“USAID Develops a Bad Reputation Among Some Foreign Leaders,” read a May 7 Los Angeles Times headline, followed by the subhead:
The U.S. Agency for International Development doesn’t just offer aid to the poor, it also promotes democracy, which is seen as meddlesome or even subversive.
Fighting poverty and spreading democracy–what’s not to like?
And so, the report seems to suggest, there’s something a little off about foreign leaders, nine in recent years, who’ve expelled the agency. Why else would Bolivian President Evo Morales expel an anti-poverty group from his “impoverished” country, if he wasn’t just a little bit crazy? And Russian President Vladimir Putin can’t be playing with a full deck either; he recently expelled USAID and a bird lovers group.
Of course, these leaders and other USAID critics aren’t crazy; they argue that USAID undermines national sovereignty and democracy. The story includes charges that USAID manipulates the internal politics of host nations, but it leaves the allegations unexplored and lets supporters bat them away. In one case, reporter Paul Richter quotes an anonymous U.S. official on USAID critics:
“This is the empire striking back,” said a senior Obama administration official, who asked not to be identified because of diplomatic sensitivities. He insisted that USAID does not try to undermine governments.
Someone doesn’t have a firm grasp on the meaning the word “empire,” which applies much more accurately to U.S.’s role in these relationships. A fact that might be better understood by the reader if Richter had bothered to mention USAID’s sordid history of bolstering U.S. imperial goals.
USAID’s publicly stated goals include “furthering America’s foreign policy interests in expanding democracy and free markets.” Readers aren’t told about that, nor are they informed that in pursuing these goals the agency has frequently partnered with the CIA, as in the ’60s and ’70s when its now-closed Office of Public Safety trained foreign police in counterinsurgency techniques–including torture. Not exactly what jumps to mind when one imagines a democracy-promoting institution.
The report also fails to mention how for decades USAID has undermined popular democratic organizing in Third World countries by, among other things, creating parallel “popular” organizations, such as labor unions, in order to weaken authentic grassroots movements.
And just last month, U.S. diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks revealed that USAID and its Office of Transition Initiatives had been secretly tasked with destabilizing Venezuela’s democratically elected government. As historian and U.S. foreign policy critic William Blum points out, USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives
is one of the many euphemisms that American diplomats use with each other and the world–they say it means a transition to “democracy.” What it actually means is a transition from the target country adamantly refusing to cooperate with American imperialist grand designs to a country gladly willing (or acceding under pressure) to cooperate with American imperialist grand designs.
But mentioning any of that might make USAID critics look rational, even like defenders of democracy. Which is, of course, crazy–if your worldview requires a belief that U.S. interests are synonymous with democracy.
At a speech celebrating May Day in Bolivia today, President Evo Morales announced the expulsion of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) from the country. According to the AP, Morales stated:
“The United States does not lack institutions that continue to conspire, and that’s why I am using this gathering to announce that we have decided to expel USAID from Bolivia.”
The role of USAID in Bolivia has been a primary point of contention between the U.S. and Bolivia dating back to at least 2006. State Department spokesperson Patrick Ventrell characterized Morales’ statement as “baseless allegations.” While State Department spokespeople and many commentators will characterize USAID’s work with oppositional groups as appropriate, a look at the agency’s work over the past decade paints a very different picture.
Documents obtained by investigative journalist Jeremy Bigwood show that as early as 2002, USAID funded a “Political Party Reform Project,” which sought to “serve as a counterweight to the radical MAS [Morales’ political party] or its successors.” Later USAID began a program “to provide support to fledgling regional governments,” some of which were pushing for regional autonomy and were involved in the September 2008 destabilization campaign that left some 20 indigenous Bolivians dead. Meanwhile, the U.S. has continually refused to disclose the recipients of aid funds. As a recent CEPR report on USAID activities in Haiti concluded, U.S. aid often goes into a “black box” where it becomes impossible to determine who the ultimate recipients actually are.
Some of these USAID programs were implemented by the Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) from the period 2004-2007. A document obtained by CEPR through a Freedom of Information Act request, reveals the role OTI plays in U.S. foreign policy. The document notes that OTI “seeks to focus its resources where they will have the greatest impact on U.S. diplomatic and security interests,” adding that “OTI cannot create a transition or impose democracy, but it can identify and support key individuals and groups who are committed to peaceful, participatory reform. In short, OTI acts as a catalyst for change where there is sufficient indigenous political will.” It was through OTI that USAID was funding regional governments prior to the September 2008 events.
While USAID has since closed the OTI office in Bolivia, and overall funding levels have been greatly reduced, USAID has still channeled at least $200 million into the country since 2009.
Wikileaks cables reveal that the U.S. has long taken an adversarial approach to the Morales government, while even acknowledging the clandestine and oppositional nature of U.S. aid.
