Bolivian President Threatens to Expel U.S. International Relief Agency
June 7, 2010 5:29 p.m. EST
Tom Ramstack – AHN News Correspondent
La Paz, Bolivia (AHN) – Bolivian President Evo Morales is threatening to expel a U.S. relief agency that assists underdeveloped nations after accusing it of supporting his political adversaries.
He said the U.S. Agency for International Development helped fund non-governmental organizations in Bolivia allied with his right-wing opposition that staged a recent protest.
“We expelled the ambassador of the United States and the Drug Enforcement Agency,” Morales said in an interview with a Bolivian radio network. “If the U.S. Agency for International Development continues with its activities, I will not hesitate to expel them because we are dignified, sovereign and we are not going to allow any interference.”
In 2008, Morales ordered the expulsion of the U.S. ambassador to Bolivia along with DEA agents who were working to control cocaine trafficking into the United States. Bolivia’s expulsion of diplomats prompted the U.S. government to expel Bolivia’s ambassador from Washington.
Morales made the threat during a conference of trade unions for the coca industry. In addition to confectionary foods, coca is used to manufacture cocaine.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is touring Latin American countries this week to discuss foreign policy.
She was in Lima, Peru today for a meeting of the Organization of American States. She also plans trips to Barbados, Colombia and Ecuador, where President Rafael Correa is linked with other leftist Latin American governments that include Bolivia’s Morales and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. Both are critics of U.S. policy.
Clinton told reporters as she left Washington that she sought to enhance “democratic governance” in Latin American countries.
USAID’s economic and humanitarian aid is one part of a national security strategy the Obama administration announced earlier this year that seeks to stabilize underdeveloped countries.
USAID chief administrator, Rajiv Shah, last month described his plan for reforming the agency. One part of his plan calls for partnerships with “countries that are reasonably well-governed, economically stable, globally connected and market-oriented.”
Morales did not say whether recent USAID policy changes played a role in his complaints against the agency.
Nevertheless, Morales accused Mark Feierstein, President Obama’s nominee to become USAID’s deputy administrator, of having been an advisor to former Bolivian President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada. The former president has lived in exile in Miami since the downfall of his administration in 2003.
He left Bolivia under a threat of being put on trial for genocide.
Feierstein is a former associate of the political consulting firm Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner, which once counted Sanchez de Lozada among its clients.
The Senate still must confirm Feierstein’s appointment to USAID.
Morales’ warning follows by weeks violence near La Paz by farmers protesting government agricultural policy. Two people were killed after the group blocked roadways.
Morales said USAID helped support the protesters.
His threats to expel USAID are casting further doubt over the possibility of improved relations with the United States.
Last week, U.S. State Department assistant secretary Arturo Valenzuela visited Bolivia to discuss whether the two countries could renew relations by exchanging ambassadors.
Valenzuela and Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca came away from their meeting saying they had resolved many of their differences.
One of the main issues was Bolivia’s cocaine exports, which rank third highest behind Colombia and Peru.
Bolivia has been excluded for the past two years from some U.S. trade programs for its unwillingness to cooperate in halting cocaine trafficking.
Former Bolivian right wing foreign ministers are telling the news media that Morales’ threat to expel USAID might have ruined chances for normalized relations.