Peace Corps/Bolivia Program Suspended
[Sept 15] Peace Corps operations in Bolivia have been temporarily suspended to ensure the safety of the Peace Corps Volunteers serving there. With growing instability in Bolivia, all Volunteers were consolidated on Sunday, September 14, and have now been moved to Peru where they will be transitioning out of service or to another post. “Our first priority is the safety and security of our Volunteers,” said Peace Corps Director Ron Tschetter. “Thousands of Peace Corps Volunteers have served in Bolivia since 1962, building deep friendships with the people there. We hope the situation will improve soon so future Volunteers can continue the Peace Corps’ fine tradition of valuable service to the Bolivian people.” The Volunteers serving in Bolivia will be granted close of service in good standing, or offered an opportunity to transfer to another Peace Corps country. Read more.
Peace Corps temporarily suspends operations in Bolivia because of "growing instability"
[Sept 15] Since the turmoil began some three weeks ago, Bolivian President Evo Morales has thrown out the U.S. ambassador to Bolivia, accusing the American government of inciting the violence. The expelled ambassador, Philip Goldberg, called the charges "false and baseless" and said Bolivia was making a "grave mistake." Members of the 4-month-old Union of South American Countries lent support to Morales on Monday night, voting to create a commission to support the Bolivian government, according to President Michelle Bachelet of Chile. Evo Morales, Bolivia's first Indian president, is battling an autonomy movement in the natural gas-rich eastern departments of Santa Cruz, Pando, Beni and Tarija. The movement was sparked by Morales' pledge to redistribute wealth from the east to the country's poorer highlands. The unrest killed more than 30 people last week in Pando, and Morales declared martial law there Friday. Read more.
South American leaders support Morales in Bolivia unrest
[Sept 16] South American presidents holding a crisis summit here over unrest in Bolivia issued a strong statement giving Bolivian President Evo Morales their support. The statement late Monday agreed by Morales and the presidents of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela also rejected any break-up of Bolivia's territory. The nine presidents in the Chilean capital Santiago expressed "their full and firm support for the constitutional government of President Evo Morales, whose mandate was ratified by a big majority." Argentine President Cristina Kirchner said after the six hours of talks that "the agreement was unanimous." She had called the summit under the auspices of the newly formed Union of South American Nations, which is currently presided over by Chile. The summit statement said the presidents "warn that our respective government energetically reject and will not recognize any situation that attempts a civil coup and the rupture of institutional order and which could compromise the territorial integrity of the Republic of Bolivia." Read more.
US Ambassador Philip Goldberg ordered out of Bolivia for alleged support of opposition groups
[Sept 14] Philip Goldberg was on Wednesday told to leave the country by Bolivian President Evo Morales, who is struggling with a revolt in five rebel states. The Fides news agency said Goldberg would host a final private dinner for friends late Saturday and would make a statement before flying out. On Saturday, Morales justified the expulsion order against the envoy by saying it was the indigenous peoples' rejection of "the American empire." The order declaring Goldberg persona non grata "subscribes to the struggle of indigenous people not only in Bolivia but in all of Latin America, who have for 500 years fought empires of the time," Morales, an Aymara Indian, told reporters in La Paz. The expulsion prompted shows of solidarity by Morales's chief ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who told the US ambassador to his country to go, and Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, who refused to accept the credentials of a new US ambassador. Read more.
This is not the first controversy surrounding Philip S. Goldberg's tenure as US Ambassador to Bolivia.
Peace Corps Volunteer Life with Evo writes: Refugee Status
[Sept 16] "Counterparts called Peace Corps and told them their volunteers were not safe. We watch as friends in our communities respond to the calls to take up arms and we don’t know what we should do. Is it that serious? It must be this time. I usually tell people Peace Corps is consolidating, and they respond with a wave of the hand and a “No pasa nada…” Nothing will happen. This time they respond with tears. Tears for their people, tears for their country, as they process feelings of total bewilderment and despair. After all, where will they go? They have no consolidation point, no evacuation plans. After my arrival Friday night in Cochabamba, I sleep and wait. The longest hours of life. Waiting, without any idea with what might happen, without explanations. Saturday we move hotels. Sunday we get the message that we are indeed evacuating to a neighboring country. We are not told where. Then we move again. It’s for our safety, they say. Anti-American sentiment is high and no one can know where we are going or that we have even consolidated. We’ve only told our communities that we have to meet up for a minute and that we should be back. Yeah right. Monday we are scheduled to get out of the country. It is an interminable wait. Half of the volunteers have already been evacuated to Peru. My group is still in Bolivia. No one is allowed to say anything to friends or family for fear that the military cargo plane that had to jump hoops to get clearance for a bunch of Americans to get into Peru will run into problems and that we will have no way out. American airlines has cancelled flights in and out of Bolivia til the end of the month. Private chartered planes have waiting lists of 20+ organizations and hundreds of Americans are waiting for a chance to get out." Read more.
Top: Bolivian Army soldiers patrol Cobija, Pando department, northern Bolivia. Street violence which erupted in Bolivia last week, killing at least 18 people, was the result of a "coup" by rebel governors, President Evo Morales said Monday as he arrived in Chile for an emergency summit on the crisis. Photo: AFP/Alexandre Lima
Middle: President Michelle Bachelet of Chile reads the final statement of the emergency summit.
Bottom: A view from the Peace Corps office in Cochabomba.