Bolivia expels US aid agency after Kerry ‘backyard’ comment

LA PAZ (Reuters) – Bolivian President Evo Morales expelled a US development agency from his country yesterday, marking the latest confrontation between Washington and a bloc of left-wing 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 Washing-ton’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 South America’s poorest nation.

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

Evo Morales
Evo Morales

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

Morales is a close ally of Venezuela’s left-wing 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 destabilising the country.

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