The Thin Line Between Influence And Interference. Lessons Learned from an Examination of US Democracy Promotion Efforts in Bolivia
From September 2007 through March 2008, I was a full-time volunteer at the Democracy Center in Cochabamba, Bolivia. While there I co-authored a briefing paper exploring the role of US aid in the politics of Bolivia. This capstone paper examines our findings and the process we took to get there. The briefing paper is almost complete and will be published later this year. For nearly a year, the Bolivian government has been loudly criticizing the democracy promotion work done by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) within its borders. Accusations include supporting the opposition, blocking the process of constitutional reform, and a lack of transparency. Coming at a critical juncture in Bolivia’s history, if true, these charges hold great consequence. The US government has continued to deny all allegations. Our research for the briefing paper did not find any direct evidence of the specific claims made by the Bolivian government. However, given the history of interference by both the US government and USAID, these claims cannot be written off entirely. Many questions still remain as to how US funding is being used and what effects programs sponsored by USAID are having in Bolivia politically. Further evaluation of democracy promotion efforts and greater cooperation with the Bolivian government are necessary next steps. This capstone traces the briefing paper from its inception through the research and writing to its current state. In addition, it provides an evaluation of the document as well as its potential future uses. It closes by exploring the lessons learned throughout the process. These lessons pertain to both the generation of the briefing paper as well as to democracy promotion activities by the US in general.