Attacks on USAID and US-Bolivia Bilateral Relations

by Bolivia Democrática

It's irrational that a nation that seeks to carry out its foreign affairs does so by means of insults, attacks and aggression toward other countries. More so against a country such as the United States that, in addition to being one of the most powerful nations on the planet, has historically shown generosity and solidarity with the Bolivian people and many others, including former and current mortal enemies such as Germany, Japan, Iraq and Afghanistan. And more so if it's a nation that has not been attacking or provoking ours.

USAID doesn't just represent a current government. It represents an entire nation, a philosophy of generosity and progress and over 60 years of cooperation and solidarity between the people of the United States and our country. Leaders and politicians who attack USAID attack an entire nation and tens of thousands of volunteers, professionals, businesspeople, politicians and others who have contributed time, work, technology, and much more to hundreds of thousands of Bolivian families.

If an employee of USAID or the U.S. government is taking actions that are contrary to the security and interests of the Bolivian people, the Bolivian government has the obligation to inform not only the Bolivian people but also the corresponding international community and entities with precision regarding these actions.

If, on the other hand, a Bolivian government entity, either by action or omission, allows into our territory any drug traffickers, criminals, terrorists, or radicals from other nations that have openly declared themselves enemies of the North American people and their intention to transform their discourse into lethal actions against the citizens of the U.S., it is logical that the U.S. government would feel that it has a duty to ensure the safety of its citizens. If a government allows extremist elements to use its territory to prepare an offensive against another nation, this is a serious matter which, in international and personal relations, is governed by the golden rule: "don't do to others what you don't want done to you".

Another issue is the technical, scientific, and social assistance provided by the government, private and mixed institutions of a friendly country. The Bolivian Government is mistaken once again in its interpretation of the fundamental notions of autonomy, decentralization, power, and policy if it intends to control human relations between people and institutions of two countries that have a historic friendship, such as Bolivia and the United States. To take on this position as an official policy is to take on a centralist, totalitarian position.

If the Bolivian government is not interested in the solidarity and support of foreign cooperation, for example in agricultural or indigenous development, the fight against poverty, human rights, democratic values and practices, and other issues, there's no reason it should forbid other entities of civilian society from continuing with these activities. To interpret these actions as interference, divisionism, or attempts against the government is almost akin to accusing itself of being a government that seeks to eliminate all opposition, take control of all power, and deny projects that can improve and even save many Bolivian lives.

Worse so if the excuse is to replace this cooperation, under the justification of fighting against "interference" or "imperialism" with "cooperation" from countries such as Venezuela, Cuba and Iran that clearly are countries dominated by dictators and which have much less capacity to cooperate with other nations, more so if you take into account all the problems those countries themselves are facing.

As in every era, and even more in this era of great tragedy and local, regional and global challenges that are ever more serious, governments are not the only ones responsible for taking actions to improve quality of life for all.

More than the Bolivian or U.S. governments, it is the citizens of Bolivia and the United States who must determine, by action or omission, the destiny of relations between our countries. The crude reality that those who wish to control state power in a totalitarian manner never want to face is that human beings as individuals, and not the entities that represent them, must make decisions and take actions. Human beings are, always were, and always will be inherently free and no government or institution can control an entire society.

For decades, tens of thousands of people, and thousands of religious, civilian, academic, scientific, and indigenous institutions and others in Bolivia and the United States have worked in a coordinated manner, exchanging experiences and contributing day after day to solving small and great challenges that have significantly improved the quality of life for a very large number of Bolivians.

Instead of attacking USAID, unless it has irrefutable proof that show us all that USAID is making attempts against our nation, our government should officially thank this agency and the dozens of other North American institutions that have contributed so much to Bolivia.

A serious study would probably demonstrate that the most generous country in history, not only with Bolivia but also with many other nations, has been the United States. It is very unlikely to show that China, India, Russia, Brazil, or Argentina and even less Venezuela, and why even mention Cuba, have contributed as much to Bolivia over so long a time, and in such a systematic manner, as the United States. Instead of attacking the people of the United States, the Bolivian government should have the intelligence to search for a way to improve relations within a framework of mutual respect, with open and sincere exchange.

If USAID and the Government of the United States are making a mistake, it is that they are not being more virile and dignified in defending themselves from so many unjustified attacks and do not promote the great contributions and achievements they've made more effectively as a result of the efforts, contributions, achievements and generosity of the American people toward Bolivia, not only through USAID, but also through many other agencies and means.

Having said this, without a doubt there is also a dark side to bilateral and international relations with the United States, as there is with many nations. It would be historically false and politically insane to not acknowledge or to deny the interference of powerful nations, including the USSR and the United States, in the domestic affairs of dozens of nations, including ours, over the past century.

If the leaders and institutions that represent other countries such as the United States and the nations of the European Union can learn a lesson from the experience of the past few decades in countries that are so different, such as Afghanistan and Vietnam, Chile and Bolivia, it is that doing good, and doing things well, are always more powerful than subversion, espionage, extortion, the purchase and sale of arms, etc.

If North Americans wish to gain the respect, friendship and trust of the Bolivian people, they must conduct themselves in our nation with the highest degree of respect, through transparent, just and cooperative actions and programs, and avoid all obscure, anti-democratic actions that can be interpreted as an attempt against the dignity of our people, or can be used as an excuse to confront Bolivians against Bolivians. Only through respect and by putting into practice the essence of real democratic values can full respect and trust be earned.

Likewise, we the citizens of Bolivia, and not only our government, must decide finally what type of bilateral relationship we would like to have, not only with the United States, but with every nation of the world.

Do we want relations to be based on hypocrisy, lies, intrigue, insults, aggression, lack of trust, the expulsion of diplomats, drug trafficking, criminals, terrorists, and radicals from conflictive nations and the purchase of weapons instead of science, technology, knowledge, and real (not hypocritical) solidarity? Or do we want crystal-clear, sincere, proactive, responsible, decent, healthy relationships based on integrity, respect, self-esteem and dignity, love, trust, and a sincere desire to progress and contribute to the progress of other nations? This decision, as with any political decision, is our decision as citizens, not a decision by our current government, no matter how much it desires to remain in power longer than corresponds.

In sum, international relations are like interpersonal relationships: they can be based on power, ego, fear, intolerance, ignorance and other negative attitudes and conducts. Or they can be based on trust, respect, dignity and a positive, constructive vision of the world.

What is important to know, in either case, is that as human beings we cannot escape certain spiritual, moral and psychological laws that are as fundamental as the law of gravity. These are the golden rule and the law of consequences: nations and human beings alike, reap what they sow.

Read this article in Spanish here.
4 July 2010

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