United States: Bolivia does not cooperate with the drug war

Latin America and the Caribbean

Last week, we speculated about whether Bolivia would be placed on the United States' list of countries who have "failed demonstrably" to cooperate with U.S. anti-narcotics policy and the implications this might have, especially when comparing coca production and eradication and seizure levels of Bolivia with those of Peru and Colombia - top U.S. allies in the region. This week, the White House issued the "Majors List" of narcotics source and transfer countries for 2008, and Bolivia had been added to the "non-cooperating" list, which last year only included Venezuela and Burma. Below are two charts that lay out both coca cultivation and cocaine production levels in Bolivia since 1994. The U.N data used to create these charts show a 5% increase in coca cultivation and an increase in cocaine production from 94 to 104 tons in 2007. These numbers differ from those cited by Assistant Secretary of State David Johnson at a press conference this week, held upon the release of the 2008 list. In criticizing Bolivian President Evo Morales' drug policies, Assistant Secretary Johnson said "The expansion of cultivation and lack of controls on coca leaf resulted in a 14% increase in the area of coca under cultivation, and an increase in potential cocaine production from 115 to 120 metric tons." Regardless, while these numbers do show a rise in the amount of coca and cocaine in Bolivia, the increases are not outstanding, especially in comparison to Colombia and Peru's cultivation and production numbers. The addition of Bolivia to the "non-cooperating" list, however, comes at a time of tense relations between the governments of the United States and Bolivia. Just last week, Bolivia expelled the U.S. ambassador, claiming that he was conspiring with the opposition. The United States retaliated by expelling the Bolivian ambassador the next day. At the press conference, Assistant Secretary Johnson noted that the addition of Bolivia to the list was not "a hasty decision" in retaliation for the expulsion of the U.S. ambassador, but instead cited "the [drug] policies that they are pursuing, capped off by the expulsion, if you will, of the USAID program in Chapare [a coca-growing region in central Bolivia] for alternative development, as well as the assistance program provided by our Drug Enforcement Administration, made the conclusion rather clear." Here is a timeline of the deterioration of U.S.-Bolivia relations since last fall. August 2007: Bolivian Minister Juan Ramon Quintana accuses the United States of using USAID funds to finance opposition groups. November 2007: The Bolivian government passes around a photograph of U.S. Ambassador Goldberg with John Jairo Venegas, a Colombian accused by Bolivia of being a member of the Colombian right-wing paramilitary squads. October 2007: In reaction to a campaign supported by President Morales to relocate the UN headquarters, Ambassador Goldberg publicly announced that he wouldn't also be surprised if Evo Morales asked for Disney Land to be moved. February 2008: U.S. embassy official Vincent Cooper was accused of asking an American student and Peace Corps volunteer to spy on Venezuelans and Cubans in Bolivia. June 9, 2008: Thousands of Bolivian protesters marched on the U.S. Embassy to demand that Washington extradite a former Bolivian defense minister who directed a military crackdown on riots that killed at least 60 people in 2003. The United States recalled Ambassador Goldberg in reaction to the protests. June 26 2008: The Chapare coca growers unions announced that they will no longer sign new aid agreements with USAID, as a result of the repeated accusations against USAID made by President Morales. In reaction, the United States removes USAID personnel from the Chapare region, while President Morales praises the coca growers for kicking out the U.S. agency. August 2008: Due to frustration with the way the U.S. spends money to fight cocaine production in Bolivia, drug czar Felipe Caceres announces that the Bolivia government will "nationalize the war against drug trafficking." And adds that "we will still welcome cooperation in the future, but the Bolivian government will decide how that money will be spent." September 11, 2008: President Morales again accuses Ambassador Goldberg of working with the opposition, and orders the U.S. Ambassador to leave Bolivia. In 'solidarity' with Bolivia, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez also orders the U.S. Ambassador to leave his country. The United States reacts by expelling the Bolivian Ambassador. September 16, 2008: The United States adds Bolivia to the list of countries who have "failed demonstrably" to cooperate with U.S. anti-narcotics policy.