Morales told the crowd that he ‘‘laments and is condemning’’ U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s remark, in April 17 testimony to the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee that ‘‘the Western Hemisphere is our backyard. It’s critical to us.’’
Many Latin Americans, leftists in particular, are sensitive to descriptions of their nations as a ‘‘backyard,’’ or other phrases that could imply hegemonic designs, especially in light of Washington’s 20th-century history of backing repressive regimes in the Americas.
‘‘The United States does not lack institutions that continue to conspire and that’s why I am using this gathering to announce that we have decided to expel USAID from Bolivia,’’ Morales told the crowd, turning to his foreign minister, David Choquehuanca and ordering him to inform the U.S. Embassy.
Ventrell, the State Department spokesman, dismissed the criticism as misdirected. ‘‘It’s about us being neighbors,’’ he said, echoing President Barack Obama’s 2009 statement that the U.S. considers its Latin American neighbors ‘‘equal partners.’’
Morales has been especially vocal lately in his rejection of Washington’s support for a full recount of the results of April 14 elections in Venezuela.
Chavez’s hand-picked heir, Nicolas Maduro, won that election by fewer than 250,000 votes in balloting that opposition candidate Henrique Capriles was stolen from him by a government criticized by international human rights groups as repressive.
Morales was an especially close ally of Chavez, who died of cancer in March, leaving the ALBA alliance of leftist Latin American nations that includes Bolivia without a dominant voice.
Bolivia’ Constitutional Court on Tuesday ruled that Morales can run for a third consecutive term in December 2014. It interpreted the country’s 2009 constitution, which set a two-term limit, as not being retroactive.
Morales won re-election by a landslide in 2009 and his approval rating was 55 percent in a January opinion poll, the latest available.
Associated Press writer Carlos Valdez reported this story in La Paz and Fran Bajak reported from Lima, Peru. AP writers Matthew Lee and Bradley Klapper in Washington contributed to this report.