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Bolivia Charges U.S. Official With Espionage

Bolivia has now filed espionage charges against Vincent Cooper, a U.S. Embassy official who instructed Peace Corps volunteers and Fulbright scholar J

Bolivia has now filed espionage charges against Vincent Cooper, a U.S. Embassy official who instructed Peace Corps volunteers and Fulbright scholar John Alexander van Schaick at mandatory orientation and security briefings "to provide the names, addresses and activities of any Venezuelan or Cuban doctors or field workers" they encountered.

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Van Schaick's account matches that of Peace Corps members and staff who claim that last July their entire group of new volunteers was instructed by the same U.S. Embassy official in Bolivia to report on Cuban and Venezuelan nationals. [...]

"I am supposed to be a cultural ambassador increasing mutual understanding between us and the Bolivian people," van Schaick explains. "This flies in face of everything Fulbright stands for."

The Fulbright program receives its funding from the U.S. State Department and the Peace Corps is a federal agency, but the State Department insists that neither group has the obligation to act in an intelligence capacity. In fact, both have strict regulations against members getting involved in politics in their host country.

Robert Naiman points out that Cooper tried recruiting the Peace Corps class back in July and the incident with van Schaick occurred in November.

Back in Dec Morales lashed out at the United States Embassy, questioning whether some of its development aid was being channeled to the political opposition. That was just months after Bolivia rejected a U.S.-backed free trade agreement and instead signed a pact with Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua (soon to be joined by Ecuador, Uruguay, the Dominican Republic, and St. Kitts) that has markedly heightened tensions between its members and the US and in recent weeks.

Democracy Now has more on this here and more on recent U.S. meddling in Bolivia here.

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