U.S. Should Disclose its Funding of Opposition Groups in Bolivia and Other Latin American Countries
For Immediate Release: September 12, 2008
Contact: Dan Beeton, 202-239-1460
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) called on the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other agencies to release information detailing whom they are funding in Bolivia -- where violent right-wing opposition groups have wreaked havoc this week in a series of shootings, beatings, ransacking of offices, and sabotage of a natural gas pipeline -- as well as in other Latin American countries including Venezuela. Recent events suggest there may be evidence for Bolivian president Evo Morales’ assertions that the U.S. Embassy is supporting groups promoting violence and seeking “autonomy” from Bolivia, and the Center called on USAID and other U.S. agencies to “come clean” in order to demonstrate the U.S. government’s good faith.
“Washington has decided to keep its ties to Bolivia’s opposition shrouded in secrecy, and that’s not conducive to trust between the U.S. and Bolivian governments,” said Mark Weisbrot, CEPR Co-Director. “If Washington has nothing to hide in terms of whom it is funding and working with in Bolivia, then it should reveal which groups those are.”
In the midst of the violence and property destruction, Bolivian president Evo Morales declared U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg “persona non grata” and asked him to be expelled, suggesting he is aiding organizations behind the violence and sabotage. Despite numerous requests filed under the Freedom of Information Act, the U.S. has not turned over all the names of recipient organizations of USAID funds. Bolivia is a major recipient of USAID money, with millions of dollars sent to groups there. The U.S. also funds groups in Bolivia through the National Endowment for Democracy and related organizations.
“USAID is not supposed to be a clandestine organization, but nevertheless the U.S. government refuses to divulge which groups in Bolivia are supported with U.S. tax dollars,” Weisbrot said. “By providing clandestine aid to groups that are almost certainly in the opposition, it gives the impression that the U.S. is contributing to efforts to destabilize the Bolivian government.”
The U.S. Embassy in Bolivia has been implicated in a number of events that suggest it may be seeking to undermine Morales’ government. In February of this year it was revealed that the Embassy had repeatedly asked Peace Corps volunteers and a Fulbright Scholar to spy on people inside Bolivia. Until recently, USAID had an "Office of Transition Initiatives" operating in Bolivia, funneling millions of dollars of training and support to right-wing opposition regional governments and movements.
At least eight people were killed and dozens injured in violence Thursday, the latest in over a week of protests carried out by organized youth groups in conjunction with departmental governors and other opposition leaders that also saw them sabotage a natural gas pipeline, vandalize government offices, ransack the offices of a human rights organization, and threaten to cut off natural gas exports to neighboring Brazil and Argentina.
The Center for Economic and Policy Research is an independent, nonpartisan think tank that was established to promote democratic debate on the most important economic and social issues that affect people's lives. CEPR's Advisory Board of Economists includes Nobel Laureate economists Robert Solow and Joseph Stiglitz; Richard Freeman, Professor of Economics at Harvard University; and Eileen Appelbaum, Professor and Director of the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University.