Top Bolivian official plans Washington visit to complain of U.S. interference
LA PAZ, Bolivia: A top Bolivian official announced plans Monday to travel to Washington to present "proof" that U.S. aid programs were designed to undermine the leftist government of President Evo Morales.
Presidential Minister Juan Ramon Quintana said he intended to "denounce" what he called "interference" by the U.S. Embassy in Bolivia and hoped to repair troubled U.S.-Bolivian relations in meetings with U.S. congressmen next week.
Morales has repeatedly accused the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, of supporting Bolivia's conservative opposition.
His administration points as evidence to a "descentralization" campaign by USAID designed to strengthen Bolivia's historically weak nine state governments -- six of which are controlled by opposition governors.
In recent years, U.S.-sponsored programs have trained state employees to better handle budgets, planning and public services so that state governments might "operate more strategically," according to USAID documents.
U.S. Embassy officials insist that aid is evenly distributed across Bolivia, and note that some programs benefit communities led by Morales' Movement Toward Socialism party.
Already delicate U.S.-Bolivian relations were further strained this month by complaints that an embassy official asked Peace Corps volunteers and a Fulbright scholar to collect information on Venezuelans and Cubans working in Bolivia. The two countries, both led by Morales allies, also provide aid to the Andean nation.
Embassy officials acknowledged that a security official improperly gave Peace Corps volunteers a security briefing meant only for embassy staff, asking them to report "suspicious activities."
Bolivia's U.S. ambassador Gustavo Guzman declined to confirm which U.S. lawmakers Quintana planned to meet in Washington next week, saying his schedule had yet to be determined.
Bolivia received US$124 million (€84 million) in U.S. aid in 2007, more than any other Latin American country except Colombia and Peru.