Foreign Policy: In Annual Certification Report, State Department Says Bolivia, Burma, Venezuela Not Cooperating in Anti-Drug Fight

In an annual report mandated by Congress under the Foreign Assistance Authorization Act, the State Department and President Obama Tuesday singled out three countries -- Bolivia, Burma, and Venezuela -- as failing to meet US anti-drug goals. The three nations had "failed demonstrably" to meet their anti-drug obligations, the report found.
coca leaves drying by highway, Chapare region of Bolivia
All three countries have chilly relations with Washington. Burma's military junta is the object of international opprobrium, and Venezuela and Bolivia are allies in a leftist Latin American axis generally opposed to Washington's domination of the region.
Bolivia is the world's third largest coca and cocaine producer -- behind Colombia and Peru -- and has been criticized by the US for allowing coca production to increase, albeit slightly. Venezuela is not a drug producing nation, but is accused by the US of being a significant transit nation responsible for about one-quarter of cocaine exports from South America.

Both Bolivia and Venezuela say they are fighting against drug trafficking, and both can point to significant drug busts to back up that contention. In previous years, both countries have responded tartly to being placed on Washington's anti-drug black list, and this year, the reaction was similar.

In a Wednesday press conference in La Paz, Bolivian President Evo Morales told reporters the US "doesn't have the authority or moral standing to question" his country’s battle against drug trafficking and challenged Washington to account for its own anti-drug efforts. Bolivia is fighting an "all-out battle" with the drug trade, Morales said, noting that Bolivian authorities had seized more than 19 tons of cocaine and coca paste so far this year, compared to 11 tons in 2005, the year he took office.

Morales made a point of noting that those seizures came without any help from the DEA, which he expelled from the country last year. He also pointedly asked why there is no certification of whether the US is reducing its drug demand. "As long as there is a market for cocaine, however much we reduce coca leaf, part will always be diverted (to cocaine production): that is our reality," the Bolivian president said.

Under the US law, failure to be certified as complying with US drug war objectives leads to a loss of foreign aid, but the measure also includes a provision for the president to waive the aid cut-off. President Obama chose to exercise that waiver power in the cases of Bolivia and Venezuela.

"In the cases of Bolivia and Venezuela," the State Department said, "the President has issued a national interest waiver so that the United States may continue to support specific programs to benefit the Bolivian and Venezuelan people. In Venezuela, funds will continue to support civil society programs and small community development programs. In Bolivia, the waiver will permit continued support for agricultural development, exchange programs, small enterprise development, and police training programs among others."

Presidents Evo Morales in Bolivia and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela have both expressed suspicion that the waivers are instead being issued to support groups and programs that might seek to subvert their governments.

The politicization of the US certification process can be seen in the fact that major drug producing or trafficking countries with significant government involvement in the trade, but who are US allies, such as Afghanistan and Pakistan, were not decertified.

The following countries made the list of major drug producing or transit countries: Afghanistan, the Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela.

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