U.S. Diplomat Recalled After 'Spying' Allegations in Bolivia

Fulbright scholar's account of being told to "spy" outrages Bolivian president.

ByABC News
February 11, 2008, 3:52 PM

Feb. 11, 2008— -- Editor's Note: Jean Friedman-Rudovksy is a freelance journalist based in La Paz, Bolivia, where she is the correspondent for TIME Magazine and Women's Enews. She has worked as an associate producer for ABC News in Bolivia and is a founding editor of Ukhampacha Bolivia, an online bilingual Web journal on Latin American social and political issues.

The president of Bolivia voiced strong concerns and a U.S. diplomat has been recalled to Washington in the wake of an ABC News report that the diplomat asked a Fulbright scholar and Peace Corps volunteers to "spy" on Cubans and Venezuelans in Bolivia.

Bolivian President Evo Morales today called on the armed forces to safeguard Bolivia's sovereignty against "espionage attempts" by the U.S. government.

On Sunday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez referred specifically to the allegations made by Fulbright scholar Alexander van Schaick.

"The United States had to admit to espionage," the fiery Socialist leader stated in Caracas.

Van Schaick told ABC News.com that during a routine security briefing at the U.S. Embassy last November, Assistant Regional Security Advisor Vincent Cooper asked him to supply the embassy with information about Venezuelans and Cubans he should come across while carrying out his studies.

"I was asked to basically spy," he said.

The U.S. Embassy in La Paz released a two-page statement today repeating State Department responses that Cooper provided "incorrect information" to Peace Corps volunteers and to Fulbright scholar Alex van Schaick regarding their "contact with citizens of certain countries," in violation of long-standing United States policy not to involve Fulbright scholars or Peace Corps volunteers in any espionage activity.

The embassy denied the requests involved spying.

"In no way have U.S. embassy personnel ever requested that Peace Corps participants or Fulbright academic program members participate in intelligence activities," the statement says.

The Bolivian government, though, is not convinced.