Sunday, June 25, 2006

Did Bolivia Just Move Further Away?

Another post on Bolivia. Earlier this week, while speaking in Cochabamba, President Evo Morales claimed that "US soldiers disguised as students and tourists are entering the country." A couple days later, Morales distributed the report underlying his accusation.
The report alleges that a CIA agent is training undercover U.S. military personnel in a three-week course on "conflict management" at a hotel in the eastern provincial capital of Santa Cruz. The Morales administration says the course's sponsor, the Virgina-based nonprofit Alliance for Conflict Transformation, is "an office of the U.S. State Department" and is training students for subversion missions against the Bolivian government. The report names two individuals enrolled in the workshop, both of whom are active-duty soldiers in the U.S. Army and Marines. The U.S. Embassy in La Paz said the accusations are "unfounded."

Who to believe? Well, I prefer to take my country at its word, especially where I don't really see the point of the alleged infiltration. It's not like 20 soldiers are going to take over the country.

On the other hand, Bolivia has staggering reserves of natural gas, and Uncle Sam has never been shy about meddling in South American politics. It would not shock me to learn that the US is engaged in shadowy activity in a country with poor people, vast natural resources, and a government which is aligning itself with Cuba.

When I was in Bolivia, nobody ever hassled me at all for being an American. In the midst of the run-up to the election that put Morales into office, perhaps they were focused on domestic politics, or, more likely, the people I encountered were all too polite to bring up such an awkward topic.

Now, however, with the president raising the possibility that American tourists are suspect, I'd be a little more hesitant to walk into a chicha parlor and drink a gourd of the local beverage.


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