Monday, November 03, 2008

Morales Halts U.S. "War on Drugs" in Bolivia

New York (digitalwarriormedia) President Morales suspended the operations of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in Bolivia indefinitely – accusing the anti-drug force of funding and inciting violent groups in a civil coup attempt that rocked the nation during September.

While speaking in Chimoré, Cochabamba on Saturday, Morales delivered a report of the DEA’s actions to conspire against the Bolivian government during a ceremony to commemorate Bolivia’s annual efforts against drug trafficking.

According to President Morales, the DEA conducted activities outside of its authority, which is limited to cooperation in combating drugs.

"It is my decision,” said Morales to a gathering of military leaders, government officials and international representatives, “from today the DEA’s normal activities are cancelled indefinitely in Bolivia. We are defending our dignity and sovereignty".

The allegations were made public last week by Prime Minister Juan Ramona Quintana, who indicated the DEA was involved in violent attacks within the provinces of Santa Cruz, Pando, Beni and Tarija when airports, government buildings and the Bolivian police were physically attacked.

"In recent days, in recent months, the DEA of the United States has had a policy,” said Morales, “This means participating in a conspiracy against the national government.”

On September 11, President Morales declared a state of emergency in Pando after an attack on indigenous peasants left 18 dead. Within one week of the incident, Leopoldo Fernandez, was removed as governor of Pando and arrested for his role in the killings.

Morales released the name of DEA agent Steven Faucett, who carried out "political espionage” by financing the operations of opposition civic leaders who instigated the sabotage of airports in Beni and Pando and the seizure of runways.

Faucett made trips to Trinidad and Riberalta during the time of the coup. He is “listed as a regional agent of the DEA in Santa Cruz” and also affiliated with the diplomatic mission of the U.S. Embassy. Santa Cruz - the wealthiest department in Bolivia possesses a well coordinated network of regional leaders and civic committees which have led the strongest opposition to the central government.

Morales also released intelligence that the DEA operated seven “safe houses” in Bolivia which were used by agents for "spying and monitoring telephone calls."

Saturday’s ceremony was attended by diplomats from South America, Europe and Asia; members of the executive branch, the High Command of the Armed Forces and the Chief of Police; delegates from the European Union, as well as representatives of Bolivia in the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Indigenous Fund.

During the ceremony where he announced annual targets for coca eradication and anti-drug trafficking, Morales noted that his government had eradicated more than 12,300 acres of illegally planted coca last year. And the goal was reached two months early while strictly respecting the human rights of coca-growing communities.

In the Chapare, where the majority of Bolivia’s coca is grown, both USAID and the U.S. Embassy’s Narcotics Affairs Section (NAS) have been evicted in the past three months by coca growers unions.

President Morales is the head of the largest coca growers union in the Chapare, however his administration started eradicating illicit coca as early as April 2006, less than four months after Morales assumed the presidency.

The U.S. warned that a suspension of cooperation with the DEA will increase the production of cocaine.

In recent weeks, the U.S. government stepped up its pressure on the Bolivian government to cooperate with U.S.-led anti-drug effort by threatening to suspend the trade preferences for Bolivia under the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA) and adding Bolivia to a blacklist of non-cooperating nations.

The ATPDEA agreement allowed Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru to export tariff-free goods to the U.S. in exchange for anti-drug cooperation.

But Morales stood firm, including the refusal of a DEA request to fly anti-drug plane missions over Bolivia. At the time Morales said they did not need the U.S. spying on Bolivian territory and the Bolivian government would continue to handle anti-drug efforts internally.

On October 23, U.S. Secretary of State Condolezza Rice announced that the U.S. government was suspending the ATPDEA preferences for Bolivia which could result in the loss of approximately $150 million in trade and thousands of Bolivian jobs.
Despite both houses of the U.S. Congress approving a six-month extension for Bolivia, the program was pulled by the White House. It was a move that had been threatened by the Bush Administration for several weeks and lobbied for by a group of well-connected U.S. businesses organizations, including most prominently the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

However, the latest Andean report from the UNODC showed that in 2007 Bolivia increased its seizure of illicit coca leaf and cocaine. Bolivia’s coca leaf seizures are up 40 times the amount seized as 2002.

“In Bolivia, the amount of cocaine seized increased for the third consecutive year. About one fifth of the total amount was cocaine HCl, a much higher proportion than in the past three years. Coca leaf seizures also increased significantly in 2007… 40 times the amount seized in 2002,” said the report.

The UNODC attributed the increased seizures to the strengthening of Bolivia’s Special Force for the Control of Coca Leaves (GECC) and tighter road controls.

President Morales said the U.S. used its fight against drug trafficking as a tool of recolonization. He called into question these U.S. policies that punish a government which is making progess against drugs production and trafficking. Morales also announced the move towards regional anti-drug cooperation, to be headed by the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).
As of Sunday, Bolivia’s La Prensa reported that the DEA had not received official notification from the Bolivian government.

Sources: ABI, Telesur, La Prensa, Associated Press

Photos: ABI, La Prensa



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