October 13, 2007

“¡causachun coca, wañuchun yanki!“

MABB © ®

The diplomatic relations between the US and Bolivia is deteriorating to the point that it might be time to change Ambassadors, once again.

As the title of this post demonstrates, it is no secret that the Bolivian President, Evo Morales, is not really interested in maintaining a good relationship with the US government. The title of this post cites Evo Morales' slogan as he spoke it from the coca grower's union leadership, a position he still holds even now. It is in Quechua and means, "viva coca, death to the Yankees".

The latest development in this diplomatic row are Morales' words declaring Phillip Goldberg (the US Ambassador) as an invalid middle-man or representative against the Bolivian government. In fact, short of declaring him persona non grata, he banned him from entering the government building.

These words come against the backdrop of more diplomatic nuances. It started when Morales was arriving to the US to speak in the UN. His plane was diverted to NJ and he and his people had to wait more than an hour before they were even let out of the airplane. Morales then, feeling not welcomed, decided to start a campaign to move the seat of the UN away from the US. Goldberg, when asked about those declarations, replied that it wouldn't surprise him if the Bolivian government would start a campaign to move Disney World.

The reaction of the Bolivian government was harsh against Goldberg. The Bolivian Department of State asked for a formal apology. Goldberg then sent, a few days ago, a letter apologizing for the faux pas. Now it seems as though, the Bolivian President is not happy with it and wants more.

It seems absurd, but it is happening. First, it seems poorly thought out, the fact that in times like these, the American Ambassador would make a joke like this. Granted, it is not a terribly bad joke, but he should have considered the delicate times the US-Bolivia relationship is going through and specifically the nature of the current Bolivian government (touchy, I mean, not afraid to use the race card). It was just not to be expected from a professional diplomat.

Secondly, it is clear the Bolivian government profits more from antagonizing the US and "fighting imperialism" than being best friends. On the one side, it fits well Morales' image of rebel. This image is even liked among some Americans. On the other side, Morales stands to gain more from his friendship with Chavez and Ahmadinejad, that with his friendship with Bush.

Is is time to recall Ambassador Goldberg home? You bet. Even if he is an outstanding diplomat and has achieved much on his career for the US, he is of no use in Bolivia any more. The only thing that would help him is to apologize publically to the Bolivian people and to Morales himself. Now, the US cannot afford to loose any contact with Bolivia, yet another country in its "back yard". As we've seen before, these things tend to have a certain domino motion, and might spread to other countries. Ecuador, perhaps?