In one cable written by Ambassador Greenlee from January 2006, just months after Morales’ election, he notes that “U.S. assistance, the largest of any bilateral donor by a factor of three, is often hidden by our use of third parties to dispense aid with U.S. funds.” In the same cable, Greenlee acknowledges that “[m]any USAID-administered economic programs run counter to the direction the GOB [Government of Bolivia] wishes to move the country.”
The cable goes on to outline a “carrot and sticks” approach to the new Bolivian government, outlining possible actions to be taken to pressure the government to take “positive policy actions.” Three areas where the U.S. would focus were on coca policy, the nationalization of hydrocarbons (which “would have a negative impact on U.S. investors”) and the forming of the constituent assembly to write a new constitution. Possible sticks included; using veto authority within the Inter-American Development Bank to oppose loans to Bolivia, postponing debt cancellation and threatening to suspend trade benefits.
Another cable, also written by Greenlee, reporting on a meeting between U.S. officials and the Morales government notes that the Ambassador stated in the meeting, “When you think of the IDB, you should think of the U.S…. This is not blackmail, it is simple reality.”
Later cables, as reported by Green Left Weekly, show the U.S. role in fomenting dissent within indigenous groups and other social movements.
Not Why, But Why Not Sooner
The AP spoke with Kathryn Ledebur of the Andean Information Network, reporting that she “was not surprised by the expulsion itself but by the fact that Morales took so long to do it after repeated threats.” Given the amount of evidence in declassified documents that point to U.S. aid funds going to opposition groups and being used to bolster opposition to the Morales government, the expulsion indeed comes as little surprise. Further, as evidence continues to mount of the role of USAID in undermining governments, governments from across the region have become more openly critical of the U.S. aid agency.
As Brazilian investigative journalist Natalia Viana recently detailed in The Nation, USAID was funding groups in Paraguay that would eventually be involved in the ouster of President Lugo. Viana writes that through USAID’s largest program in Paraguay, they would end up supporting “some of the very institutions that would play a central role in impeaching Lugo six years later, including not just the police force but the Public Ministry and the Supreme Court.”
Additionally, the role of USAID in funding opposition groups in Venezuela has been well documented. A recently released Wikileaks cable reveals the U.S. government’s five point strategy for Venezuela, which the cable makes clear USAID worked to implement. The goals were; “1) Strengthening Democratic Institutions, 2) Penetrating Chavez’ Political Base, 3) Dividing Chavismo, 4) Protecting Vital US business, and 5) Isolating Chavez internationally.”
Last June, immediately following the Paraguay coup, the ALBA group of countries (of which Bolivia is a member) signed a declaration requesting that “the heads of state and the government of the states who are members of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, immediately expel USAID and its delegates or representatives from their countries, due to the fact that we consider their presence and actions to constitute an interference which threatens the sovereignty and stability of our nations.”
At the time, President Correa of Ecuador stated that he was writing up new rules for USAID engagement in the country and that “If they don’t want to follow them, then ‘So long.’” While Bolivia may be the first of these countries to actually expel USAID, the question may not be why Bolivia is doing this, but rather why didn’t Bolivia do this sooner?
Bolivia’s President Evo Morales has received approval from the country’s constitutional court to run for reelection next year.
Bolivia’s Constitutional court president Ruddy Flores said on Monday that Morales could run for his third consecutive presidential term.
This is while only two consecutive terms are allowed under the country’s new constitution.
The court found Morales, 53, able to run since the president’s first term was not under the current constitution.
“The presidential term is computed from the time of the adoption of the new constitution,” Flores said.
Next year’s vote will be counted as Morales’ first reelection, under the ruling.
The ruling has sparked protests from the opposition.
Earlier this month, Morales said that Washington was planning to stage a coup in Venezuela, following the election of Nicolas Maduro as president.
Morales, the first indigenous president of South America’s poorest nation, was elected president in late 2005 and reelected in 2009.
During his years as president, Morales has nationalized private companies aimed at increasing state control over the country’s economy.
He also pushed for the formation of a new constitution.
All Latin American leaders expressed their deep sorrow over the death of President Hugo Chavez, and several of them will be travelling to Caracas for his funeral scheduled next Friday.
Cristina Fernandez suspended all activities and declared three days of mourning Cristina Fernandez suspended all activities and declared three days of mourning
Argentine president Cristina Fernandez suspended all official activities, declared three days of mourning and will be flying to Caracas for the funeral. Cristina Fernández decided to leave Wednesday morning in the Tango 01 presidential plane along with her Uruguayan counterpart José “Pepe” Mujica, Planning Minister Julio de Vido and Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman.
