LA PAZ – President Evo Morales on Wednesday announced the expulsion of USAID from Bolivia, accusing the U.S. agency of meddling in his country’s internal affairs in a new souring of often-tense relations.
The United States quickly dismissed the allegations as baseless, and said Bolivia’s action showed it did not want good ties with Washington.
In a fiery speech to workers on May Day, the leftist president of South America’s poorest country said the U.S. Agency for International Development was in Bolivia “for political purposes — not social ones.”
He did not explain why he felt the U.S. agency was interfering in Bolivian affairs. USAID has operated in the nation since 1964.
Morales, a populist and Bolivia’s first indigenous president, has been in power since 2006 and has followed a sometimes nationalist agenda hostile to Western governments and companies.
In 2008, he expelled the American ambassador in La Paz and agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, accusing them of meddling in Bolivia’s internal affairs. The country is a major producer of coca leaves, the raw material of cocaine. The United States responded by expelling the Bolivian ambassador and ending trade privileges that it had granted the country. After a long period of frosty ties, the two nations in 2011 signed a framework agreement to normalize relations and exchange ambassadors again, but tensions remained.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had encouraged improved bilateral relations with Bolivia, but they suffered another blow recently when Morales accused the U.S. of conspiring against the new government that assumed power in Venezuela after the death of Hugo Chavez, his ally.