La Paz - Fresh from ruffling feathers and hogging headlines in New York, Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last month got down to business in Latin America — specifically, the business of Tehran's $17 billion economic agreements with Venezuela, and a new pact involving over $1 billion of trade and investment with Bolivia. The idea of
"Latin American leaders like [Bolivia's President Evo] Morales are not the staunch ideologues they are often portrayed as," says Nadia Martinez of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. "They are pragmatic: When Iran offers a billion dollars, Bolivia's going to accept. It does not mean the beginning of the next cold war."
Take away the fact that both men are strong critics of
It is such investment, along with massive amounts of aid and trade pouring in from oil-rich ally Venezuela, as well as from Spain, Italy and India, that has put South America's poorest nation's economy on the upswing for the first time in years.
The sudden availability of all these alternative sources of capital would appear to offer the Bolivians an opportunity to move out from under the shadow of their traditional prime benefactor, the
An even darker cloud over U.S.-Bolivia economic ties emerged recently with revelations in declassified U.S. State Department documents that the United States Agency for International Development's (USAID) showed a bias against Morales' ruling MAS (Movement Towards Socialism) party, even when it was just an opposition movement.
According to internal memos, funding priority was given in 2002 to a "planned USAID political reform project" that aimed to "help build moderate pro-democracy political parties that can serve as a counterweight to the radial MAS or its successors."
Then, in June 2006, half a year into Morales' term, the assistant administrator in USAID's Bureau for
"USAID is focusing assistance to
Despite mounting government anger over USAID funding activities that it alleges are fueling a potentially catastrophic civil conflict,
Indeed, despite its complaints,
"We as a people have a right to have access to whatever knowledge and technology exists that could best help our society's progress and well-being," Morales stated on September 27. "But for that to happen we should not have to give into pressure from any of the world's superpowers." For now, the changing global balance of power gives Morales greater options than were available to his predecessors throughout