Bolivian coca grower leader Evo Morales, who also heads the country's second largest political party, the Movement Toward Socialism, was denied an entry visa from US officials to attend last week's demonstrations in Miami against the proposed Free Trade Agreement of the Americas. According to Agence France Presse, consular officials at the US Embassy in Bolivia failed to respond at all to Morales' visa request, forcing him to cancel his planned trip.
The US Embassy in Bolivia is no friend of Morales. It has publicly accused him of links with the drug trade and hinted that he has ties to "terrorism" or a guerrilla insurgency. Neither is the US happy with Morales' preeminent role in attacking forced coca eradication, the central pillar of US policy in the Andean nation, or with his role last month in forcing out President Sanchez de Lozada, who resigned in the wake of bloody street protests over gas privatization, coca eradication and economic issues.
And Morales is no friend of the US Embassy. "To get the visa to go to the United States, you have to be a corrupt, genocidal, narco-politician," Morales told AFP. "That is the case with Oscar Eid and Carlos Saavedra Bruno," both of whom were granted visas to attend the Free Trade summit. Eid, who was a principal advisor to Sanchez de Lozada, served four years in prison for links to the drug traffic. Saavedra Bruno is a former Bolivian chancellor who helped implement "zero coca" policies in the country.
Morales told AFP that he would continue to seek a visa to enter the United States. He needs one to be able to accept an invitation from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to attend the next meeting of the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Peoples at the UN in New York.
But perhaps Morales was fortunate in not making the Miami demonstrations. Reports of unwarranted arrests, police attacks on peaceful demonstrators, abuse of persons jailed during the demonstrations, and other law enforcement misbehavior in Miami are now filtering out, although they have been ignored by the mainstream media. Amnesty International and the AFL-CIO are among organizations calling for an investigation into the Miami "police riot" led by Police Chief John Timoney.