[Marxism] Strained diplomatic relations in Latin America
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
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
"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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