Thursday, October 23, 2008

Timing of Bolivia suspension is suspicious

It's hard to draw any other conclusion but that the Bush administration is suspending a $300 million trade deal with Bolivia to penalize the Evo Morales government for being too far to the left. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said the suspension was in reaction to Bolivia's alleged failure to boost anti-drug efforts, even as envoys from the South American nation arrived in Washington to promote its participation in the Andean trade pact, according to the Cable News Network (CNN). The pact lowered tariffs on Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador in Peru in exchange for cooperation in the war on drugs. Only last week, U. S. President George W. Bush signed a six-month extension of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act. Bolivia estimated the suspension would cost more than $300 million in lost exports and that more than 30,000 jobs would be lost. But the timing of the suspension, which came just as Morales agreed to a referendum on a new constitution that would increase the authority of the central government over white-majority eastern provinces that seek more autonomy, raises the likelihood that possibility that it is political. The Morales government, which has aligned himself with the anti-U.S. governments of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and the late Fidel Castro in Cuba, is struggling to keep order in a country convulsed by strikes and demonstrations by pro- and anti-constitution partisans. But its relations with the United States have gotten worse. Bolivia accused the U.S. ambassador of conspiring with anti-constitution partisans last month and kicked him out of the country, and the United States expelled Bolivia's highest-ranking diplomat in response, CNN said. Rice denied there was anything political in the suspension and said there was no ideological test for friendship with the United States. Republican Sen. Dick Lugar took issue with the suspension and said greater engagement, not less, was called for, according to CNN. "When Bolivia stands at the cusp of a new era, with a new constitution, U.S. assistance should be forthcoming as an effort to help Bolivia, and not to be an impediment to its progress," Lugar said.

No comments: