To Dr. Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Secretary of StateFor clarification: a "department" is similar to what we call a "state" in the U.S., although because most South American countries do not have the degree of federal control that we have in the U.S., departments are often more autonomous than states. Recently, in Bolivia, there have been a number of direct attacks of aggression against supporters of the democratically-elected Morales, including assassinations of government officials (for more on these issues, look at Upside Down World's extensive coverage of Bolivia). There is ample reason, as this open letter makes clear, to believe that the U.S is actively interfering in Bolivian politics. We don't want to see another Pinochet in Bolivia.
Cc: Phillip Goldberg, U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia
Henrietta Fore, Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development
Representative Eliot Engel, Chair, Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Committee of Foreign Affairs
Senator John McCain
Senator Barack Obama
Dear Dr. Rice,
We are writing out of deep concern over recent events in Bolivia that have left dozens dead and cost millions of dollars in lost revenue to the Bolivian government and the Bolivian people. We are especially concerned that the United States government, by its own admission, is supporting opposition groups and individuals in Bolivia that have been involved in the recent whole-scale destruction, violence, and killings, above all in the departments of Santa Cruz, Pando, and Chuquisaca.
Since the United States government refuses to disclose many of the recipients of its funding and support, there is currently no way to determine the degree to which this support is helping people involved in violence, sabotage, and other extra-legal means to destabilize the government of Bolivia.
Yet since the democratic election of Evo Morales in December 2005, the U.S. government has sent millions of dollars in aid to departmental prefects and municipal governments in Bolivia. In 2004, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) opened an "Office of Transition Initiatives" (OTI) in Bolivia, which provided some $11 million in funds to "build on its activities designed to enhance the capacity of departmental governments."
The OTI in Bolivia sought to "[build] the capacity of prefect-led departmental governments to help them better respond to the constituencies they govern," and even brought departmental governors to the U.S. to meet with state governors. Some of these same departmental governments later launched organized campaigns to push for "autonomy" and to oppose through violent and undemocratic means the Morales government and its popular reforms.
According to the OTI, it ceased operations in Bolivia about a year ago; however some of its activities were then taken up by USAID, which refuses to disclose some of its recipients and programs. USAID spent $89 million in Bolivia last year. This is a significant sum relative to the size of Bolivia's economy; proportionally in the U.S. economy it would be equivalent to about $100 billion, or close to what the United States is currently spending on military operations in Iraq.
U.S. taxpayers, as well as the Bolivian government and people, have a right to know what U.S. funds are supporting in Bolivia.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
An Open Letter to the U.S. State Department Regarding Recent Violence in Bolivia (excerpt reprinted from Upside Down World) :