Bolivian President Evo Morales celebrated May Day, an annual holiday for socialists, by decreeing that USAID would be expelled from the country.
Morales, a close ally of late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, said during a Wednesday rally in La Paz that there is "no lack of U.S. institutions which continue to conspire against our people and especially the national government, which is why we're going to take the opportunity to announce on this May Day that we've decided to expel USAID," the BBC reports.
In a scathing Wednesday afternoon press release USAID said, "We deny the baseless allegations made by the Bolivian government."
"All USAID programs have been supportive of the Bolivian government's National Development Plan, and have been fully coordinated with appropriate government agencies," USAID said. As a result of Morales's decision, "USAID will terminate programs that increase access to and quality of health care for poor Bolivians, conserve Bolivia's rich biodiversity, and reduce pollution around Lake Titicaca, and promote economic growth and livelihoods," the agency said.
According to the release, USAID has spent around $2 billion in Bolivia since 1964. The budget for fiscal year 2011 was $26.7 million, which is down from the $52.1 million budget in fiscal year 2010.
"The United States government has worked in a dedicated fashion over the past five years to establish a relationship based on mutual respect, dialogue, and cooperation with the Bolivian government," USAID said. "This action is further demonstration that the Bolivian government is not interested in that vision."
In his May Day speech Morales said of USAID, "They will surely think that they can still politically and economically manipulate us here in Bolivia, but these times are over," according to a Bloomberg report citing Bolivian state news agency ABI.
Bolivian newspaper La Razon reports that Morales announced in his speech an increase in wages for state employees. The paper reported that Morales also "found himself obliged to increase the presidential salary" to 15 times the national minimum wage, so that officials whose salaries are pegged to the presidential salary can get a raise.
Morales took office in 2006 and on May 1 of that year nationalized the country's natural gas industry. In 2008 Moralesexpelled the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The DEA had been working to crack down on the harvesting of coca, which is used to make cocaine. Coca leaves are also traditionally chewed by Bolivians. During the 2008 controversy USAID was criticized by locals for the anti-coca slant of its assistance programs.