From Bolivia There’s Aid, and Then There’s Free Aid

AidSign

This piece was written by Mary Stucky, founder of Round Earth Media, before the Next Generation Journalism model was established. To read more about the model, visit the main site here.

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Originally broadcast on Marketplace on August 8, 2007

The following is a transcript of Mary Stucky’s radio report. To listen to the podcast, please click on the link below, starting at the time code 6:40.

Mary Stucky: Near the highland village of La Capinota are new farm fields. They’re a project of Food for the Hungry International, a Christian relief organization funded by the U.S. government. These fertile fields yield three harvests a year and farmers like Rene Claure, earn, on average, nine times what they made before.

Rene Claure [voice of translator]: “Now we have our land and we can afford to send our kids to school. We are content in this place thanks to FHI and USAID.”

Mary Stucky: USAID is the United States Agency for International Development, which supports half a million people in Bolivia. Per capita, Bolivia is one of the largest recipients of U.S. aid in the world. Michael Yates is the director of USAID Bolivia.

Michael Yates: “These are all the kinds of activities that provide improved opportunities for Bolivia’s poor. So again these are not the kinds of things it’s easy to have problems with.”

Mary Stucky: But in Bolivia, some do have a problem with the conditions required for U.S. aid. For example the U.S. wants to eliminate the production of coca, the primary ingredient in cocaine. But coca is sold openly in markets like this one in the Chapare, the subtropical region of Bolivia. As a result, USAID cut off funding for development projects in the Chapare for much of last year. But that didn’t stop the projects. They got funding from other governments: Spain, Germany and Venezuela. Local Mayor Rimer Agreda says U.S. money is nice but assistance from other countries is better.

Mayor Rimer Agreda [voice of translator]: “The Americans, they’re so rigid in the way they want to condition their assistance. They’re trying to satisfy their own interests and their own government policy.”

Mary Stucky: Meanwhile, back in La Capinota, they don’t much care where the money comes from. They just want a new irrigation system.