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Friday, 24 October 2014
Bolivia Declassified: USAID Responds to Freedom of Information Act Request PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeremy Bigwood   
Monday, 18 May 2009 12:41

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Graffiti: USAID Out of El Alto. Photo: B. Dangl
Over the past few years the government of Bolivia has been complaining that various entities of the US government have been meddling in its internal affairs.  While this issue is still a point of tension between the two countries, it came to head during September of last year when Bolivia expelled the US Ambassador and the US responded in kind. 

One of Bolivia's consistent accusations is that the US government has been fueling a separatist movement in its eastern departments.  While the mainstream media in the United States has been dismissive of these claims, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has recently released a response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request which appears to support many of them as we shall see below.

While USAID has done some excellent work in developing Bolivia's roads and other worthy projects, it clearly also promotes some lesser-known political agendas.  One of the more novel of these, according to the documents, is to "counter attacks on the USG (including USAID) from senior levels of the GOB (Government of Bolivia)."  This is hardly the work of a development agency.

Regarding the Bolivian government claims that the US government is promoting a autonomous separatist movements in the departments, the documents state "USAID was the first donor to provide support to democratically elected departmental governments…" and "The program strengthens Bolivia's decentralized democracy and local regional governments…" and "furthermore, USAID programs work closely with over 160 municipalities…"  No wonder the Bolivian government - which was democratically-elected - feels that it is being undermined. 

USAID, the State Department and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) often promote their agendas through local non-governmental organizations (NGOs)  -some of them created in the first place through US government funding.  How much funding?  The documents state: "USAID manages about $85 million annually." Its "programs are implemented through different means," especially "via non-governmental organizations." How many NGOs does USAID fund?   "The program provides support to a network of about 100 Bolivian NGOs…"  NGO funding is funneled through several "pass-through" entities, thus making detection of the recipients almost impossible.  These "pass-throughs" include: Checchi and Company Consulting, Inc, Chemonics International Inc, Partners of the Americas and the standard bearers of US political culture: the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute. 

I can only applaud the USAID FOIA office for releasing these documents - a major step towards needed transparency.  I hope that this transparency continues so that the democratically-elected government of Bolivia, its citizens - as well as those of the United States - can accurately assess the bilateral relationship for themselves and make any necessary adjustments.

The recently declassified documents are available here in English.

They are available here in Spanish.

A good analysis of these documents can be found at Telesur.

 

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