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Latin America: Bolivia Suspends Operations By DEA

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #559)

Already cool relations between Bolivia and the US grew even chillier over the weekend, as Bolivian President Evo Morales announced Saturday that he was suspending anti-drug operations by the US DEA within Bolivian territory. In making the announcement, Morales accused the DEA of interfering in internal Bolivian affairs and trying to undermine his government.

US-funded FELCN (Special Force for the Struggle Against Narcotics) checkpoint between Cochabamba and Chapare, search being conducted for cocaine and precursors (photo by Chronicle editor Phil Smith, 2007)
"From today all the activities of the US DEA are suspended indefinitely," Morales said Saturday in remarks reported by the BBC. "Personnel from the DEA supported activities of the unsuccessful coup d'etat in Bolivia," he added, referring to a September massacre of Morales supporters that left 19 people dead. "We have the obligation to defend the dignity and sovereignty of the Bolivian people."

Morales, a former coca grower union leader who won the presidency in 2006, has embarked on a policy of "zero cocaine, not zero coca" in the Andean nation where the coca plant is widely chewed or drunk as a tea by indigenous people. Under Morales' program, farmers in specified areas are allowed to grow small amounts of coca for traditional and industrial uses.

While US officials earlier this year acknowledged Bolivian successes in the fight against cocaine trafficking, tensions have been rising -- not all of them to do with coca and cocaine. The Bolivian government limited DEA activities earlier this year, then expelled the US ambassador, charging that he had supported an effort to overthrow the government by separatist leaders of eastern provinces in September. The US retaliated by expelling Bolivia's ambassador to Washington, and last month, by adding Bolivia to the list of nations that had not adequately met US drug war goals.

Although Bolivia is only the third largest coca producer in the region, behind Colombia and Peru, it and Venezuela were the only countries in Latin America that were decertified. Venezuela kicked out the DEA in 2005, citing internal interference as well.

US officials denied Morales' claim of DEA interference. "These accusations are false and absurd," an unnamed senior State Department official told Time in response to Saturday's announcement. "The DEA has a 35-year track record of working effectively and professionally with our Bolivian partners," the official added.

Some 70 Bolivian citizens have been killed and about 1,000 wounded combating DEA-led coca eradication efforts since the late 1980s. Unrest over coca control policies helped vault Morales to the presidency in 2006.

The US currently funds Bolivian anti-drug efforts with $35 million a year. It is unclear what will happen to that funding.

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.


Anonymous (not verified)

..."interference".The coca has always been there. "The DEA has a 35 year track record"..and what has 35 years accomplished? After the DEA is gone the coca will still be there." What will happen to the funding?"..who cares.Boliva does not need the money or the "interference". DEA out of everywhere!..for the children.

Fri, 11/07/2008 - 12:20pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Finally, one other nation gets smart. All nations, including the US, and law enforcement agencies within them, SHOULD suspend cooperation with the DEA, it's become a rogue agency that is more a danger to the citizenry than an aid. Same goes for the CIA the FDA the USDA and most other federal agencies, too.

Fri, 11/07/2008 - 8:07pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

The drug war is an excuse to put US troops on Bolivian soil to help train the fascist gangs they have organised against Morales' government in the East of the country.I have seen these gangs with my own eyes. There are huge gas and oil deposits in the East of the country and Morales has nationalised them to spend the money on healthcare and old age pensions for the poor.The multi nationals want the gas and oil fields back and, as is always the case, the US government is only too happy to do their bidding for them.
The country is crawling with various intel operatives.I was approached on at least 2 occasions by men I could tell were intel under the most spurious of pretexts.I assumed, as they were British they were from MI6.Who's to say who they were working for.
One US soldier who was caught a few weeks back in an eastern Bolivian brothel was spirited away by the US embassy within half an hour of getting arrested.They refused to allow the police to question him.Luckily one Bolivian TV reporter got a quick picture.It turns out he had come directly form Iraq.Why?
Given the recent bomb making and civil disobedience training (see the organised violence in Sucre last summer) these unruly types have obviously been given, I would put money on the School Of the Americas in Georgia being responsible as with so much other terrorism in the Latin America.
There is no Drug War.It is just the latest excuse for the War On The Poor.Same as it always was.

Fri, 11/07/2008 - 11:42pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Bolivia, Peru, and Columbia should ban together and start eradicating U.S. Booze-swill crops----the vineyards, the rye and corn crops. I'll bet dollars to donuts more lives are "ruined" and/or adversely affected by American booze exports than all illegal "drug" crops combined. When Prohibition 2 is finally over I hope we treat prohiobitionists and drug warriors to jail time, seizures of property and a generous serving of hell.

Sat, 11/08/2008 - 4:33am Permalink

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