[Marxism] Strained diplomatic relations in Latin America

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Mar 13 14:16:23 MDT 2009

Inter-American Relations Roiled
Ouster of Several U.S. Officials Highlights Strains in Hemisphere

By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, March 13, 2009; A12

RIO DE JANEIRO, March 12 -- An American diplomat accused by the Bolivian 
government of conspiring with opposition factions left the country 
Thursday, one of several U.S. officials forced out of Andean nations in 
recent months and another sign of the deep discontent with U.S. policy 
that the Obama administration faces in Latin America.

The ejection of Francisco Martinez, the second secretary of the U.S. 
Embassy, for allegedly meeting with the political opposition and spies, 
follows Bolivia's decision to throw out Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg in 
September, Venezuela's expulsion of Ambassador Patrick Duddy the same 
month and Ecuador's move against two American diplomats last month.

The departures do not include Bolivia's decision to banish 38 Drug 
Enforcement Administration agents and support personnel, its request to 
remove U.S. Agency for International Development employees from the 
coca-growing region of the Chapare or the U.S. government's decision to 
pull Peace Corps volunteers out of Bolivia.

"We are talking here about diplomats who are taking advantage of 
privileges and immunities, who use those privileges and immunities to 
perform intelligence tasks on behalf of a foreign power," Bolivian 
Government Minister Alfredo Rada said this week at a news conference in 
La Paz, the capital. "No government in the world would accept that."

The State Department has denied any untoward conduct in the cases. The 
meeting that the Bolivian government alleges occurred between American 
officials including Martinez and Ernesto Suárez, an opposition governor 
of the Beni region -- part of what President Evo Morales described as 
the American "conspiracy" against his administration -- never happened, 
according to the State Department. And other recent allegations, 
including that a Bolivian police captain working in the state oil 
company had been trained by the CIA to infiltrate it, were also false, 
U.S. officials said.

"We completely reject the accusation that the officer involved was 
engaged in any kind of inappropriate activity. And we regret the fact 
that the government of Bolivia chose the action that it did," Thomas A. 
Shannon Jr., the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere 
affairs, said in an interview. He added that the expulsions were 
inconsistent with statements by Morales and other Bolivian officials 
that they wanted to improve relations with the U.S. government.

Shannon said that the erosion of diplomatic contact between the United 
States and Bolivia, and the ejections of other diplomats from South 
American countries, is more damaging than simple bilateral disputes with 
the United States. He said that the inter-American system has generally 
been based on equality of states, mutual respect, peaceful resolution of 
disputes and diplomatic dialogue, and that such moves "are tearing at a 
fundamental or core principle of the larger inter-American system, and 
that's worrisome to us."

For a swath of the population in Bolivia in particular and the region 
more generally, the U.S. government is, at a visceral level, an enemy. 
It is often seen as the "empire" that for generations has pillaged 
natural resources or used its diplomats or intelligence services to 
undermine governments it opposes.

George Mason University anthropologist Mark Goodale said the current 
political moves must been seen in a larger historical context of 
Bolivia's relationship with the United States, including such episodes 
as the 1967 killing of Ernesto "Che" Guevara by Bolivian soldiers 
supported by the CIA and Morales's formative years as a union leader for 
coca growers fighting U.S.-backed eradication efforts.

Although "the United States is an ever-present scapegoat for the 
problems that continue to plague Bolivia," he said, "meddling is what 
the United States does. . . . This goes back to the Monroe Doctrine."

"It is embedded in the structural relationship between the United States 
and Latin America," said Goodale, who is writing a book about Bolivia. 
"One of the things that Morales is trying to do is change that 
structural relationship."

U.S. officials said diplomats around the world regularly meet with 
government and opposition officials. In Bolivia, Morales has deemed such 
meetings an attempt to undermine his government.

"There is clearly a connection in the activities that the former 
ambassador Philip Goldberg, USAID, the DEA and now Martinez have been 
doing here in Bolivia.," said an official in Bolivia's Government 
Ministry, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "These are suspicious 
acts that have nothing to do with diplomacy or foreign aid."

In the past, the official said, American diplomats "were giving orders 
related to drug-trafficking issues, to stop activities of trade 
unionists, peasant and indigenous groups. This conduct of interference, 
and it cannot be called anything else, is not tolerated here anymore."

Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa has said the decisions last month to 
expel diplomats Armando Astorga and Mark Sullivan were related to 
accusations that they were manipulating appointments for Ecuadoran 
police programs that receive U.S. funding. Correa said foreign diplomats 
would not be allowed such "abuses" as taking away sensitive information 
on the National Police.

"The days of colonialism are behind us," he said.

The dispute became a sovereignty issue when Ecuador pushed back against 
U.S. involvement with vetted Ecuadoran police officials. When American 
officials work with foreign security forces, it is common to do 
background checks, including polygraph testing.

"Vetted units aren't unique to Bolivia or Ecuador; they're used 
throughout the world, and used quite successfully," Shannon said. It is 
a system devised by our Congress "designed primarily to ensure that we 
were not working with people who were engaged in human rights violations 
and in the employ of drug cartels."

Beyond the diplomatic tension, the situation has made it harder to fight 
the flow of cocaine from the Andes. Bolivian authorities had relied on 
DEA officials to provide intelligence on international drug-trafficking 
outfits that the Bolivian government lacked, according to Bolivian 
anti-drug officials.

"There's no doubt that what Bolivia did, especially the expulsion of the 
DEA, really has complicated our ability to work with the government of 
Bolivia to achieve the kind of counter-narcotics goals and objectives 
that we both had in mind," Shannon said.

Special correspondent Andres Schipani in La Paz contributed to this report.

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