Likewise Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff cancelled this week’s visit to Argentina and is planning to travel to Caracas for the funeral of Chavez. During an official ceremony Rousseff said that “in many occasions the Brazilian government did not fully concord with President Chavez”, but “today and as always we acknowledge him as a great leader, and an irreparable loss, and above all a loyal friend of Brazil and of its people”.
The Brazilian leader said she regretted the loss “not only as president but also as a person for which I had great affection”
Former president Lula da Silva also expressed ‘deep sorrow” over the death of President Chavez and in “this very sad day, all my solidarity with the Venezuelan people”.
Uruguayan president Jose Mujica also expressed his deep pain over the loss of ‘companion-commander’ Chavez and trusted the Venezuelan people and its government would continue to ‘strengthen democracy” of which the deceased leader was a “great builder”.
Bolivia’s Evo Morales who had special admiration for Chavez left Tuesday night for Caracas and decreed a full week of mourning and flags at half mast.
“Undoubtedly we had our differences, but I always admired the strength and commitment with which president Chavez battled for his ideas. He was a man profoundly committed to the integration of Latin America”, said Chilean president Sebastian Piñera.
From Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto expressed his “deep condolence” over the loss of President Chavez. “My feelings are with his family and with the Venezuelan people, and for Venezuela to continue along the path of democracy”.
Peruvian president Ollanta Humala sent to the Venezuelan people “Bolivarian, South American and Latinamerican solidarity” and wished that in such difficult moments, “unity and reflection will prevail in such a way that things can go ahead peacefully and along the democratic track”.
From El Salvador president Mauricio Funes said Venezuela has not only lost a president, but a patriot, a man who transformed his country and “ruled for the people, changing the inequality and exclusion that prevailed in the country before he was elected to office”.
Finally the Organization of American States Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza expressed condolences to the government and people of Venezuela regretting the sad news of the death of President Chavez.
“In a moment of such pain and sorrow for the Venezuelan people, we are next to you together with the rest of the peoples of the Americas”, said the OAS release. OAS flags will fly at half mast and there will be an extraordinary meeting of the Permanent Council to the memory of President Chavez.
President Evo Morales said on Thursday that Repsol and the other multinational companies operating in Bolivia should not fear nationalization since his government only appeals to that extreme when corporations think in ‘looting’ instead of investing.
“With Repsol we have excellent relations” said the Bolivian president, but “we won’t tolerate looting” “With Repsol we have excellent relations” said the Bolivian president, but “we won’t tolerate looting”
“To all those companies that invest in Bolivia, I want to assure them that their investments are guaranteed, that they have the right to recover those investments and to make a profit”, said Morales during a press conference in United Nations where he is participating in a world conference on quinoa.
He added that his administration works jointly with companies that are partners and that invest, and mentioned as an example Spain’s Repsol, with whom “we have excellent relations”.
Morales was referring to the recently nationalized air terminals’ operator, Sabsa, which he seized arguing the Spanish company back in 1997, with an initial investment of 4.000 dollars had taken over control of Bolivia’s three main airports, La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, a business with “has assets and a turnover of 430 million dollars”.
He added that from 1997 to 2005, Spanish controlled Sabsa had “no investment plans, it was only looting and looting”, and for the period 2006 to 2025 had promised to invest 26 million dollars and allegedly only 5 million were invested in 2006.
“At first sight there was no changes, nothing new, although the company would insist it had invested in maintenance”, claimed Morales.
“Maybe because of some bad companies, mistaken board members, we are having certain diplomatic differences”, added the first indigenous president of Bolivia.
The Spanish government warned President Morales that it was reviewing relations with Bolivia following the latest nationalization and the European Commission criticized the decision and demanded fair compensation.
“It’s not the government of Spain or the Spanish people to blame, but rather some companies that come with an only interest: looting, robbing and making quick money without thinking about any investments in our airports”.
Morales revealed that three years ago the Spanish Socialist government of President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero had asked him to delay the measure and talk to the company because they were going to make the needed investments.
“Unfortunately the dialogue with the company Sabsa made us lose three years” and not only that but international organizations of air transport have placed observers in some airports.
“It is evident that the air terminals have resulted too small and now after the nationalization we are determined to make the necessary investments” pledged the Bolivian president.
Finally Morales argued that nationalizing basic sectors of the national economy was an instrument to recover sovereignty and improve the living conditions of his people.
- Bolivia: President Evo Morales Nationalises Airports (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Bolivia airport firm takeover sparks Spanish anger (morningstaronline.co.uk)
Until recently, conventional economic wisdom held that sustained economic growth in any society could only be achieved at the expense of income equality. Today, even free market disciples like The Economist recognize that these goals are not contradictory—and that growing inequality, in fact, is an impediment to economic prosperity.
Recent data on economic growth and inequality for the United States and Bolivia reveal two starkly contrasting portraits.
