Bolivia expels Danish NGO for meddling

Bolivia on Friday announced the expulsion of the Danish non-governmental education development agency IBIS, accusing it of meddling in its internal affairs.

In announcing the decision, a top aide to leftist President Evo Morales said the expulsion should be seen as a clear warning to other non-governmental groups active in the poor Andean country.

IBIS, which works with indigenous communities and unions in rural areas, was being expelled because "they are doing political work against the government," said Juan Ramon Quintana, the minister of the presidency.

"We are tired of tolerating IBIS' political interference in Bolivia, we are tired of tolerating IBIS' promotion of internal conflict among the indigenous organizations themselves," he said at a news conference.

He said the expulsion order was effective immediately.

There was no immediate comment from the Copenhagen-based organization. IBIS' directors were meeting to assess the situation, an official told AFP.

It would be the first non-governmental organization to be expelled from Bolivia.

In May, Morales' government kicked out the US Agency for International Development, which had been working in Bolivia since 1964.

"Just as IBIS is leaving today, other non-governmental organizations that have distorted their mission with social organizations are going to go," Quintana said.

Some 600 non-governmental organizations work in Bolivia with financial support from government and private sources.

Susana Erostegui, the head of a network of all the NGOs that work in Bolivia, said the fear of reprisals had had a chilling effect on criticism of the government.

"It's a comfortable position in a climate of fear," she told the newspaper Pagina Siete a week ago.

"To survive sometimes one has to be quiet. Certainly that is happening with some. Perhaps they are afraid their financing will be restricted or they will legally close their doors. These things are having an effect," she said.

On its website, IBIS said it has worked in rural areas of Bolivia since the 1960s, focusing on education, climate change and strengthening intercultural democracy in the country.

Quintana accused it of "dividing social organizations, financing the division of social organizations and erroneously interpreting its responsibilities, mandate and commitment to work in Bolivia."