Bolivia: MAS Senator Denied US Entry
Leonida Zurita Vargas, head of Bolivia's National Federation of Women Peasants, talks about the place of the coca leaf in Andean culture, at a Harvard University visit in 2003
UPDATE: Rueters has picked up the story, as have others, since Morales came out protesting the US action today. With more information it appears the visa was revoked (unbeknownst to Vargas) in 2004 after some terrorist "information" about Vargas' speeches was passed to the the Embassy.
It appears the US is not waiting long before extending the foul gamesmanship it routinely plays with Cuban and Venezuelan visa allotment to the nascent Morales government in Bolivia (that is, if you are not going to bash your country, you can't come in). The Bush administration has, at the very last minute, revoked the visa of adjunct Senator Leonida Zurita Vargas, who hails from Cochabamba, Bolivia - for what can only be described as political reasons.
Not one newspaper or blogger cares enough to write about this, but rest assured the people of Bolivia know. If the US wants to push Bolivia towards real anti-Americanism and not just campaign bluster, this is surely a great way to do it.
Check the press release from the Council on Hemispheric Affairs for the full story. Some nuggets include:
Zurita today is among Bolivia’s most prominent female leaders and public figures, and undoubtedly one of the most powerful women in the ruling Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) coalition...
This background would seem to confer substantial prestige on Senator Zurita, yet in her case, dignity and appropriate diplomacy ran afoul of ideology and politics. She had planned to travel to the U.S. for a three week speaking tour.... including speaking appearances at Stanford University, the University of Vermont, and the University of Florida at Gainesville, culminating in a speech at the Kennedy School of Harvard University. This would have made her the first ranking official from the new MAS government to visit the U.S.
Yet when she arrived at the Santa Cruz airport on February 20, she was curtly informed by the American Airline official that her visa had been revoked by order of the U.S. embassy, and that she would not be permitted to travel or would risk facing a $3,000 fine and forced detention. This, despite the fact that until the previously unannounced cancellation, she had held a valid visa and had flown to the U.S. four previous times, most recently to participate in engagements backed by a number of U.S. grass-root movements, including an appearance at Harvard University.