The United States, after four decades of widening inequality, is experiencing the greatest economic downturn since the Depression. In 2011, while the economy grew by only 1.7% (down from 3% in 2010), income inequality increased by almost as much—the biggest single year increase in two decades. Over the past 30 years, the share of income held by the top 1% has more than doubled, increasing from 8% to 17%, while the share held by the bottom 20% has fallen from 7% to 5%. Currently, the United States has the highest level of income inequality of any developed country.
Poverty rates in the United States have risen 23% since 2006, now leveling off at 15.1%. Today, more Americans are living in poverty than at any time in the half-century since the census started publishing these estimates. Due to declining incomes, the U.S. “middle class” is eroding, dropping from 61% of adults 40 years ago to a bare majority now.
As Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has noted, the United States’ declining middle class is too weak to support the consumer spending that has historically fueled our economic growth. Thus, inequality is “squelching our recovery”—but U.S. political leaders have been slow to act on this lesson.
In contrast, despite the worldwide economic crisis, Bolivia’s economy is on track to increase by at least 5% in 2013, as it did last year. This is among the highest growth rates in Latin America, exceeded only by Chile, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela. Since the start of Evo Morales’s presidency in 2006, Bolivia’s GDP has tripled, and GDP per capita has more than doubled.
At the same time, according to data recently presented by Morales to the Legislative Assembly, income inequality in Bolivia has significantly decreased. In 2011, the richest 10% of the population had 36 times more income than the poorest 10%, down from 96 times more in 1997. “Bolivia is one of the few countries that has reduced inequality,” notes Alicia Bárcena, head of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). “The gap between rich and poor has been hugely narrowed.”
Between 2005 and 2011, Bolivia’s poverty rate declined by 26% (from 61% to 45%). The extreme poverty rate fell even more, by 45%. An estimated 1 million people joined the ranks of the “middle class.” The World Bank has officially recognized Bolivia as a lower-middle income country, a ranking that affords more favorable credit terms.
Between 2006 and 2011, Bolivian workers’ purchasing power increased by 41%, as compared to 17% between 1999 and 2005. The minimum wage has risen 127% since 2005, far exceeding the rate of inflation. In contrast, U.S. workers’ real wages have stagnated or fallen, with inflation-adjusted incomes now at their lowest point since 1997. Since 1972, the average hourly wage has risen only 4%.
In Bolivia (unlike the United States), domestic demand fueled by rising incomes and narrowing inequality is a driving force behind the country’s economic prosperity. Local evidence of increased domestic consumption and consumer purchasing power can be seen in places like El Alto, the sprawling indigenous city overlooking La Paz, where banks and fast food outlets are sprouting up and the first supermarkets, shopping centers, and cinemas are being planned. In 2012, there were 8.9 million mobile phones in Bolivia (with a population of around 10.4 million). Construction activity has outpaced the capacity of the domestic producers, with cement now being imported from Peru.
Rating agency Standard and Poor’s gave Bolivia high marks for economic resiliency last October, in underwriting a successful $500 million bond sale—the country’s first venture into the international credit markets since the 1920s.
Behind these positive indicators is Bolivia’s state-led economic policy, including the re-nationalization of strategic sectors divested by past neoliberal governments (such as hydrocarbons, telecommunications, electricity, and some mines). Around 34% of the national economy is now under state control—although private investment (on Bolivia’s terms) is encouraged and has continued, in hydrocarbons and other key sectors.
The vast increase in hydrocarbons and mining revenues under Morales has funded a major expansion of social welfare programs, including highly popular cash transfers targeted to the elderly, pregnant mothers, and school children. It has also supported major infrastructure improvements, a significant increase in the coverage of basic services (such as water, electricity, and domestic gas), and a major expansion of public healthcare and education programs—all boosting the living standards of average Bolivians. … Full article
Earlier today, Bolivian president Evo Morales announced plans to nationalise the country’s three largest airports. The airport operator Bolivian Airports Service Company (SABSA), a subsidiary of the Spanish firm Abertis y Aena, is accused of not carrying out agreed investments towards updating its facilities.
The decision to nationalise SABSA was taken after executives refused to increase their initial investment of US$36m, required to maintain and develop the country’s principal airports. The military is set to take control of airport terminals in El Alto (La Paz), Viru-Viru (Santa Cruz), and Wilsterman (Cochabamba). In Bolivia, it is common practice for troops to be dispatched to recently nationalised companies.
SABSA is the third Spanish company to be nationalised in less than a year in what began with the expropriation of Red Eléctrica in May 2012, followed by two electricity distribution companies owned by Spanish utility Iberdrola in December of the same year.
The nationalisation of SABSA reflects attempts by the Bolivian government to reclaim control of the country’s strategic resources, including natural gas, minerals, and public services. It is a move which aims to promote and indeed facilitate state-led development of the country without direct foreign interference. Morales issued the statement from the main city of Cochabamba, accompanied by vice-president Álvaro García Linera and the minister for public works, Vladimir Sánchez.
