Thursday, September 11, 2008

Persona non grata

Evo Morales has declared U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg persona non grata, which apparently means he has to leave the country within 48-72 hours. Strangely enough, Goldberg was meeting with the Foreign Minister at the time, discussing the DEA. In a speech, Morales said, "The ambassador of the United States is conspiring against democracy and wants Bolivia to break apart."

I can't find any mainstream media making reference to the meeting Goldberg had with Santa Cruz governor Ruben Costas, a leader of the autonomist/separatist crowd. So the idea that Morales' suspicions are "baseless" is disingenuous to say the least. For the U.S., the eternal problem is that the history of U.S. policy means that Latin American leaders have a reason to be suspicious--even if Goldberg is not involved in some plot, there is very good reason to think he might be.

We'll see where this goes. Morales is doing it also to show his own supporters that he is strong and independent. For the most part, the U.S. response to him has been measured, so will that change?

8 comments:

Anonymous,  1:34 PM  

Greg,

I am not sure if this fits with your definition of "mainstream media", but here is a link to Bolivian media coverage of the meeting:
http://www.boliviaenvideos.com/2008/08/reunin-secreta-entre-prefecto-opositor.html

Best,

Will

Greg Weeks 1:37 PM  

I'd say that a website in Spanish dedicated only to Bolivia is about the very definition of non-mainstream. I am thinking more of U.S. newspapers and TV news sites.

GS,  9:52 AM  

So the idea that Morales' suspicions are "baseless" is disingenuous to say the least. For the U.S., the eternal problem is that the history of U.S. policy means that Latin American leaders have a reason to be suspicious

Great case of “yes and no.” I couldn’t agree more with the weight of the U.S.’s historical baggage.

I couldn’t disagree more with assumption that Goldberg should be seen as involved in a plot purely based on one meeting with Costas and American history in Latin America. I would think you’d want more evidence than that, no? This expulsion is for domestic consumption. Evo is loosing control of the situation in Bolivia. Though he is justified and should exert the authority of the central government to stabilize the situation (along with a political strategy to negotiate a solution to the on-going crisis), he has not done so either out of unwillingness (less likely) or inability (more likely). He needed to do something both to demonstrate that he was doing something and to rally his troops and deflect attention from his domestic problems. Bye, bye Goldberg. Or so I think.

Greg Weeks 10:04 AM  

I already mentioned in the post that he's interested in rallying his base. My interest is more in the U.S. coverage of the expulsion, which suggests that Morales has no reason to be suspicious of Goldberg, which for a variety of reasons is not a valid argument.

Whether he should have expelled him is a different matter--I don't feel strongly one way or the other.

mcentellas 10:07 AM  

I think the expulsion was a huge mistake, since it'll cost Bolivia more than it can gain. Does Evo have reason to be uneasy about the US role? Sure. Is there any actual evidence that the US is behind the current domestic crisis? No. Frankly, I think this was a meant as a distraction and to rally popular support. It's particularly odd that Evo announced the expulsion of the ambassador at the same time as Goldberg was meeting w/ Bolivia's state minister. It makes it seem like a snap decision.

Greg Weeks 10:39 AM  

I think whether it costs Bolivia much depends on how things play out. Maybe things cool down, and Morales can get some nice noises from the U.S. about support for democracy, etc. Or maybe they stay hot, insults fly, and then you might kiss the ATPDEA (which expires on Dec. 31) goodbye.

Boli-Nica 1:04 PM  

I can't find any mainstream media making reference to the meeting Goldberg had with Santa Cruz governor Ruben Costas, a leader of the autonomist/separatist crowd. So the idea that Morales' suspicions are "baseless" is disingenuous to say the least.

The reason there is no "mainstream" coverage is that there is nothing extraordinary about meetings b/w the US ambassador and the popularly elected governor of one of the most populated departments in the country, a major export hub that sends millions of dollars worth of goods to the US.

For that matter there is nothing strange about a US Ambassador (or any ambassador) meeting with the chamber of commerce, politicians, rural cooperatives, and so on.

Just as a point of comparison. Cuba's ambassador to Colombia attends regional events at the invitation of provincial governors, meets with politicians including those from the opposition speaks at national media forums and no one makes much of a stink. Additionally, Colombia's relations with Cuba seem stable enough for almost 60 Cubans to work in official capacities in Colombia. It goes without saying that Cuba for the past 50 years has hardly been
"non-intervenionist" in Colombia - a country where at least two "Castrista" groups M-19 and the still active ELN were/are players in the ongoing conflict. Cubas past history and ideology makes them as untrustworthy as anyone else in the hemisphere.

That Colombia can deal with Cuba in that manner, in the middle of a violent and complicated conflict, shows just how paranoid and simplistic, Bolivia's present government is.

Greg Weeks 3:45 PM  

In that comparison, you want to equate Cuba with the U.S.? Cuba has the power to do exactly nothing to Colombia.

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