Monday, February 11, 2008

US Spying in Bolivia

The U.S. embassy in Bolivia has been asking its Fulbright scholars and Peace Corps volunteers to spy on Cuban and Venezuelan doctors working in that country.

This is shocking and unacceptable. Asking the Fulbrights to do it is despicable. These are scholars that are supposed to build stronger relations between the United States and their host country through their scholarship. That the Embassy would be so stupid as to ask them to spy is shocking. Academics studying in Bolivia are predominantly on the left and big time critics of U.S. foreign policy. They are articulate and have access to media. Did the Embassy really think they could get away with this? Idiots.

This is also incredibly damaging to the Peace Corps. Since the Peace Corps' founding in 1961, it clearly served U.S. foreign policy interests. Most Peace Corps volunteers are good people trying to help people out in the developing world while also taking part in a unique experience of their own. However, I know from Peace Corps volunteers that the CIA has placed operatives within the organization in the past and probably are in the present. I'm not sure what the documentation is on this, but I am getting this from first-hand sources. The Peace Corps was intended to further U.S. policy, but they have always tread a delicate line with their host countries, keeping their volunteers away from such obvious and heavy-handed interference.

This could also fairly seriously hurt U.S.-Bolivia relations. Not that we have a huge economic interest there, but a Cuba-Venezuela-Bolivia bloc is a fairly important anti-American force. Moreover, I am planning on going to Bolivia this summer. I'm going to be extra angry at Bush and the fools in the State Department if they screw up my travel plans.

I have a source that might have a good bit more information. I'm trying to mine that now; if I have any luck, I will be sure to write more about this.

In any case, what a disgrace.