USAID building in Bolivia expropriated


Municipal councilors in Bolivia's capital voted Friday to seize a building owned by the American development agency USAID, which was expelled from the country this year on political grounds.

The building and surrounding land will be used to provide municipal services, said Gabriela Nino de Guzman, a senior member of the city council.

The city says the building is worth $2.5 million.

President Evo Morales, a populist who often locks horns with the United States, expelled USAID in May. The agency had been working in Bolivia, South America's poorest country, since 1964.

Morales said the agency had been working "with political rather than social aims."

Since that announcement, the agency has gradually been closing its offices and winding down its programs in Bolivia.

USAID says that over the past 50 years it has spent around two billion dollars in Bolivia. It denies the Bolivian allegations.

Bolivia kicked out the American ambassador in 2008, on grounds of 'conspiracy.' The Americans responded in tit-for-tat fashion.

In 2008, Bolivia -- a major producer of coca leaves, the raw material of cocaine -- expelled officials of the US Drug Enforcement Administration.