This Tuesday, June 29, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will hold a confirmation hearing for President Obama’s nomination of Mark Feierstein to head USAID programs in Latin America. Feierstein, of the firm Greenberg, Quinlan and Rosner served as a political adviser to former Bolivian president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada during his 2002 Presidential campaign. Sánchez de Lozada resigned and fled to Chevy Chase, Maryland in 2003 to escape prosecution for the massacre of 60 protesters by troops operating under his orders. Last year Feierstein and his colleagues again conducted polling in Bolivia to assist the campaign of right wing candidate Manfred Reyes Villa, who lost by a landslide to President Evo Morales.[i] The appointment of the political pollster has increased apprehension in the region that aid programs will continue to be used to support US-favored political actors within the region’s democracies.
It is important to evaluate whether a nominee, who for many years fought partisan political battles, can successfully transition to running non-partisan and transparent USAID programs in Latin America. This hearing is an opportunity for the Obama administration to “go on the record” to establish USAID’s respect for national sovereignty and guarantee program and contractor transparency and accountability. The U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign relations should ask Mr. Feierstein to clearly and completely address these crucial issues.
[i] Interestingly, before doing polling in support of Reyes Villa in 2009, Feierstein and company raised questions during the 2002 campaign about Reyes Villa’s military record and unknown sources of the wealth. See the documentary film Our Brand is Crisis, by Rachel Boynton. Reyes Villa is now in Miami escaping corruption charges in Bolivia.