Bolivian President Evo Morales said on Tuesday (Sept. 13) that he does not fear the U.S. Department of State’s condemnation based on the yearly White House report claiming Bolivia does not do enough to combat the drug trade. The Bolivian model in the fight against drug trafficking has been recognized the world over, said Morales.
On Monday, the U.S. government kept Venezuela and Bolivia, along with Burma, as countries that did not meet their commitments against drug trafficking and drug production in the last twelve months.
“I’m not afraid; the world knows that our counternarcotics model is better without the Americans,” said the president during a ceremony in Tapacarí, Cochabamba.
The full list of countries described by the U.S. as producers or drug traffickers include Afghanistan, Bahamas, Belize, Bolivia, Burma, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.
The Bolivian president said that the U.S. report confirms its rejection of Bolivia and ignorance of its anti-drug policy, despite being recognized by the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU).
In July, the United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime reported that Bolivia reduced its coca cultivation to 20,200 hectares from 31,000 2011-2015. Countering the claim, the U.S. State Department says that between 2013 and 2014, leaf plantations increased 30% and would reach 35,000 hectares.
Morales said that for Bolivia “to be approved by the Department of State we would have to be a pro-imperialist and pro-capitalist government and president, since we are anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist we are wrong in the fight against drug trafficking.”
A Sept. 14 editorial in The New York Times appears to agree in a certain sense with President Morales when it comes to the country’s fight against drug production and trafficking. What follows is the editorial:
HOW BOLIVIA FIGHTS THE DRUG SCOURGE
This week, the White House issued its yearly report on the nations on the front lines of the war on drugs. Predictably, it listed Bolivia as one of three countries that “failed demonstrably” to do enough to combat the drug trade. President Evo Morales of Bolivia responded, as he does each year, with defiance.
“The world knows that our counternarcotics model is better without the Americans,” Mr. Morales said during an event on Tuesday, alluding to his expulsion of American drug enforcement agents in 2008.
The yearly condemnation of Bolivia has been futile. So far, that country’s experience with its drug strategy is showing more promise than Washington’s forced-eradication model.
Over the past decade, the Bolivian government has sought to gradually curb the cultivation of coca — the plant processed to make cocaine — by establishing a tightly regulated market for its consumption as a nonnarcotic stimulant. (Bolivians have been chewing coca leaf and using it to make tea for generations.) The government eradicates unauthorized crops after negotiating with, and finding alternatives for, growers.
This approach, which has been supported and financed by the European Union, has shown significant results. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, coca leaf cultivation in Bolivia has declined each of the past five years. In its latest report, U.N.O.D.C. said Bolivia had roughly 20,200 hectares (about 78 square miles) of coca cultivation, a slight drop compared with the previous year.
These tactics have been hailed by scholars and some Western officials because they place a premium on the rights and needs of farmers in poor areas. Coca growers who have voluntarily registered with the government are given title for small parcels of land and are authorized to grow a limited amount. Mr. Morales, a former coca growers union leader, has played a hands-on role in negotiating the terms of this arrangement with unions and other local leaders.
This stands in stark contrast to the strategy the United States has long financed in the region — a combination of aerial herbicide spraying, manual eradication and the prosecution of drug kingpins in the United States. The inadequacy of this approach is most obvious in Colombia, which has been Washington’s closest ally in Latin America on counternarcotics.
Last year, coca cultivation in Colombia increased by nearly 40 percent compared with the previous year, according to U.N.O.D.C. The tough-on-crime approach has often exacerbated violence there. Colombia, however, did not get the “failed demonstrably” label. It may be time for Washington to drop that marker altogether and study the merits of innovative approaches, including Bolivia’s.