La Paz (EFE) – Bolivian President Evo Morales accused the United States on Monday of “blackmail” for cutting military aid to his new government,
allegedly because the Socialist leader refused to be dictated to by Washington regarding promotion of a high-ranking officer.
Morales voiced his complaint publicly at the anniversary ceremony for the founding of the city of El Alto, which hatched the largest popular protests against the traditional parties starting in 2003, a movement that finally led to his own victory in the presidential election in December.
The president publicly read part of a letter he received from the head of the U.S. military mission in Bolivia, Daniel Barreto, who in-formed him of Washington’s decision to end assistance to the Bolivian-U.S. joint anti-terrorist force last week.
He said that Washington’s decision came because he “did not accept the veto or change of a commander” in the Bolivian military, a move that he said brought on the “blackmail by a group in the military forces of the United States,” he said.
Morales did not identify the officer allegedly at the heart of the matter, or say what post he occupied.
In his speech, Morales said that he made a portion of the letter public so that “we can all fulfill our duty to inform ourselves about this type of blackmail, terror and intimidation” against the South American country.
The U.S. government’s decision also implies the suspension of training exercise scholarships to Bolivian soldiers and the withdrawal of the team assigned to the joint military unit, government officials said.
The Bolivian leader said that he was not worried about the withdrawal of what he said was $70,000 or $200,000, “because they are just a few crumbs and resources only (given) to control Bolivia.”
He said that “no commander is going to be changed at the request of the U.S. military forces” because Bolivia is going through a period in which the soldiers “are taking on the struggles of the Bolivian people.”
“The high military command is committed to guaranteeing the constitutional assembly and the nationalization of (our) natural resources,” Morales said, alluding to the two structural reforms his administration is pushing.
In the coming hours, Morales will promulgate two laws ratified by the Bolivian Congress on the weekend to convene a constitutional assembly and hold an autonomy referendum, the latter of which contains as one of its central features an economic plan including a greater role for the state in the control of the country’s natural resources.