US withdraws Peace Corps volunteers from Bolivia

September 16, 2008

The Peace Corps, a US government program that sends Americans to volunteer in developing countries, has temporarily halted its work in Bolivia on security concerns, it said Tuesday.

The move came after political tensions in the impoverished South American country erupted in street violence that left at least 18 dead, and with Bolivia-US diplomatic ties seriously frayed by the expulsion last week of the US ambassador to La Paz.

“With growing instability in Bolivia, all volunteers were consolidated on Sunday, September 14, and have now been moved to Peru where they will be transitioning out of service or to another post,” the Peace Corps said in a statement.

The Corps had a total of 113 volunteers in Bolivia, working on agriculture, business development, environment, health, and youth development projects, said Amanda Beck, a Peace Corps spokeswoman.

The last time the Peace Corps moved volunteers out of a country was at the beginning of the year in Kenya, during unrest following a disputed presidential election, but they have since returned, Beck said.

Staff at the Peace Corps’ Bolivian headquarters in Cochabamba will monitor the situation to assess when volunteers can go back, she said.

Bolivia’s enduring political conflict blew up into deadly street violence last week as Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, struggled to assert his authority over the eastern half of his country.

Anti-government protesters, backed by the governors of five states which are pushing for autonomy, seized control of government offices and airports and clashed with indigenous peasants supporting Morales.



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