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October 17, 2023

CDA Hevia’s Remarks at the AmCham Cocktail September 28, ExpoCruz

Good evening!

Thank you to the American Chamber of Commerce for organizing such a beautiful event in celebration of U.S.-Bolivian commercial ties. I would like to especially recognize AmCham President Cecilia Hurtado and the AmCham Board of Directors.

I arrived in Bolivia two weeks ago as the U.S. Embassy’s new Chargé d’affaires. Since then, I’ve been reminded of many fond memories from my time living in Bolivia twice before. Over this past week, I’ve noticed how much has changed since I last visited Santa Cruz in 2009. At the same time, so much of the city’s charm remains the same. Santa Cruz and the cruceño people continue to maintain the same energy, entrepreneurship, dynamism, and creativity… qualities so perfectly captured here at ExpoCruz.

Tonight, we celebrate the strong relationship between the U.S. Embassy and the American Chamber of Commerce, and their tireless dedication to promote U.S.-Bolivia commercial ties. This year, we sent a delegation of seven Bolivian companies – the largest delegation of any country in South America – to the SelectUSA Investment Summit, one of the most important foreign direct investment events in the United States. The Embassy and AmCham also brought together singani producers from across Tarija to celebrate U.S.-Bolivian cooperation to recognize singani as a distinctive Bolivian product. We also continued our 6th year of working together to support budding entrepreneurs through AmCham Junior. The list goes on and on, but the message is the same – we’re honored to work with you, and we thank you for all your work to make tonight’s event – as well as the U.S. Pavilion – a success.

We at the U.S. Embassy are proud to join you in your commitment to advancing opportunities for all, the theme of this year’s ExpoCruz, as well as bringing together East and West, tonight’s very timely theme. During my next three years in Bolivia, I want to build on the longstanding U.S.-Bolivian cooperation I helped forge during my previous assignments. I’m here to advance our common interests for the benefit of both the peoples of Bolivia and the United States. Addressing climate change, protecting biodiversity, respecting indigenous rights, committing to democracy and the rights of minorities, building up the capacity and resilience of health care systems, and supporting sustainable and inclusive economic development – these are priorities we both share, and together we can make a difference.

This week in Santa Cruz, particularly here at ExpoCruz, I’ve met with a wide range of leaders who want to do more business with the United States. And I know that U.S. businesses are interested in partnering with Bolivians too. Indeed, the many businesses participating as part of the U.S. Pavilion are a testament to our $1 billion commercial relationship. The Embassy is here to help support increased commercial ties that generate good jobs for working families in both our countries.

Take our excellent cooperation in the cattle sector. Last weekend, I attended the Sausalito Cattle Auction, where I saw first-hand how U.S.-Bolivian partnerships have led to higher quality Bolivian beef for domestic consumption and foreign export. Or consider singani. Singani exports to the United States have increased by over 400 percent over the past ten years, supporting the 3,500 Bolivian families that work in viticulture. We expect this figure to grow since the United States recognized singani as a distinct Bolivian spirit in January 2023.

Economic empowerment, particularly among historically marginalized communities, is an important Embassy priority. We are working hand-in-hand with local partners, including the Centro Boliviano Americano, on programs to teach English, foster entrepreneurship, and build leadership skills and knowledge among cruceños. From the Ingles Yes! program that equips youth in Plan 3000 with English language and career-building skills, to the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs, or AWE, that helps talented women entrepreneurs build their business networks and improve their business skills, hundreds of cruceños participated in Embassy-sponsored programs this past year. As a result, they are better prepared to find success in the 21st century economy.

In addition to economic inclusion, promoting opportunities for all means ensuring all voices are heard. Democracy depends on more than just holding elections. The foundation of a healthy democracy depends on the respect for a diversity of ideas. Democracy thrives when there is freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and freedom of peaceful assembly and association. Democracy depends on the equality of all under the law, and the principles of universal human rights. Democracy isn’t an end, it’s a process. We see this in the United States with the very strong debates. There is no perfect democracy, but democracy can perfect societies. Democracy should give results… in health, in security, in economic security. The Embassy supports democracy in Bolivia and seeks to promote our shared democratic values that helps improve the lives of our peoples.

Thank you all for your ongoing cooperation and for being here tonight. From the business owners that export products to the United States to leaders in civil society, we all have a role to play in addressing shared challenges and creating opportunities for all. I look forward to working with you over the next three years to grow U.S.-Bolivian cooperation that increases prosperity for both our peoples.

Thank you.