Bolivia will again belong to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs after its bid to rejoin with a reservation that it does not accept the treaty’s requirement that “coca leaf chewing must be banned” was successful Friday. Opponents needed one-third of the 184 signatory countries to object, but fell far, far short despite objections by the US and the International Narcotics Control Board.
Bolivian president Evo Morales celebrated the decision as a moral victory for his people and the centuries’ old culture based on the ‘acullicu’. “It’s not easy to change international legislation, particularly when 25 years ago they had decided to eliminate the coca leaf and with it, our culture”, said Morales who added that the coca leaf has been “criminalized, demonized, condemned world wide. Consumers have been described as narcotics-dependents and farmers narcotics traders”.
Of the 61 countries needed to veto the initiative only 15 turned out led by the US and UK, plus other European countries, Canada, Japan and Mexico.
“The objecting countries’ emphasis on procedural arguments is hypocritical. In the end this is not about the legitimacy of the procedure Bolivia has used, it is not even really about coca chewing,” according to Martin Jelsma, coordinator of the Transnational Institute’s Drugs and Democracy program. “What this really is about is the fear to acknowledge that the current treaty framework is inconsistent, out-of-date, and needs reform.”
The Institute noted that Bolivia’s success can be an example for other regional countries where traditional use of the coca leaf is permitted, including Argentina, Colombia, and Peru, to challenge the Single Convention on coca. It also called for the World Health Organization to undertake a review of coca’s classification as a Schedule I drug under the Convention.
“Those who would desperately try to safeguard the global drug control system by making it immune to any type of modernization are fighting a losing battle,” according to John Walsh, director of the Washington Office on Latin America drug policy program.
“Far from undermining the system, Bolivia has given the world a promising example that it is possible to correct historic errors and to adapt old drug control dogmas to today’s new realities.”
“I can’t stress enough how big this is. Once again, the United States snapped its fingers and told the rest of the world to get in line and oppose Bolivia’s move. But this time, while the UK joined them, most of the rest of the world just said “no, thanks.”
However it’s a largely symbolic victory, as this UN commission lacks the power to regulate coca leaf consumption in Bolivia in the first place. But the UN declaration has been welcomed by the Bolivian government, which is planning to invite the country’s coca growers to massive coca-chewing events in the cities of La Paz and Cochabamba.
The coca leaf is the base material for cocaine. But for centuries indigenous people in the Andean mountains have chewed this leaf in its natural form to gain energy and decrease hunger. Some groups in the region also consider the coca leaf to be a sacred plant, and use it regularly for social and religious rituals.
Evo Morales, who is himself a former coca grower, has championed the decriminalization of the leaf since he came into office in 2006, chewing coca in international forums, praising its nutritional qualities, and even asking Sean Penn to be his global ambassador for the coca leaf. A special clause in the 2009 Bolivian constitution refers to the matter.
But the UN’s decision to tolerate coca leaf chewing in Bolivia was not well taken by US diplomats, who claim that most of Bolivia’s coca crops are being used for cocaine production, and not for traditional chewing.
“We oppose Bolivia’s reservation and continue to believe it will lead to a greater supply of cocaine,” a senior US State Department official was quoted.
”While we recognize Bolivia’s capacity and willingness to undertake some successful counter-narcotics activities, especially in terms of coca eradication, we estimate that much of the coca legally grown in Bolivia is sold to drug traffickers, leading to the conclusion that social control of coca (allowing some legal growing) is not achieving the desired results,” the official said in a statement.
Most member states did not object to Bolivia’s readmission into the antinarcotics group or to the new statute which says that chewing, and growing the coca leaf, is fine within Bolivia. The non-objectors included Colombia and Peru which are the world’s two biggest cocaine producers and also have very large crops of the coca leaf.
Some diplomatic representatives in La Paz had a hard time explaining why the vote of the fifteen on the US initiative. British ambassador Ross Denny said the decision was a bad example since it opens the door for other countries to present objections and thus weakening the UN Narcotics Convention. He added that the UK fears that the return of Bolivia on that condition could mean a greater production of coca leaves that end up with the narcotics trade.
But President Morales made a passionate defence of the ‘acullicu’ and the Andes highlands culture of chewing coca leaves and mentioned Harvard University and the World Health Organization papers supporting such consumption. “It’s good for human health and benefits those suffering from diabetes.
The official re-entry of Bolivia to the convention is scheduled for February 10 and is a milestone in the Bolivian government campaign to defend the ‘acullicu’ which has seen President Morales and his Foreign minister David Choquehuanca, both indigenous Aymaras, lobby around the world in support of the coca leaf chewing tradition.
