LA PAZ – The Bolivian Armed Forces Command on Tuesday took as its new headquarters the building expropriated in 2013 from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and President Evo Morales said that the site would be converted into a “center of liberation and integration.”
In the speech he delivered at the inauguration ceremony of the military’s new HQ, Morales said that turning the building over to Bolivia’s armed forces “contains a certain symbolism that needs to be established.”
“These facilities, which constituted the emblematic symbol of interference (by the US in Bolivian affairs) will become part of an institution that has been created as a symbol of the defense of national sovereignty,” he said.
The Bolivian leader said that the building, which “before was a center of domination, a center for studying invasion and intervention in Bolivia” will now become “a center of liberation and integration for all Bolivians.”
USAID ceased its activities in Bolivia on Sept. 30, 2013, four months after Morales decided to expel it from the country, accusing it of conspiring against him, a charge the organization and the US government rejected.
The facilities, which were also claimed by the La Paz Mayor’s Office, since 2013 have contained government offices, including the Sports Ministry and some departments of the President’s Ministry and the Foreign Ministry which will now have to relocate.
The former USAID facilities include a six-story building and other open grounds covering 7,469 square meters (80,300 square feet), the value of which was calculated to be $2 million at the time of expropriation.
USAID worked in Bolivia from 1961 until 2013 and focused its activities on health, environmental protection, agricultural development, also cooperating in the construction of bridges, roads and schools around the country.
Morales justified turning the facilities over to the armed forces by claiming that since its creation in 1949, the country’s Military Command has not had its own offices, criticizing former “neo-liberal” administrations for not providing a “dignified and necessary” space where it could function.