A day after a regionalist opposition-led strike, Bolivia’s government shot back. It has frequently attacked the opposition for its ties to the US & other international NGOs (such ties do exist, of course), specifically singling out the US for its “political” aid. Of course, isn’t all aid “political”? Or does Venezuela’s millions in military & other aid not serve a “political” purpose? But today’s attacks resembled a witch hunt.
The attacks should be put into some context. Why? Because this La Razón report & graphic cites specific people—particularly those linked to USAID. Some of these people & projects I’m familiar w/ (some of them I’m not). But the odd attacks included Juan Ramón Quintana (presidency minister) condemning USAID’s democracy promotion program on the ground that since Bolivia was already a democracy, this suggested that USAID was funding anti-regime activity. I first visited USAID’s Democratic Development and Citizen Participation (DDCP) program in Bolivia in 1998 (it had already been in existence for some time). I don’t think the US was trying to overthrow Banzer (then president). From everything I could tell, USAID’s Democracy promotion programs were legitimate.
When I was in Bolivia doing my dissertation research, DDCP was directed by Diego Ayo (a Bolivian national), who is currently singled out in the list of NGO workers affiliated w/ previous (i.e. “anti-MAS”) governments. Funny thing is, Diego Ayo thinks of himself as Aymara & indigenous, and has strong leftist sympathies. He’s also a widely published social scientist w/ international credentials. One of his projects is a series of interviews w/ social movement leaders (including interviews with Jaime Solares, Felipe Quispe, Filemon Escobar, Álvaro García Linera, and others) sponsored by UNDP. He’s being attacked for his role as vice minister of Popular Participation (the bureaucracy that oversees & assists municipal governments) during the Tuto Quiroga presidency.
Other figures being singled out include a number of social scientists (many of whom have ties to the social-democratic MBL or the socialist PS-1): Carlos Hugo Molina, Roberto Barbery, Rubén Ardaya, Iván Arias, and others. Most of these figures were instrumental in drafting the 1994 Ley de Participación Popular, which for the first time recognized indigenous communities, granted them self-government (along w/ a share of national revenues on a per capita basis & the power to levy local taxes). As well-known social scientists, they were drafted into various government posts over the years. Guilty by association, I suppose.
I don’t know why, but the MAS government is quickly burning a lot of bridges. The social scientists listed above were critical of many of the social problems Evo’s government is trying to address. And as members of the moderate left intelligentsia, they were an avenue from which to build an alliance w/ “progressive” members of the Bolivian middle class. Lately, however, many of the moderates are starting to voice criticism of Evo’s government. I don’t think public witch hunts will do much to gain back their trust.
PPS. And if having been funded or worked for a US-affiliated institution makes these social scientists “anti-national” (even worse than “unpatriotic”), does that mean Álvaro García Linera is, too? After all, the vice president will be giving a lecture at Cornell on Monday. Oh, the irony!