- Bolivia slams US over ‘irrefutable evidence’ of meddling (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Bolivia has “concrete evidence” that the US is plotting to destabilize the Latin American nation, Minister Juan Ramon Quintana said. Proof of US “harassment” of the Bolivian government will be handed over to President Obama, he added.
The Bolivian government is “scrupulously following” US activity in Bolivia, Minister for the Bolivian Presidency Quintana said in a press conference
“There is so much evidence to hand over to the President of the USA to say to him: Stop harassing the Bolivian government, stop politically cornering and ambushing us!” Quintana stressed. He added that investigations into drug-trafficking and human rights abuses would reveal a “permanent battle” waged by the US to impede progress in Bolivia.
“In the offensive against the government there are no visible subjects… What we’re seeing are the political machinations of the US Embassy,” which seeks to damage the image of the Bolivian government, Quintana said.
The country’s US ambassador was ejected in 2008 after being accused of plotting against the Bolivian government by President Evo Morales. The US quickly followed suit, removing its Bolivian ambassador.
A charge d’affaires now heads the American Embassy in La Paz; both nations signed a deal in 2011 that would pave the way for the reinstatement of the ambassadors. However, diplomatic relations between the two countries have yet to be normalized.
Larry Mermmot, the US diplomatic representative in La Paz, said that he was confident that 2013 would see the ambassadors restored in both countries.
A significant bone of contention in these tensions is drug-trafficking in Bolivia. A damning report released by the American government last year ranking Bolivia, along with Venezuela and Burma, as “failing demonstrably during the previous 12 months to adhere to their obligations under international counternarcotics agreements.”
President Morales denied the findings, accusing the US of hypocrisy and calling the illicit drugs trade with Latin America the US’ “best business.”
A thorn in the US’ side
Bolivia has been a thorn in the US’ side because of its anti-neoliberal and anti-imperialist policies, pioneered by President Evo Morales; the US also could not permit challenges to its policies in the heart of Latin America, Minister Quintana said in an interview with state radio station El Pueblo.
“What we have been fighting since 2006 and what we will continue to fight is a war against Bolivian progress,” he said, adding that the political objective of the US was to dismantle the “process of rebellion” by any means necessary.
Bolivia is currently led by Evo Morales, the country’s first indigenous leader, who is a close ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa. The three leaders are known for their anti-American rhetoric, and have often been critical of what they criticize as the US overstepping its authority in Latin America.
Ecuadorian President Correa spoke out over the weekend, voicing concerns of a possible CIA plot to remove him in the run-up to governmental elections in February. He cited a report written by a Chilean journalist, which described an alleged US plot to destabilize the region.
- Bolivia’s GDP and Minimum Wage double under Evo Morales’ MAS ‘process of change’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- - Bolivia: US embassy actively working to undermine govt. (Press TV)
Bolivia’s ‘process of change’: the balance sheet for 2012, and challenges to come
By Katu Arkonada | La Epoca* | December 18, 2012
2012 has been a year of transition for the process of change in the Plurinational State of Bolivia, notwithstanding the many events, problems and contradictions encountered by the executive branch during the last 12 months of its administration. A year of transition because we have left behind the 2010-2011 biennial of consolidation following the 64% victory of President Morales in the December 2009 election and are now entering a new biennial, 2013-2014, which will take us very rapidly to the presidential elections of December 2014.
By way of a balance sheet
2012 was without a doubt the year of the consulta [consultation] in the TIPNIS [Territorio Indígena and Parque Nacional Isiboro-Secure], the year when the government probably lost an international battle against a major marketing strategy designed in the offices of a certain opposition and some NGOs, but won the war for legitimacy in Bolivia. The result is overwhelming, leaving no room for doubt: of the 58 communities consulted (84% of them, since 11 refused to participate in the consulta), 55 (79%) approved the construction of the highway. This result dismantles the postmodern and Rousseauist analyses that knew little of the history and actors of the TIPNIS, classifying them as good savages living in the woods without needing anything more, and demonstrated to us that the majority of the communities of the TIPNIS want a greater state presence for access to health and education primarily. In any case the conflict has not ended and no doubt during the next two years the opposition will campaign against the construction of a highway in a country so colonized and plundered that it still has no road connecting two of its nine departments.
But 2012 has also been the year of the economy. Bolivia continued to grow at an annual rate of 5.2% (above the rate in Brazil, Mexico or Uruguay, to cite three examples), and the per capita share of GDP increased in 2012 to $2,238, double what it was in 2006 ($1,182). As for foreign trade, exports in the first quarter of 2012 exceeded the total of all exports in 2007: $5.068 billion compared with $4.822 billion, and the international reserves reached $14 billion — almost 50% of the Bolivian GDP, giving the country the highest level of reserves as a percentage of GDP in all of Latin America.
