Latin America: In Bid to Reduce US Influence, Bolivia to Fund Own Anti-Drug Unit

The Bolivian government will fund an anti-drug unit for the first time next year in a bid to reduce foreign involvement in its fight against the cocaine trade. The primary foreign country involved in Bolivian anti-drug matters is the United States, although it currently gets some added from the European Union, too.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/coca-leaves-drying-by-highway.jpg
coca leaves drying by highway, Chapare region of Bolivia
Bolivia is the world's number three coca and cocaine producer, behind Colombia and Peru, and has a government sympathetic to coca growers. But it has insisted it is combating the diversion of coca into the illicit cocaine market under the slogan "zero cocaine, not zero coca."

That stance is a direct rebuke to the US, which seeks to eradicate all coca as an illicit drug crop. It also flies in the face of the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which classifies the coca plant as a narcotic.

The US has pledged about $25 million in anti-drug aid to Bolivia this year, but next year Bolivia will do it on its own, funding the anti-drug unit at $16 million.

"One of Bolivia's responsibilities is to tackle drug trafficking, with our own... resources, with our vision, with our hard work," Ilder Cejas, an anti-narcotics adviser working for the Interior Ministry, told Reuters. The US will be allowed to collaborate with funds and advisors, but only within programs designed by the government, he added.

While the US government has been critical of Bolivia's coca production policy, the US ambassador said the US would continue to support anti-trafficking efforts. "We value the work of the (anti-narcotics unit) and the national police against drug trafficking... We want to continue collaborating," Ambassador Philip Goldberg was quoted as saying by the La Paz daily La Razón last Friday.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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