Bolivia's Morales Seeks Honest Enforcement Against Traffickers, Not Repression 8/8/03

Drug War Chronicle, recent top items


recent blog posts "In the Trenches" activist feed


Using a five-ton cocaine seizure as a pretext, the Bolivian government this week announced an escalation of its longstanding coca eradication campaign. Aided and abetted with funding from the US State Dept., embattled President Sanchez de Lozada and his ministers revealed that the much-reviled Special Task Force Against the Drug Traffic (FELCN, in its Spanish acronym) will open eight new anti-drug posts in the Andean country's coca producing zones. The government will also increase the number of troops in the task force and step up its intelligence-gathering operations in the coca regions, officials told Bolivia Press.

The move against coca cultivation comes as Bolivia is under increasing pressure from Washington to block a resurgence of coca in Bolivia now that the US is claiming increasing success in eradicating coca in Colombia. Drug czar John Walters last week pointedly told Bolivia and neighboring Peru they had to try harder to eradicate the leaf viewed as sacred by millions. But it also comes as the Sanchez de Lozada government confronts a militant and increasingly impatient cocalero (coca grower) movement led by Evo Morales and his political party, the Movement Toward Socialism. Morales came within 45,000 votes of winning the presidency last
year, and his party is the largest bloc in parliament.

The immediate spark for the announcement was Operation Moonlight, a drug trafficking enforcement effort that last week resulted in the seizure of five tons of cocaine destined for Spain via Argentina. Minister of Governance Yerko Kukoc used the occasion to attack Morales, who is demanding increased cultivation in the Chapare region. "The coca that is being produced in the Chapare is being used to produce this cocaine," said Kukoc. "This isn't a lie, nor an invention of the government or the FELCN or anyone else. To Evo Morales we have to say: Thus is the coca of the Chapare; yes, it serves to produce cocaine."

But Kukoc's attack was undercut by his own henchman, Luis Caballero, head of the FELCN, who told El Tiempo that since Bolivian eradication got underway a few years ago, Bolivia had changed from being a major producer to being a country through which Peruvian cocaine transited on its way to market. It was also undercut by the US State Department, which, while it acknowledged that Bolivia does produce some coca destined for the black market, it is also a transit country for Peruvian cocaine. "The traffic routes indicate that the Peruvian cocaine base enters Bolivia through the Lake Titicaca region, through the departments of La Paz, Beni, and/or Pando. There are indications that part of the Peruvian cocaine base that transits Bolivia has as its final destination Europe, Mexico, and/or the United States," said the State Department.

Still, the Bolivian government has warned that it will be "more drastic" in enforcing Law 1008, the hated coca law. In a Monday press conference, Minister of Peasant Affairs Arturo Liebers told reporters that to prevent the formation of drug trafficking organizations, the government would aggressively eradicate "excess and illegal" coca in Cochabamba and Santa Cruz. "We are seeing the record figure of more than five tons of cocaine that was seized in Santa Cruz in Operation Moonlight by the FELCN," said Liebers. "It was produced by excess or illegal coca that promotes the drug traffic," he asserted.

President Sanchez de Lozada, for his part, told reporters Monday that eradication efforts, along with measures for the control of legal coca, would take place even in the zones of traditional production, such as the Yungas of La Paz. "The peasant seeks to have a little coca because it is one more crop," he said. "Every peasant, French, American, has cows, chickens, corn because they don't want to place all their eggs in one basket," he added, seeking to demonstrate concern for the plight of peasants impoverished by eradication policies. "Obviously, there is a lot of excess coca and we have to continue the fight against illegal cultivation and establish mechanisms of control over legal coca, including in the Yungas. We have to eradicate the excess and illegal coca, but on the other had, we have to provide work, jobs. I will go to the Chapare in Septemer with a US delegation to see if we can convert it into an economic zone where there is manufacturing," he added.

That wasn't winning over cocalero leader and Movement Toward Socialism deputy Jorge Ledesma, who told El Tiempo, "for every hectare they eradicate, we will plant three."

Cocalero mainman Evo Morales took a more diplomatic tack. "As cocaleros, we have planned a real and effective alliance against the drug traffic and that will not succeed if it continues as now, when some anti-drug units cover up and others aid in this illicit activity," Morales said, adroitly pointing the finger of blame back at law enforcement.

Still, said Morales, while he saluted honest drug trafficking enforcement, it should not be part of a strategy designed by the government and the US Embassy to "justify a great repression in the Yungas and the Chapare." Putting more soldiers and more forts in the coca growing areas won't solve the problem, Morales added. "The announcement that they will create more anti-drug barracks is not going to solve this problem. The authorities are mistaken if they think so."

-- END --
Link to Drug War Facts
Please make a generous donation to support Drug War Chronicle in 2007!          

PERMISSION to reprint or redistribute any or all of the contents of Drug War Chronicle (formerly The Week Online with DRCNet is hereby granted. We ask that any use of these materials include proper credit and, where appropriate, a link to one or more of our web sites. If your publication customarily pays for publication, DRCNet requests checks payable to the organization. If your publication does not pay for materials, you are free to use the materials gratis. In all cases, we request notification for our records, including physical copies where material has appeared in print. Contact: the Drug Reform Coordination Network, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 293-8340 (voice), (202) 293-8344 (fax), e-mail [email protected]. Thank you.

Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of the DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

Issue #299, 8/8/03 Note to Readers: Issue #300 and Name Change Coming Up, New Format | Bolivia's Morales Seeks Honest Enforcement Against Traffickers, Not Repression | Marinol Death Sentence: Oregon Man Denied Liver Transplant Because of Prescription -- He's Not the Only One | The Drug War's Daily Grind: One Month in One Police District in Washington, DC | August is Drug Reform Lobbying Month at Home! | Perry Fund Accepting Applications for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 School Years, Providing Scholarships for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions | Newsbrief: Justice Department Orders Government Lawyers to Appeal "Soft" Sentences, Report on Judges Who Issue Them | Newsbrief: Tulia Pardon Decision in Governor's Hands | Newsbrief: COMBAT Anti-Drug Tax Passes in Kansas City | Newsbrief: This Week's Corrupt Cops Story | Newsbrief: Tampa Police Enjoying Seized Cars | Newsbrief: Doctrinaire Drug Warrior Confirmed as DEA Head | Newsbrief: Kentucky Teacher Fired for Promoting Hemp Wins Settlement | Newsbrief: Argentina Leads Latin America in Jailed Drug Offenders | Newsbrief: Marijuana Reform Stalled in New Zealand | The Reformer's Calendar
Mail this article to a friend
Send us feedback on this article
This issue -- main page
This issue -- single-file printer version
Drug War Chronicle -- main page
Chronicle archives
Subscribe now!
Out from the Shadows HEA Drug Provision Drug War Chronicle Perry Fund DRCNet en EspaŮol Speakeasy Blogs About Us Home
Why Legalization? NJ Racial Profiling Archive Subscribe Donate DRCNet em PortuguÍs Latest News Drug Library Search
special friends links: SSDP - Flex Your Rights - IAL - Drug War Facts the Drug Reform Coordination Network (DRCNet)
1623 Connecticut Ave., NW, 3rd Floor, Washington DC 20009 Phone (202) 293-8340 Fax (202) 293-8344 [email protected]