Similarly, public investment in 2012 will exceed $2 billion, as opposed to $879 million in 2006, and the public external debt totals $3.704 billion, down from $4.947 billion in 2005. By June 2012 three out of every 10 Bolivians were receiving conditional direct transfer payments (bonos), producing a redistribution of wealth that has reduced poverty by almost 12 percentage points in five years (48.5% in 2011) and extreme poverty by 13 percentage points during the same period (24.3%). Another factor in poverty reduction was the rise of the minimum wage in 2012 to 1,000 bolivianos [USD$1 = 7 BOB], compared with 815 BOBs in 2011 or the 440 BOB in 2005 when the MAS was first elected.
Another important factor to mention, when analyzing the past year, is the accomplishments in foreign policy, particularly the actions carried out in the negotiations with Chile for sovereign access to the sea, and the legal demand that Bolivia is going to make in The Hague , as well as the recent application to become a full member of Mercosur, the fifth largest economic entity in the world. And we should also note Bolivia’s leadership within ALBA  and the G77+China in such multilateral negotiations as the UN Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20 or the COP [Conference of Parties] on Climate Change. Never before has Bolivia had a sovereign foreign policy, changing the paradigm from neoliberal diplomatic conduct to one of Diplomacy of the Peoples.
Lastly, we cannot complete this brief end-of-year balance sheet without mentioning the recently uncovered case of corruption in the Ministry of Government [the Interior ministry], a ministry that correctly confronted a political mutiny in June and that has now done what a government leading a democratic and cultural revolution had to do, acting forcefully to detain all of those involved and pursuing the matter irrespective of who it might bring down. It is probable that we don’t (yet) know all of the ramifications of this case, but for the good of the process they must be brought to light and the harshest punishment meted out to anyone involved, and if they are a member of the government the penalty should be even greater, to demonstrate the latter’s integrity and coherency.
Challenges for 2013-2014
Notwithstanding the recent events in Venezuela, Chávez’s victory in winning election for six more years and the more than probable victory of Correa in Ecuador in February (almost certainly without the need for a second round), means that the process that is going forward in Bolivia will be menaced even more by those who feel threatened by the anti-imperialist and anticolonial policies being advanced by President Evo Morales. No doubt great efforts (and much money) will be spent in striking at one of the weakest links in the ALBA and the processes of change in the continent, and in attempting to consolidate an opposition alternative to the MAS government.
An initial step in the continued deepening of the process of change should be the victory in January of Jessica Jordán, the MAS candidate for Governor in Beni. A victory in this Amazon department on January 20 would be a definitive blow to the Media Luna and the hopes of repeating in Bolivia the Venezuelan scheme of the Mesa de Unidad. Obviously this will not be an easy victory in one of the most conservative regions of Bolivia, in which the hacendado power still has a great capacity for action and mobilization, but the very fact that first place is in dispute is already a victory in itself and a palpable demonstration that things are changing.
Not to be overlooked, as well, are the middle classes that the MSM  is attempting to woo with a moderate management-oriented discourse. However, in October 2012 it was revealed that the Municipality of La Paz was spending only 26% of its budget [dedicated to public investment – RF], far below the 50% average across the ministries. We can conclude that if the MSM is not capable of managing a city hall, it will have a hard time managing a state. But within that middle class layer, and in expectation of the results of the 2012 Population Census, we are going to have hundreds of thousands of new voters who in 2009 were too young to vote and now need to be won over with a discourse that must go beyond the proposals for change and be accompanied by a political program that involves them in the construction of this country’s politics.
Finally, the bases that have been built and consolidated in the process of change cannot be overlooked. It may be that those bases that are closest are not at risk, but it is necessary to strengthen them, to continue expanding the hard core, the popular and subaltern sectors that are the soul [ajayu] of this revolution, because without them the revolution would collapse piece by piece, but with them we will be able to begin thinking of the Patriotic Agenda 2025, converting the political and decolonizing revolution into a post-capitalist economic revolution.
The author, who describes himself here as a “militant in the process of change,” is a researcher at the Universidad de la Cordillera, a frequent contributor to the Bolivian edition of Le Monde Diplomatique, and works with the Ministry of Foreign Relations of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. He is of Basque origin.
 The lawfully mandated consulta (consultation) of the communities directly affected by the proposed highway project, which was the subject of much controversy and two recent marches by dissident indigenous activists, concluded its proceedings on December 7. The overwhelming majority of the communities that participated in the consulta approved the construction of the highway between Villa Tunari and San Ignacio de Moxos. See:
. For a discussion of the issues involved, see my translation of a book by Bolivian Vice-President Álvaro García Linera, Geopolitics of the Amazon, published in five parts at Life on the Left, and on several other sites. — RF
 The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America [Spanish: Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América] is an international cooperation organization based on the idea of the social, political and economic integration of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.
