This post builds somewhat upon the post from last week on the joint Venezuelan/Russian naval exercise and some of the subsequent comments. I didn't bring this topic up in class today because I wanted to save it for the blog, so here goes.
A domestic political crisis in Bolivia seems to be exacerbating already rising tensions between the United States and several Latin American nations. The series of events that has led to the expulsion of ambassadors in both the northern and southern hemispheres began with a political squabble in the landlocked country.
Richer areas of Bolivia chafed at populist President Evo Morales' plans to redistribute oil wealth from their areas to poorer areas of the country and to establish a separate legal structure for Bolivia's indigenous majority (Morales is the first Bolivian president of indigenous descent). Opposition to these plans has evolved into open rebellion and clashes between the president's supporters and opponents had left 30 dead as of this past weekend.
The soft-spoken Morales accused the US of providing support for the anti-government forces and subsequently expelled Ambassador Phillip S. Goldberg (a career ambassador, DIP 777 students). Bombastic Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a Morales ally, expelled the US ambassador in Caracas in a show of solidarity with La Paz. Chavez also suggested that the US has taken steps to remove him from power as well (which it seems probably happened at least once with the 2002 coup attempt). The US has responded with the expulsion of both the Bolivian and Venezuelan envoys in Washington.
Leaders of Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Ecuador (and probably Uruguay and Peru, soon), and even staunchly pro-American Colombia have also expressed their solidarity with Morales in this affair.
Morales' list of complaints against the US include:
- meetings between Goldberg and anti-Morales governors on the eve of the rebellion
- a military attache at the US embassy having a relative smuggle a large quantity of .45 caliber ammunition into the country
- the revelation by an American Fulbright Scholar that an embassy official was attempting to get him/her as well as Peace Corps volunteers involved in intelligence gathering in Bolivia
- condescending behavior toward the Bolivian government by Goldberg
- Goldberg's posing for a photo with a Colombian paramilitary operative
Speaking of President Morales, this Daily Show interview of him was really odd...