Morales Charges U.S. Conspiracy to Force Bolivia onto Daylight Savings Time
To back his claim Morales released a set of intercepted e-mail messages between the Embassy and State Department officials in Washington.
"We have seen the government of the U.S. try to undermine our democracy, block us from the lawful export of coca products, and smuggle in munitions. But now we see that these conspirators also have their sights set on changing our clocks. We denounce this before the world community."
Morales also declared an Embassy clerical worker, Lindsey Phillips, to be persona-non-grata, making her the fourth Embassy official to be sent home by the Bolivian government. Citing the intercepted e-mails, Morales charged that Phillips was leading the effort to change his nation's clocks, and that she had "clear and ongoing contact" with regional opposition groups to gain their support to promote the plan.
Morales also charged that USIAD was using its funding to engineer support for the change from domestic political organizations, and demanded a full accounting from Embassy officials.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Susan Richards denied the charge. "The United States has always maintained that the decision of what time to keep is a sovereign one that must be made by each nation according to its own values."
She added that the latest charge by Morales seemed to be an attempt by the Bolivian government to distract public attention from recent charges of corruption against his administration, as well as a potential loss Wednesday by the Bolivian national soccer team in a World Cup qualifying match against Argentina. "The Morales government's proclivity to link these charges to key sporting events, unfortunately, is well-known."
Intercepted Embassy E-mails
While Bolivian officials have yet to publicly release the intercepted e-mails cited, through an anonymous source the Democracy Center was able to secure excerpts from three of them.
One of the e-mails, dated last September, is from Ms. Phillips to a State Department colleague, Rachel Larson, in which Phillips blamed Bolivia's refusal to adopt Daylight Savings Time for a missed teleconference with Washington.
Date: Wed, 24 Sep 2008 14:20:44 -0400
Ugggh, I am so utterly bummed. I was supposed to do a video Skype today with my boyfriend, Ronnie, you remember the one – so hot, that clerk in legal affairs with the biceps. We set it for noon when that %&*hole I work for is off for one of his looooong Bolivian lunches and can't see me using the computer for "personal business." And geeeeze, this dumb country isn’t even on the same time as Washington. It is like an entire hour ahead, so I missed him completely. $%it, forget all this War on Drugs stuff. Let's change that, no?
The second e-mail excerpt secured by the Democracy Center includes an exchange between Phillips and a State Department employee, Ronald Duncan, that according to Morales demonstrates the Embassy's collaboration with regional opposition groups:
Subject: Mr. Santa Cruz
Date: Fri, 13 Mar 2009 10:38:51 -0500
So, I hear from Rachel that you are still seeing that guy in Santa Cruz. What's with that? She says you were all over his arm at Epocruz, and got so trashed at his house on Carnival that you thought Alexanders was a disco! I saw his ugly mug on your Facebook page. So maybe I'll still come for spring break or maybe I won't. Not if I hear you're still seeing that guy."
The source of the USAID charge is a December 2008 e-mail from Lawrence Fordham, a USAID accountant in La Paz, to the accounting manager at a Bolivian non-governmental organization, RECIBIMOS:
Subject: Re: December receipts
Date: Thu, 18 Dec 2008 11:17:23 -0400
Thank you for the prompt reply to my request for receipts, and your kind wishes for my family. We are enjoying the warm summer days now, a welcome break from the freezing cold out first months here. But my children, especially little Eric, really miss the long summer days we used to have in Virginia. Especially with the clocks set forward, my kids could stay out until 9pm playing and it would still be light. Hey, you ought to try out Daylight Savings Time here, no?
When pressed by reporters at his La Paz news conference about how his government obtained the e-mails, Morales explained that his intelligence services had infiltrated the Embassy's computer system through the technicians brought in to address a series of problems created by the Embassy's switchover last month to Windows Vista.
"The North Americans, it turns out, aren't so smart after all. We sent in my cousin Luis with a flash drive and he got everything. That's why in our government we have used revenue from the new taxes on foreign oil companies to switch everyone over to Macs."
Reaction to Charges is Widespread
In Caracas, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced his country's solidarity against "the conspiracy by the empire to manipulate the comings and goings of our Bolivian brothers and sisters." Chavez then issued an executive decree setting all of the nation's clocks forward by 37 minutes, "to demonstrate our refusal to be a party to the U.S. government's iron-handed attempt to force other nations to synchronize themselves to U.S. time and U.S. policies."
Following the Morales announcement, Democracy Center staff interviewed a handful of Cochabamba residents on Calle Heroinas, to sample local reaction the news.
"Que lio es esto!" replied nut seller Oscar Nunez. "Change our clocks, I don't understand."
Lidia Flores, a marketing student at the University of San Simon, seemed puzzled at first, but then added. "If the U.S. is going to buy me a watch then okay. I don't mind it so much. What kind of watch are they going to buy me? A good one, no?"
Labor leader Ronaldo Quispe declared that the move by the U.S. was an outrageous intrusion against Bolivian rights. "La hora Boliviana is very important in our culture. We talk about it all the time. 'Oh I am late, I am on la hora Boliviana." He announced an immediate blockade of the highway between Cochabamba and La Paz to protest the plan.
[Note from Jim Shultz: Hey folks, I just noticed that a handful of Blogs have cross-posted this item as genuine news. FYI, this is an April Fool's joke, though I can see how the authenticity of the Embassy e-mails may have fooled people (okay, that's a joke too). But many thanks to Lindsey Phillips at the Embassy for her cooperation. And by the way, space aliens are on their way to Earth tonight -- either to Cincinatti or Sucre. They haven't decided yet, or so my alien sources tell me. Happy April Fools!]