With my departure for South America set for 10 days from now, the Bolivian government has put a hitch in my plans. Bolivian President Evo Morales announced yesterday that as of now, American citizens will need a visa to visit Bolivia. As the Associated Press reported:
LA PAZ, Bolivia -- The government of President Evo Morales approved a decree Monday requiring U.S. citizens to obtain visas to enter Bolivia. Morales said the decree "a matter of reciprocity." The U.S. government requires Bolivians to obtain visas to enter the United States. "We are a small country but we have the same dignity as any other," Morales said. The decree, approved during a Cabinet meeting, applies to other countries, including Serbia and Montenegro and Cyprus. In February 2006, Leonilda Zurita, a congresswoman belonging to Morales' Movement Toward Socialism party, had her U.S. visa revoked. Zurita said Washington cited an alleged link between her and terrorist activities, which she denied. Morales also cited security concerns for the rule. An American man has been charged with setting off bombs in two La Paz hotels in March. Two Bolivians were killed and seven people were injured, including an American woman. U.S. ties to Bolivia have been tense partly due to Morales' friendship with Presidents Fidel Castro of Cuba and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, as well as by Morales' background as the leader of coca growers fighting U.S. attempts to eradicate their crops.What the AP did not make clear is that the visa requirement for Bolivians to enter the US is a recent, post-911 move by the US reversing years of visa-free travel for South Americans coming north. The Brazilian government has also imposed a visa requirement for Americans now in this game of diplomatic tit-for-tat. Thanks, Mr. Bush. What this means for my trip is unclear at this point. The Bolivian consulate in Washington wasn't answering the phone today. One of colleagues in the Washington office will run over there first thing tomorrow morning to try to find out what the new requirements are and how fast I can actually get a visa. I am going first to Peru, which hasn't imposed a visa requirement, and it may be possible to get a visa there, but I don't know that yet. I'll keep you all updated on the situation. (Read the comment I've posted to learn a little more about Leonilda Zurita. - DB)
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