Monday, February 25, 2008

Bolivian Delegation Will Demand Action from U.S. Congress

Feb. 25 - LA PAZ (digitalwarriormedia) A mission from the Bolivian government will travel to Washington D.C. to meet with members of the U.S. Congress and submit evidence that demonstrates the U.S. Embassy in La Paz has interfered in Bolivia’s internal affairs.

The announcement was made by Presidential Minister Juan Ramon Quintana during a press conference held today at the Palacio Quemado.

He said the delegation trip will seek to internationally denounce the "undemocratic" intervention of the U.S. through its use of its foreign aid organization the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Quintana said he will personally head the mission to meet with U.S. Congress members and show documented evidence that intervention by the U.S. is undemocratic and violates the Vienna Convention.

"We have decided to denounce not only nationally but also internationally the interference of the U.S. Embassy in Bolivia through USAID.”

The Bolivian government remains critical of USAID payments to consultant programs through the Strengthening of Democratic Institutions Project (SDI) which is accused of engaging in subversive activities.

There are also examples of USAID funding support for the activities of opposition groups, including the Santa Cruz Civic Committee, which sponsored the Santa Cruz department's Autonomy Statute in defiance of the central government.

Quintana’s statements occurred one day after President Evo Morales accused the U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia, Phillip Goldberg, of leading a conspiracy against the social changes of the Bolivian government.

On Sunday while speaking with reporters, Morales stated the importance of defending the profound changes taking place in Bolivia, which includes going beyond making “an opposition to the head of the Ambassador of the United States.”

In recent weeks, Ambassador Goldberg was called to give explanations about various episodes and allegations of espionage that caused tension in U.S.-Bolivia relations.

The issue was fueled on February 8, when American Fulbright Scholar John Alexander Van Shaick, revealed that a U.S. Embassy diplomat asked him to spy for the U.S. government by collecting the names and addresses of Venezuelans and Cubans he encountered during his field work in Bolivia.

In a sworn affidavit submitted by Van Schaick, he divulged details of a one-on-one security briefing that occurred in November 2007 with Vincent Cooper, a security adviser to the US embassy in La Paz.

Once it became apparent that Cooper also made similar spying requests of 30 Peace Corps volunteers in July 2007, the Bolivian government filed charges of espionage against the diplomat – the first of their kind in Bolivia-U.S. relations.

The American embassy acknowledged Cooper’s actions and described it as "a mistake". Cooper was immediately recalled to Washington with assurances that he was reprimanded and will not return to Bolivia.

Following a meeting between Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca, Minister Quintana and Ambassador Goldberg, Minister Choquehuanca expressed the hope that both countries could move past the issue while investigations into Cooper's requests continued.

An official complaint was filed with Bolivia’s Attorney General and now the Bolivian delegation may provide the best opportunity for the U.S. Congress to open an official investigation into these violations by the U.S. Embassy and USAID.

Allegations of violating the Vienna Convention are quite severe and, if proven true, would indicate a breach of international law by the United States government.

However, if past relations between the Bush administration and the Morales administration are an accurate indicator, this move will be an uphill battle for Bolivia, or worse fall upon deaf ears.

Former President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada lives in the U.S., protected from extradiction charges filed by the Bolivian government. And Vincent Cooper will probably never face the espionage charges filed earlier this month.

Meanwhile, President Morales has canceled a scheduled trip to the United States where he planned to visit two states, including the presentation of a lecture at Brown University in Rhode Island. Morales said he needed to focus on those in Bolivia who have been affected by the severe flooding, which have left 61 people dead and 73,000 families homeless.



Interview with John Alexander Van Schaick on Democracy NOW! (in English)

Interview with John Alexander Van Schaick on Telesur (en Español)

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