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Montevideo, May 24th 2018 - 23:15 UTC

Morales expels USAID to protest Kerry’ reference of Latam as the ‘US backyard’

Thursday, May 2nd 2013 - 07:01 UTC
Full article 13 comments
Morales usually makes big announcements on May first Labour Day Morales usually makes big announcements on May first Labour Day

President Evo Morales expelled a US development agency from Bolivia, marking the latest confrontation between Washington and a bloc of populist governments in Latin America.

Morales said he was kicking out the US Agency for International Development (USAID) as a “protest” after US Secretary of State John Kerry recently referred to Latin America as Washington's “backyard.” The term evokes strong emotions in the region, which experienced several US-backed coups during the Cold War.

Morales announced his decision at a Labour Day rally, an occasion he has used in recent years as a forum to nationalise businesses and take other steps to rouse his working-class base in the region’s poorest nation.

“Today we're only going to nationalise ... the dignity of the Bolivian people,” Morales said. “USAID is leaving Bolivia.”

He did not say what USAID did to deserve expulsion, though Bolivian officials have previously accused the agency of destabilizing the government. In 2008, Morales expelled the US ambassador for allegedly aiding the opposition.

Morales is a close ally of Venezuela's populist government, which has seen its already strained relations with the United States deteriorate further in recent weeks. The government of President Nicolas Maduro, who won a tightly contested election last month to succeed the late Hugo Chavez, on April 25 detained a US citizen and accused him of destabilizing the country.

USAID said in a statement it has spent nearly 2 billion dollars in Bolivia over the past fifty years on projects in education, health and food security, among other areas.

The US government “deeply regrets” Bolivia's decision, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters. “Those who will be most hurt by the Bolivian government's decision are the Bolivian citizens who have benefited from our collaborative work,” he said.

Ventrell said Bolivia's allegations against USAID were “baseless,” and said the US government had not yet decided whether to take any action in response.

Kerry made the “backyard” comment at a Senate committee hearing on April 18. When pressed by a senator about Washington's influence in Latin America, Kerry expressed regret that US aid to the region is falling victim to budget cuts.

“I don't disagree with you about the need to change the dynamic in the Western Hemisphere,” he said. ”It has too often been viewed as a second thought. It shouldn't be. It's our backyard, neighbourhood, as you say. I think there are relationships we could improve”

Top Comments

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  • ElaineB

    Poor choice of words given the historical implications but hardly an insult when the intention was self-criticism for not working harder at having good relationships with all South American countries.

    You have to wonder if populist governments hire people to pour over ever word ever spoken about them looking for an excuse to be offended and indignant. These countries don't have any real enemies except the corrupt kleptocracies in power.

    May 02nd, 2013 - 11:41 am 0
  • Condorito

    Very true.

    To keep getting Venezuelan aid, Evo has to keep burning US effigies.

    Dance little monkey dance!

    May 02nd, 2013 - 02:31 pm 0
  • Conqueror

    Never mind. Latino populist governments like to demonise the U.S. Sooner or later the U.S. will cut latin america off. Then we can all stand back and watch it die.

    May 02nd, 2013 - 06:34 pm 0
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