Is Bolivia the New Afghanistan, or Is Mary Anastasia O'Grady From The Wall Street Journal Delusional?


Violeta Ayala

There are plenty of things to write about my country Bolivia, but I've never read something with more of an agenda that verges on delusional than this OpEd by Wall Street Journal Senior Journalist, Mary Anastasia O'Grady.

In her piece, Ms. O'Grady describes Bolivia as a rogue state and safe haven for terrorists.
She opens with Afghanistan, the brutal USSR occupation and Osama Bin Laden. Cue the thunder and oppressive music as Evo Morales enters stage left ... It seems the US propaganda machine is on the case again, this time with Bolivia in their sights because "something similar may be happening in Bolivia."

Now, my first question is how she can compare Evo Morales and Bolivia to Osama Bin Laden and Afganistan? Evo is the president of a sovereign nation, OBL was a leader of Al Qaeda who at one stage was hiding in Afghanistan and hunted by the CIA.

It's like comparing the famous North American Indian leader Red Cloud to Obama, only Obama won and Osama lost.

Her eye-catching title reads, "Bolivia's decent into rogue state status," but what does that mean? A rouge state is a country that has broken international law and poses a threat to the security of other nations.

Giving her the benefit of the doubt, has Bolivia broken any international laws? Actually it has, but only in Bolivia. Chewing the coca leaf. That's right, the United Nations considered the coca leaf a schedule 1 narcotic and was illegal to use anywhere in the world, until they changed their mind earlier this year and told Bolivia it was now ok to chew the leaf.

To which countries does Bolivia pose a threat? Brazil? No. Chile? No. Peru? No. Colombia? No. Argentina? No. Not even little Ecuador? No. Mexico? Not really. Spain? They'd be too embarrassed to say yes, so no. England? No. Canada? No. Panama? No. Germany? No. Russia? No. The USA? No. Hmmm ... Rogue State sounds a bit dramatic don't you think?

Adding to the list of Bolivia's supposed offenses, O'Grady goes on to write that Bolivia is a Narco state. First Rogue state and safe haven to terrorists, now Narco state. The EU Ambassador to Bolivia has stated that Bolivia is not a Narco State. You don't have to take his word for it, but a Narco state would be a country controlled by organized crime and drug traffickers, no?

It also seems racist that she suggests the presence of African people in Bolivia as a sign of drug trafficking simply because Africa is a cocaine trade route to Europe. I live in a city where hundreds, if not thousands, of African students come to study at university every year. Are only Bolivians allowed in Bolivia?

Drug trafficking does exist in Bolivia for the simple fact that Bolivia is one of only four countries that can produce cocaine, and as long as it is economically viable and demand around the world continues it won't stop.

It isn't a secret that Evo Morales is the leader of the Chapare Coca Growers Federation. Bolivia's president used to be a coca farmer! So naturally she assumes that he must be a drug trafficker. However, a confrontation this month saw Morales' government attempt to eradicate illegal coca crops and resulted in the deaths of four soldiers. Since 2007, the majority of Bolivia's regular army personnel aren't allowed to carry guns. That's right, most of the time the army of Rogue State Bolivia isn't allowed to carry guns, and when they are allowed they're lucky to get bullets.

So, given that Bolivia's coca crop has gone down 19% in the past two years, that the eradication of coca crops continues and Bolivian jails are overflowing with prisoners for cocaine-related offenses it's hard to suggest Morales is letting the coca growers do as they please.

Morales used to grow coca in El Chapare, ground zero for the US War on Drugs in Bolivia. He says he became political when he saw government forces burn a man alive, and that until he witnessed this brutality he really thought the government was there to protect the people.

The 90's and 2000's were extremely violent times in Bolivia. The country was a playground for the DEA. I even listened on as a DEA agent flying from La Paz to Miami saying he was very sad to be leaving Bolivia because he could no longer shoot whomever he wanted.

One thing I always thought was telling was that Bolivia's previous president, the one elected in 2003, spoke Spanish with an American accent. That in itself isn't a crime, but to where did he flee after he ordered the police to use deadly force, resulting in the death of 60 people, including a child, outside the government buildings in La Paz during Black October?

O'Grady suggests scores of intellectuals, technocrats and former government officials fled Bolivia due to harassment. I can provide her a list of former Bolivian government officials and criminals such as Gonzalo Sanchez De Lozada, Carlos Sanchez Berzain and Manfred Reyes Villa who live today in the US, protected from extradition by the US government.

She harps on about Bolivia's involvement with Iran, that Iran may be doing this, or may be doing that. May I ask, what it exactly does she mean by doing?

O'Grady also distorts the fact that Bolivia's Vice President was a member of the Tupac Katari Guerrilla Army, a legitimate indigenous organization who fought for social equality in Bolivia, as a sign he's a criminal.

When Garcia Linera joined the Tupac Katari movement, Bolivians lived under a military dictatorship and anyone who dared speak out was tortured and/or killed. This happened throughout Latin America and was known as "Plan Condor." So, Accusing Garcia Linera of being some terrorist war criminal is the same as accusing Nelson Mandela of being part of the ANC.

The only factoid that O'Grady uses in her denigration of Bolivia is the death of José Maria Bakovic at the hands of the Bolivian government. Every other detail of her proof that Bolivia is quickly becoming the next Afghanistan is prefaced with "may" or by unconfirmed reports or hearsay. The truth is Mr. Bakovic was a 75 year old with a heart condition who worked for the World Bank and in 2001 became the head of the National Roads Commission in Bolivia. Looking at the state of roads in Bolivia, not much work got done in his office. Before he died he had 76 corruption, civilian and penal cases against him in different cities across the country. Bakovic sadly died of a heart attack and not at the hands of the Bolivian government.

I'm not one to throw stones, but let's put things into perspective:

At present, the US government is spying on everyone in its country. The indigenous population has been relegated to living as second-class citizens and the US government is currently deploying 1000s of drones to bomb countries around the world.

Comparatively, Evo Morales has elevated the status of indigenous Bolivians, installed electricity in the rural areas of Bolivia for the first time, has 6 small Chinese-built jet fighters with a range of 300 miles each and no Navy to speak of.

There's ample evidence the CIA financed their operations in Latin America via drug trafficking. The US government has failed to convict one US bank after another for laundering billions of dollars of cocaine money. For O'Grady, it's so easy to blame others for the world's problems when you're not looking back at yourself.

So while people like O'Grady with an agenda continue to write publicly, I'll leave you with an old African proverb that says, "Until the lions have their own historians, the hunter will always be the hero."

Republished from Huffington Post

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