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Why Bolivia Needs the United States

8:15 AM, Jun 5, 2013 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
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Socialists around the world have their own traditions for celebrating “International Workers’ Day,” and Evo Morales is no exception. Each year, the Bolivian leader uses May 1 to make a big announcement, typically regarding the military-backed seizure of a given industry or company. In 2006, during his first May Day as president, he nationalized his country’s enormous natural gas reserves. Since then, he has grabbed control of telecom companies, energy companies, and more. On May 1, 2012, he had Bolivian troops seize an electricity firm (owned by the Spanish multinational REE) that operates most of his nation’s power lines.

This year, Morales took a different approach: Instead of announcing the confiscation of economic assets, he announced the expulsion of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Without citing any evidence, Morales accused the agency of having conspired “against our people and especially the national government.” He also denounced Secretary of State John Kerry for referring to Latin America as “our backyard,” and said that expelling USAID would effectively nationalize “the dignity of the Bolivian people.” A State Department spokesman quickly dismissed his allegations as “baseless and unfounded.”

Of course, Morales has a longstanding habit of making such “baseless and unfounded” charges. In March, for example, when Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez died of cancer after a long struggle, Morales said he was “virtually sure” that Chávez had been poisoned by the United States. Two years earlier, in July 2011, Morales declared that he was afraid to travel to America for a United Nations meeting because U.S. officials might attempt to plant incriminating evidence on his presidential plane. (“I think they have to be preparing something.”) When he kicked the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) out of Bolivia in 2008, he explained his decision by saying, “There were DEA agents who worked to conduct political espionage and to fund criminal groups so they could launch attacks on the lives of authorities, if not the president.” When he expelled U.S. ambassador Philip Goldberg that same year, Morales accused him of “conspiring against democracy and seeking the division of Bolivia.”

So it’s not surprising that the Bolivian leader is once again behaving like a thuggish, conspiracy-minded autocrat. Nor is it surprising that he targeted USAID: After all, Bolivia belongs to the Venezuelan-led Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), and in June 2012 ALBA urged all member countries to “immediately expel USAID and its delegates or representatives.” Cuba has been detaining a USAID contractor, Alan Gross, since December 2009 (indeed, the Communist regime has sentenced Gross, who is 64, to 15 years in prison), and Chávez acolyte Rafael Correa has been threatening to expel the agency from Ecuador. (We might also recall that Vladimir Putin booted USAID from Russia last September.)

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