 In November several senior counsel in the Ministry were implicated in an attempt to extort money from a U.S. citizen, Jacob Ostreicher, who came to Bolivia four years ago and invested in rice production in Santa Cruz. He was indicted for money-laundering in June. The Bolivian suspects are alleged to have offered his release in return for his payment to them of $50,000. See Desbaratan red de corrupción y extorsión en la que operaban dos asesores del Ministerio de Gobierno, and Morales asegura que hay “infiltrados” que buscan desprestigiar al Gobierno.
 The four departments of the so-called Media Luna (literally, “half moon”) comprising the eastern portion of Bolivia have been centers of conservative resistance to the Morales government, their governors often collaborating in opposition to La Paz. In Venezuela the rightist opposition to Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution coalesced behind a single presidential candidate in the recent national election, when he was defeated by Chávez.
 MSM, the Movimiento Sin Miedo [Fearless Movement], a center-left opposition party that currently controls the mayoralty in La Paz.
 2025 will be the bicentennial of Bolivia’s independence from Spain.
- Bolivia signs Mercosur incorporation protocol and becomes sixth member (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Bolivia nationalises electric utilities (nzherald.co.nz)
Caracas – The Venezuelan government has branded the Obama administration’s international policy as “abusive” after a drugs report issued by the White House on Friday stated that the Chavez administration had “failed” to adequately tackle the drugs trade.
The report, entitled the “Presidential Determination on Major Illicit Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries”, places Venezuela on a list of countries, including Bolivia, which have not made sufficient progress in combating the international narcotics industry. The document also accuses Venezuela of having a “weak judicial system, inconsistent international counter-narcotics co-operation and generally permissive and corrupt environment”.
“Venezuela regrets that the United States government insists on undermining the field of bilateral relations with the publication of these kinds of documents,” said the country’s Foreign Minister, Nicolas Maduro on Saturday, who classified the report as “biased”.
The government also promptly issued a statement rejecting the document, describing it as “riddled with false statements” and confirming its own commitment to implementing a “sovereign and effective policy in the struggle against drugs trafficking”. The statement also places the blame for the continued strength of the drugs industry on the US, which it states has become “the world’s biggest market for drugs”.
“The U.S. government lacks the moral authority to judge the policies of other countries on the issue of the fight against drug trafficking… By tolerating the corruption that turns its borders into sites where illicit substances flow, and allowing money from drug trafficking to be laundered through its financial system, the U.S. government bears the most responsibility for this plague that wracks the whole world,” reads the statement.
The Venezuelan government’s criticism of the report was also echoed by Bolivian President, Evo Morales, who accused the US government of being hypocritical in its stance on the international drugs trade.
“There is no fight against the drugs trade in the United States, what there is is an attempt to take advantage of the fight against the drugs trade in some countries for their own [the US] political ends, so that there is more military funding and more military bases,” said Morales.
The Venezuelan government broke ties with the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in 2005 after DEA officials were accused of spying in the country. The government has continued to work with other international drugs monitoring bodies, such as those from France and Russia, and has stated that it has made more progress in the fight against drugs since DEA representatives were expelled.
In 2011 the government seized over 42 tonnes of drugs as part of its counter-narcotics operations and was ratified for the sixth year running as a territory free of illicit drug cultivation by the United Nations (UN).
Copy of the Venezuelan statement in full –
- Bolivia, Venezuela Reject US Drug Criticism (informationliberation.com)
Bolivian President Evo Morales has said the United States has become a “refuge for criminals” in response to Washington’s refusal to extradite a former Bolivian president wanted in connection with the deaths of 63 people.
“Yesterday (Thursday), a document arrived from the United States, rejecting the extradition of people who have done a lot of damage to Bolivia,” Morales said in a speech in La Paz on Friday, Reuters reported.
Bolivia’s Supreme Court is seeking the extradition of former Bolivian President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada so he can be tried for complicity in the deaths of 63 people during an army crackdown on anti-government protesters in October 2003.
The 82-year-old was twice elected president of Bolivia. He resigned during the violence of 2003, and fled to the US, along with several of his ministers, 13 months into his second term as president.
Bolivia has been demanding the extradition of Sanchez de Lozada and his ministers since 2003.
Morales said the US tried to justify its rejection of Bolivia’s extradition request by saying that a civilian leader should not be tried for crimes committed by the military.
Morales, who became the first indigenous leader of Bolivia in nearly 500 years in January 2006, called the US a “paradise of impunity” and a “refuge for criminals.”
He has said that Latin American countries are in rebellion against the US after years of domination by their northern neighbor.
“It’s yet another display of the US government’s double moral standard,” said Rogelio Mayta, a lawyer who represents victims of the 2003 bloodshed.
Bolivia’s opposition leaders also demanded that Sanchez de Lozada be extradited and denounced the US ruling.