Blogs > Liberty and Power > Bolivian Casualty

Feb 22, 2006 7:23 am


Bolivian Casualty



The American Historical Association (AHA) has written a letter to Secretary of State Rice on behalf of Dr. Waskar Ari. He had been hired for a tenure track position, that was to begin Fall 2005, teaching History and Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska. However, our government had other plans, so during the summer they declared the professor to be a person in need of" conspicuous revision" and he is now being denied a visa. He has to be cleared by all US intelligence agencies and under the Patriot Act this process can go on indefinitely.

Dr. Ari is a member of the Aymara indigenous people of Bolivia and the AHA letter writers are “deeply disturbed by the possibility that ethnicity might form the basis for excluding members of our profession from gainful employment.” The authors of the plea to Secretary Rice believe Waskar Ari’s to be a case of racial profiling. I think they are wrong about this, not about their assertion that the denial of entry has nothing to do with any terrorist threat, clearly it does not, but about the real reason behind it.

The letter itself tells us that the State Department had ordered our embassy in La Paz to cancel all existing visas. So it was not race being profiled but rather the country. Now why would the United States single out Bolivia last summer? Perhaps, the July 15, 2005 issue of The Drug War Chronicle can enlighten us. They reported that, “Peasant coca grower leader Evo Morales has announced that he is seeking the presidency, and as arguably the most popular politician in the country, he is well-positioned to win.” He did in fact win and Bolivia is no longer cooperating with our country’s suppression of coca use, a habit, by the way, practiced for hundreds if not thousands of years by the Aymara. Therefore the people of Bolivia must be punished, starting with Dr. Ari.

The war on people who use certain kinds of drugs is the reason the students at Nebraska will be deprived of the considerable specialized knowledge Professor Ari promises to bring to the table. The silence of the AHA on the role coca played in this miscarriage of justice is the one of the primary reasons this kind of injustice will continue.


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David T. Beito - 2/23/2006

For once, the AHA seems to be doing something positive.

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