Bolivia expels U.S. Agency for International Development

La Paz, May 1 (EFE).- President Evo Morales on Wednesday expelled the U.S. Agency for International Development from Bolivia, accusing USAID of meddling in politics.

He announced the decision at a May Day rally in La Paz's Murillo Square.

Since taking office in 2006, Morales has traditionally chosen International Workers Day to announce the nationalization of a firm or the assertion of public control over infrastructure or natural resources.

"Our minister of the presidency said to me yesterday that journalists and firms were running around the palace asking what we're going to nationalize today. Today we will only nationalize ... the dignity of the Bolivian people," the leftist president said.

"There is no lack of U.S. Embassy institutions to continue conspiring against this process, the people and especially the national government, and that's why ... I want to inform you that we have decided to expel USAID from Bolivia," he told supporters.

Morales, the first indigenous head of state of this Indian-majority country, ordered the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration out of Bolivia in 2008, the same year he booted Washington's envoy to the Andean nation, Philip Goldberg.

The president cited the ambassador's meetings with secession-minded provincial governors and the use of a DEA aircraft to transport opposition leaders.

Denying any wrongdoing by its officials, the United States likewise expelled the Bolivian ambassador and relations have remained at the level of charge d'affaires since then.

USAID is an "instrument that still has a mentality of domination," Morales said Wednesday, insisting that the agency's programs in Bolivia have had a political agenda.

The president also repeated his denunciation of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's recent remark to a congressional committee that "the Western Hemisphere is our backyard."

The United States regrets La Paz's decision to expel USAID and rejects the accusation of political interference as "baseless and unfounded," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.

"This harms the Bolivian people. We think the (USAID) programs have been positive for the Bolivian people and fully co-ordinated with the Bolivian government and appropriate agencies under their own national development plan," Ventrell said.

Declassified documents obtained under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act show USAID has invested more than $97 million in "decentralization" and "regional autonomy" projects and opposition political parties in Bolivia since 2002.

USAID's Political Party Reform Project was designed to "serve as a counterweight to (Morales') radical MAS (party) or its successors," one of those documents said.