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Latin America: Bolivia's Morales Says Yes to Obama, No to the DEA

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #561)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

Bolivian President Evo Morales said at a Monday news conference at the UN that he would like to improve ties with the incoming administration of Barack Obama, but that the DEA would not be allowed back in Bolivia during the remainder of his term. The comments signal an effort to restore ties with the US that were badly frayed during the Bush administration while still retaining Bolivian sovereignty over its drug control policies.

Evo Morales, probably holding a coca branch
"My interest is how to improve relations with the new president," Morales said after addressing the UN General Assembly. "I think we could have a lot of things in common.
If we talk about change I have some experience now," he said, referring to the Obama presidential campaign's slogans based on the need for change. "I think it would be good to share experiences with the new president-elect."

Morales, a former coca grower union leader who became the first indigenous person to become Bolivia's leader, compared himself to Obama, who is the first black man to win the US presidency. Better relations between the two countries would have to be based on "respect from one government to another," Morales said.

There has been tension between the US and Morales over his "zero cocaine, but not zero coca" policies, under which Bolivian farmers in certain areas are allowed to grow coca for traditional and industrial uses. But because the Morales government appears committed to battling the cocaine trade, US criticism of his coca policies was muted until recently.

In response to what it called US meddling in its internal affairs, Bolivia has this fall undertaken a number of measures to hit back. It ordered USAID to leave the Chapare coca growing region, and after unrest from right-wing separatists resulted in bloody conflict in September, Morales expelled the US ambassador. The US retaliated by expelling Bolivia's ambassador to Washington and by "decertifying" Bolivia as not cooperating in US drug war goals. After that, Morales first barred over-flights by US drug surveillance planes and then, two weeks ago threw the DEA out of the country.

"The DEA will not return whilst I am still president," Morales said, speaking in Spanish through an interpreter. Nor does he want US anti-drug aid. He said he was working with other countries in the fight against drug trafficking. "We've discussed matters with Brazil, Russia and France, where they manufacture helicopters," he said. "We want to buy some, perhaps using emergency loans. There is interest in South American countries and Europe to join together to fight against a common problem, which is drug trafficking."

And Washington is the odd man out. Perhaps overall relations will warm with an Obama presidency, but not if the US insists that the DEA be allowed back.

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)

I am glad that these people are speaking out againt the US. I am a US citizen, but not a total supporter of our govt on a number of different levels. Obama is more relatble to other countries, and for that reason, can restore some of the legacy we have lost during the last 8 years of Bush administration. The US wants to end the manufacturing and growing of the Coca plant, however, it has far more industrial uses than Cocaine. The Hemp plant is used for WAAAY more than marijuana production, and the US pays for it to get imported here (another genius idea from drug war maniacs). So the fact that other countries no longer wants help from the "Superpower" should come as no suprise, the US has burned bridges with everyone from Iraq to Russia to Venezuela to The Caribbean. I am proud to be an AMerican but I am NOT proud of our Drug War!

Tue, 11/25/2008 - 4:31pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I too am glad President Morales, and the people of Bolivia, are saying NO to the USA. I too am a US citizen, and also am very dismayed with our governments’ attempts to push
its morals on to other countries. Coca is perfectly legal in Bolivia, and is used by people for various reasons. I work with a guy that was born there and moved to the US in his late teens. He says that coca tea is widely used for stomach ailments. He has used it for nausea and tummy aches – he says there is no over the counter or prescription, here in the US, that works near as well. I haven’t used cocaine in 18 years, but know our attempts abroad and in America, to stop its (and other drugs) use are have not worked, and will never work. People just like to get high, and you are not going to legislate that out of anyone. The war on drugs has not worked, and will continue to be a very large waste of money as long as it continues, and the sooner the retards in Washington admit this, the better. Just legalize the stuff, tax the snot out of it, and then, feed, house, and provide descent medical care, for people that need it. I could go on, but I am just reiterating things that have been said a billion times before. If there were more vocalization of this view, and more voting in this direction, law makers might eventually get the point. I hope this occurs. I would REALLY like the option of smoking a joint rather that drinking a beer. Thanks for listening.

Tue, 11/25/2008 - 10:05pm Permalink

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