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Bye bye DEA
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Government suspends activities of US anti-drug agency for allegedly financing opposition protests.

It was a “personal” decision. On Nov. 1, President Evo Morales announced the indefinite suspension of the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in Bolivia, accusing agency employees of financing violent opposition-led protests two months ago.

“Starting today I am indefinitely suspending the activities of the US DEA,” Morales said. “We have an obligation to defend the Bolivian people’s sovereignty.”

Morales alleged that the DEA had financed the takeover of airports and other protests in the opposition bastions of Beni, Pando, Santa Cruz and Tarija departments.

The move was part of an escalating dispute between the two countries, which included Morales´ expulsion of the US ambassador in La Paz, Philip Goldberg, in September, after Morales accused him of aiding the opposition. In June, Bolivia had halted the US International Development Agency (USAID).

In a statement, the US State Department rejected Morales’ accusations and called them false and absurd.

After Bolivia expelled Goldberg, Washington announced in late October that it would not include Bolivia in the extension of the trade benefits package, the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA), starting Nov. 1, accusing Bolivia of failing to collaborate with US authorities in the fight against drugs. Bolivia is the world’s third-largest cocaine producer after Colombia and Peru. Bolivia responded with the DEA expulsion.

A day before Morales announced a halt to the DEA´s activities, the government said it had reached its annual goal for illegal coca eradication, totaling by then 5,012 hectares (12,380 acres). It also said that in the first 10 months of the year, it had seized 25.5 metric tons of cocaine, a 7.5-metric ton increase over all of 2007.

According to figures from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Bolivia´s coca plantations cover 28,900 hectares (71,300 acres), but only 1,200 hectares (2,960 acres) are recognized by the government as legal, used for traditional use, such as indigenous ceremonies, teas and medicinal use. Most of Bolivia´s cocaine is sent to Europe through Argentina, Brazil and Chile.

Interior Minister Alfredo Rada said that his government will present a regional anti-drug plan to the country´s neighbors such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru, saying that Bolivia will wage its own anti-drug war without the United States.

He said this plan will include the eradication of coca “without violence, without killing campesinos, without fumigations that destroy the rivers and jungles.

While Bolivia´s exclusion from ATPDEA is a strong blow to its economy — the United States is its largest trade partner and exports totaled US$362 million last year — Bolivian authorities have said they are looking for new markets. Bolivia has already signed an agreement with Venezuela to export US$200 million in textiles annually.
—Latinamerica Press.

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