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Latin America: Obama Administration Declines to Restore Bolivian Trade Preferences, Cites Government's Acceptance of Coca Production

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #592)

President Barack Obama has declined to restore trade benefits under the Andean Trade Preference Act to Bolivia, citing the Bolivian government's acceptance of coca growing. The decision came in a Tuesday report from the office of the US Trade Representative.

coca leaves drying by highway, Chapare area of Bolivia
The report also complained about Bolivian nationalization of the hydrocarbon sector and increases in tariffs, but it was the pro-coca policies of the government of President Evo Morales that drew the sharpest language. Even while acknowledging that the Bolivian government continues to undertake significant interdiction efforts against the cocaine trade, the report criticized Bolivia for failing to adhere to US demands to decrease coca cultivation and for expelling the DEA from the country last fall.

Since assuming the presidency, Morales has dramatically changed Bolivian drug policy from "zero coca" to "zero cocaine, not zero coca." Coca production has seen slight annual increases under Morales, but Bolivia remains only the third largest coca and cocaine producer, behind Colombia and Peru.

"The current challenges include the explicit acceptance and encouragement of coca production at the highest levels of the Bolivian government; government tolerance of and attractive income from increased and unconstrained coca cultivation in both the Yungas and Chapare regions; and increased and uncontrolled sale of coca to drug traffickers," the report scolded. "The efficiency and success of eradication efforts have significantly declined in the past few years."

Tensions between La Paz and Washington have been high in recent years as Morales has defended the use and cultivation of coca and expelled US diplomats after accusing them of intervening in Bolivian internal affairs. Bolivia's close relationship with Venezuela under the leadership of President Hugo Chavez hasn't helped, either.

And this won't help, either. President Morales reacted angrily Wednesday, saying the move contradicted Obama's vow to treat Latin America countries as equals. "President Obama lied to Latin America when he told us in Trinidad and Tobago that there are not senior and junior partners," he told reporters. The report, he added, used "pure lies and insults" to justify its decision.

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 tried some coca leaves and they are wonderful, natural and kind.
No wonder Washington hates coca.

Sat, 07/04/2009 - 8:37pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Obviously Bolivia needs to open up to American Exports of Crystal Meth.

Wed, 09/16/2009 - 11:10pm Permalink
SICKOFIT (not verified)

Bolivia, like a lot of Central and South America, is sick of it's white minority selling the country to the United States. It elected a man who vowed to stop that sell off and who kept that vow by expelling the US and nationalizing the hydrocarbon sector. He is a hero to the indigenous majority and should be to the balance of the country. Obama should take the time to understand this man and try to find a way to honor a few of his campaign promises. On the subject of Cocoa; Morales has a 0 tolerance for Cocaine and a policy of full tolerance for Cocoa. The country is developing many products that will support the growth of the Cocoa leaf for uses other than Cocaine. If successful, this new trade will change the face of the Andes. I don't know about you but I'm SICKOF this country's lies about a good neighbor to the south, and the rest of the world for that matter.

Fri, 01/08/2010 - 10:26pm Permalink
Bolivian (not verified)

In reply to by SICKOFIT (not verified)

The men that the people vowed in Bolivia isn't the one they expected. Evo Morales and the 5 Union of Cocaleros in the Chapare in Cochabamba are making Cocaine with the Coca Leaves. Bolivia has changed since Morales get to the Presidency. Now, Bolivia is a little bit like Mexico. Drugs Cartels surrounding all the cities, assassination between then, dead people drop in garbage bugs, while Morales is busy put in away anyone who's against him or Drug dealers. This is not only a Drug-Government, but a Dictator. The poverty is arising and the violence too. And you're write about the new face of the Andes. Now is the face of Drugs, corruption, assassination, poverty and Silence...............No Democracy any more for Bolivian People. The jails in La Paz are full of men's and women's who disagree with Morales. They already make a law prohibited to speak against the government. Also, now....the people is not a loud to have any protests .........nothing. This Dictator is like Fidel Castro and Bolivia will end as Cuba. PS: The name of the Coca Leaves is coca leaves not Cocoa. Cocoa is a chocolate but the natural plant to make the Chocolate is Cacao grains. Nothing to do with Coca leaves. Obama or any President of any country has never spoke against the Coca leaves. The most important issue is that the Bolivians (the people) are against of the production of Cocaine. But Morales is 100.000 thousand of hundred tolerance for Cocaine. Please get inform about Bolivia. It's the newspapers........are all in the net.

Thu, 03/22/2012 - 10:08am Permalink
ElB (not verified)


Having lived in Bolivia as an exchange student in the early 90's, I grew to understand and respect the

indigenous population, and their personal plights to salvage their basic human rights in cultivating the leaves.

I have traveled to the

Chapare. I have mingled with, met, and listened to what the Indians had to say, going around with my inconspicous tape recorder and notepad as often as I could. I spoke with the military in the Chapare, standing proud with their machetes and beers. I even got lost there, and got ill from eating too much candy on the bus trip up. Took a long and dangerous bus ride there trough the Andes, and rode back to Cochabamba in the back of a pickup filled with Cholas and pigs. I was 18 and carefree. What did I really know? I guess I was crazy, and obviously safety was the furthest thing from my mind. I did all this BEFORE the internet and before cell phones.....And most of all, before the country was so overtly exploited, as it is now.

I many current American or other foreign diplomats have actually interacted and really taken the time to talk to and listen to the native peoples, and not just the elite? In Bolivia, as well as other Latin American and South American countries, there still exists are great deal of prejudice and Eurocentric attitudes towards the Indians, and there "grotesque" habits of chewing the leaves. It has always been an :us against them" mentality. The gap between the more well to do peoples of mixed decent, and the mostly native working class/poor is so strong in that country that it would make a zebra lose his stripes.

One must at least try to

understand that the peoples of this culture have used these leaves for a long time in their day to day lives...esp. the miners who have to have heaps of energy to work in the dangerous mines. Thank God for Pachamama. The typical Quechua or Aymaran Bolivian is oblivious as to the aftermath of the chemically induced coca leaf (cocaine) and the "illegal" profits it makes for the narcos, ect.

There are others to thank for that invention, and it sures to hell aint the farmers. Being that it is the elite drug lords who demand the production of the leaf for the use of cocaine, the very least they could do is respect the rights of the people who were there first, are who are merely trying to make a meager living

for themselves by cultivating the harmless leaf. Carry on.

Sat, 11/13/2010 - 12:34am Permalink

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