the Bolivian recipients of grant money. The response did not go into detail but did include such items as $10.5 million for “democracy-building” awarded to Chemonics International in 2006 “to support improved governance in a changing political environment.”
A related USAID brochure said components of the three-year “Strengthening Democratic Institutions” program included “teaching basic citizenship principles and skills” in all of Bolivia's nine states, including the lowlands opposition stronghold of Santa Cruz.
A similar program in Venezuela, bearing the same name, was described by then-U.S. ambassador to Caracas William Brownfield in a November 2006 diplomatic cable as being aimed at countering attempts by that country's late president, Hugo Chavez, to centralize power and suppress civil liberties.
The cable, classified as secret, was published by WikiLeaks, and the program was administered by USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives, whose web page says it operates “in priority countries in crisis.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Tropical Storm Erika’s menace ebbs
- Vatican priest accused of child sex abuse found dead
- Japan law to implement mandate for hiring of women
- Migrants risk all to flee
- Nazi ‘gold train’ evidence mounts
- 200 feared dead in latest migrant disaster off Libya’s coast
- Corpses in truck on Austrian road thought to be smuggled refugees
- Iraqi army loses 2 generals in suicide bombing
- European business interests rush to reopen market in Iran
- Islamic State kills Iraqi soldiers in 2 ambushes in Anbar province
- China’s President Xi Jinping at center of economic storm