News Column

Bolivia Angry Over Kerry 'Backyard' Remark, Expels USAID

May 2, 2013
John Kerry

Bolivia expelled the US development agency USAID on Wednesday in retaliation for a remark made by Secretary of State John Kerry that referred to Latin America as the "backyard" of the United States.

"We have decided to expel USAID from Bolivia," President Evo Morales said during May 1 holiday celebrations.

He accused the US Agency for International Development of stirring up resistance to his government.

Kerry in mid April told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington that the dynamics of the Western hemisphere needed to improve because relations within the Americas have "too often been viewed as a second thought."

"It shouldn't be. It's our backyard neighbourhood, as you say," Kerry said.

Morales called Kerry's words "humiliating and offensive."

State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said Latin Americans should not take offense at the "backyard" reference, because it implies "we are geographic neighbours and friends."

Ventrell denied Morales's allegations that USAID has fomented indigenous protest, and said the US government "does deeply regret" the expulsion.

"We deny those baseless allegations made by the Bolivian government," Ventrell said.

He said the expulsion "harms the Bolivian people" by denying them USAID's health, education and environmental programmes, which operated mainly in rural areas. Ventrell said the programmes were "fully coordinated" with the Bolivian government's development policies.

USAID has worked in Bolivia since 1964.

In 2008, Bolivia expelled US ambassador Philip Goldberg. Washington retaliated by expelling Bolivian diplomat Gustavo Guzman. Bolivia expelled the US Drug Enforcement Agency in 2008.

In late 2010, La Paz and Washington agreed to an agenda to normalize relations, but so far there has been no exchange of ambassadors.

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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