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Latin America: Bolivia's Chapare Coca Growers Tell USAID to Get Lost, Say They Will Seek Funding from Venezuela

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #541)
Drug War Issues

Coca grower union leaders in Bolivia's Chapare region said Wednesday they will suspend development projects funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and instead look to Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez for help. They accused USAID of using its assistance to undermine Bolivian President Evo Morales, a former coca grower union leader who is an ally of Chávez, Washington's bête noire in Latin America.

Bolivian congressman Asterio Romero spoke with Drug War Chronicle in person in March 2007
"We want USAID to go. If USAID leaves, we will have aid from Venezuela, which is unconditioned and in solidarity," Chapare coca leader Julio Salazar told the Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Venezuela already provides financial assistance to Bolivia. Chávez has also invested in the Andean nation's effort to create an industry around coca products, providing support in the building of coca-processing facilities.

Asterio Romero, vice president of Chapare's main coca-growing group, told the AP growers on Tuesday agreed to cancel the USAID's operations in the region and gave it until Thursday to leave.

The coca grower action has apparently taken both governments by surprise. The US Embassy in La Paz refused comment, saying it had not been officially informed of the coca growers' decision. Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca said Tuesday he was not familiar with the decision, but that his government wants to make US aid "more transparent."

President Morales has accused USAID of financing his political opponents. Among them are wealthy landowners from the country's eastern provinces who are seeking greater autonomy or secession.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


sicntired (not verified)

[email protected],Vancouver,B.C.Canada This is what happens in a country in which the people actually have choices in who they vote for.Having a President of the people means that the peoples wishes will actually be considered.Saying f off to America is good policy on a continent where the US has backed dictator after dictator and been responsible for all manner of atrocities in the name of "democracy".Crop eradication efforts have not only robbed the poor of their meagre incomes but has endangered US citisens by poisoning the plants before they're exported.Tying aid to drug enforcement is bad policy and should go the way of the whole drug war,which is down the toilet.Money is not everything in some countries.

Fri, 06/27/2008 - 6:32am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Government aid is an oxymoron. "I'm from the government and I',m here to help." yeah, right!
He who pays the piper calls the tune.
Chavez's tune may sound more melodic, he has more to gain. The end result will be the same, or worse.


Fri, 06/27/2008 - 11:20am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree 100% with PS, the results will be worst, I was in the USAID website trying to see where all this money comes from... of course there was nothing but I am sure there are personal interests behind all the money donated. I think we should let the drug addicts use as much as they want, I am sure they won't last too long before they die. as far as other people getting rich with the drug traffic? Who cares!, there are enough rich people in this country already! the drug lords will kill themselves too! yeah, natural selection. This is what is happening already in the northern states of Bolivia (and Cochabamba of course), crime has ramped up and all it is because of people trying to control the territory.

at any rate, I think the presence of USAID in countries like Bolivia is better than CHAVEZ, the regular Bolivians know this, but the coca farmers

Fri, 06/27/2008 - 1:00pm Permalink

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