Whether or not it is absolutely public knowledge. The United States has had a quite a role in the modern democratic world that has allowed for the very progress that we’ve seen over the past years. By no means has progress been the result of US efforts or has democracy deepened and consolidated in certain parts of the world SOLELY as a result of US efforts, just that the US has had a supportive (even if only a cheerleader) role in most democratic movements in the world in the past 70 years or more. One of the largest funders of pro-democracy projects and programs in Latin America today is NOT the US via USAID or anything related to the US government but rather European organizations. European organizations are more directly active on all sides than the US is. The real issue is that the US is the likely whipping boy for all propaganda politics meant to villainize the other in order to turn focus away from domestic shortcomings and/or impending political/social/economic crisis. In the case of Bolivia it couldn’t be more obvious that with their regional tensions and a tremendous amount of interference from Venezuela in their domestic politics (with him also extending his direct influence and efforts in Argentina, Nicaragua and most recently Colombia with his direct calls to act as a peacebroker with the FARC and the Colombian government), they needed to deflect the tension to an alternate and more identifiable source. The usual suspect is the “gringo imperialista” as my comrades frequently referred to me as down in Mexico City.
This is such a common phrase that it is almost said endearingly. That said, there are plenty of examples of direct and indirect ‘encouragement’/support for non-democratic leaders on the part of the US and this must be humbly admitted to in order to be just in any defense of US actions in the Hemisphere in modern times. Many regard the unflinching support that the Bush Administration has had for President Uribe in Colombia is a symptom of supporting human rights abuses, but I personally feel that the Bush Administration has human rights matters a little closer to home that it is worrying about right now. Their “war on terror” is a very new type of war and a very complex type of policy to market and sell to the general public (not to mention within a very complex and difficult to manage internal bureaucracy) . Selling many ideas and policies of the current Administration to its domestic partners (even when of the same political colors) has been hard enough. This is by no means an excuse for the Bush Administration just a reality that has be understood before delving into the REAL MATTER AT HAND.
Is democracy promotion a viable foreign policy, is it just, does it matter, should it be institutionalized, should it continue under the next White House? That is a question better discussed by people who have lived it and who have criticized more than I. I believe that is the type of policy that really must be in the cadre of potential policies but that should never be forced or even strongly encouraged upon any regime. Instead, there must be a very substantial amount of political will at hand requesting aid and training for these types of things. Within this, the case of Bolivia is that there have been democracy programs there for quite some time and those same programs have benefited all sides and parties. No one program is the same as another, regardless of country and or time. This means that a lot more of what goes on depends on the actors in a given country. IF they desire cooperation and assistance and are willing to work with the US then a formal process begins in order to attain the funds and the political will on both sides to move forward.
Nothing is imposed on anybody and there is definitely no subverting or conspiring against the government going on. That type of thing is the work of a very different organization that doesn’t fly its flag so publicly as USAID and its non-partisan, non-profit sector partners. That said, everyone has their opinions and sometimes those opinions come out in leaked memos that probably should never have existed, at least not in the wording that they were found. That’s just bad diplomacy, something that the US has been quite good at lately. I have hope, because I know plenty of young diplomats that are more than capable of making the changes necessary and doing so from within, with class, tact, and diplomatic flare that will surely attract the POSITIVE attention of other countries. If you will, it is me being somewhat sentimental about the good ‘ole days when the US was popular in the world.
So, Vice Presidente Quintana, I wish you well in serving your post as a public representative for the Bolivian people. If you were a true patriot and man of your people, you’d be a bit more honest, and you’d stop saying what they (the public) are used to hearing, and instead be a bit more frank about the need for the Bolivian people to unite for a better future in a precarious time. Uniting shouldn’t require an external enemy, it is possible to unite in order to defeat a common enemy called corruption, populism, clientelism, and lack of infrastructure development. That even sounds like a cause worthy of calling a “war”. From that you could really stir up the masses with press conferences addressing the need for the people to unite for a “Bolivia aun mejor” in which you partnered with external nations instead of lambasting them for offering their help.
In conclusion, both sides are to blame in this incident. As is usually the case, the truth is somewhat unsatisfying and doesn’t make for the kind of headline that we’re used to. It should read, MAS and the Bolivian government having trouble controlling their own country and desperately need an external enemy: US fits the bill (due to its own blunders in the region). Longer but more accurate.