Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Bolivia's Morales slams US for spying

PRESS TV reports:

Bolivian President Evo Morales has denounced a US embassy security officer for trying to spy on Cubans and Venezuelans working in Bolivia.

Morales' criticism came Monday following reports that Vincent Cooper, the US embassy official, had asked an American scholar and 30 Peace Corps volunteers to pass along information about Cubans and Venezuelans working in the country.

Speaking at a military ceremony in Cochabamba, Morales said Cooper had "not only violated the rights of US citizens but also violated and offended Bolivia as a nation".

US scholar John Alexander van Schaick, part of the Fulbright program in Bolivia, told AP Television that Cooper, the embassy's assistant regional security officer, had asked him to pass along the names and addresses of any Venezuelan and Cuban workers he might encounter.

The embassy released a statement on Monday explaining that Peace Corps volunteers had been mistakenly given a security briefing meant only for embassy staff, asking them to report "suspicious activities".

Embassy officials said they could not confirm whether Cooper also gave improper instructions to a Fulbright scholar in a one-on-one briefing in November.

In a more strongly worded statement, the Peace Corps said that by law, volunteers cannot be asked to gather intelligence for the US government.

"Any connection between the Peace Corps and the intelligence community would seriously compromise the ability of the Peace Corps to develop and maintain the trust and confidence of the people in the host countries we serve," the agency said.

(see also report on DemocracyNow)