US Official Will Not Return to Bolivia
February 11, 2008 - Associated Press


LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — A U.S. Embassy official accused of asking an American student and Peace Corps volunteers to keep tabs on Venezuelans and Cubans in Bolivia will not return to the country, an embassy official confirmed Wednesday.

The announcement was made intially by Government Minister Alfredo Rada following a meeting that he and Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca had Wednesday with U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg.

The ambassador "officially communicated to us that Vincent Cooper will not return to Bolivia," Rada told reporters.

Embassy spokesman Eric Watnik confirmed that Goldberg had informed officials during the meeting that assistant regional security officer Vincent Cooper, currently recalled to Washington for consultations on the issue, would not return.

Last July, according to embassy officials, Cooper mistakenly gave a group of newly arrived Peace Corps volunteers a security briefing meant only for embassy staff, asking them only to report "suspicious activities."

But embassy officials said they could not confirm whether Cooper also gave improper instructions to Fulbright scholar during a one-on-one briefing last November.

Goldberg said this week he "greatly regrets" the mistake, and on Wednesday thanked Bolivian officials for accepting his explanation.

"We always have every intention of improving the relationship between the U.S. and Bolivia," Goldberg following the meeting.

Choquehuanca told reporters that while both Bolivian and U.S. investigations into Cooper's requests continued, he hoped the two countries could now move past the issue.

Last week scholar Alex van Schaick told The Associated Press that Cooper asked him to pass along information on Venezuelan and Cuban workers he might meet in the country.

The U.S. State Department has said that any such request would be "an error" and against U.S. policy.

Morales on Monday called Cooper an "undesirable person," saying he had "violated, offended, and attacked Bolivia."