Bolivia Boots Out the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)

Les Blough, Editor, Axis of Logic, Nov 3

It is not the coca leaf that is being eradicated; instead, Bolivia is eradicating Washington's interference in their domestic affairs under the guise of the U.S. "war on drugs".

A recent series of events have taken place, following mass movements in Bolivia against the US-backed oligarchy that would sever Bolivia's gas-rich region from the rest of the country. The movement by the Bolivian government against U.S. interference in their domestic affairs include the following events:

  • August 10, 2008: President Evo Morales won a resounding victory in the recall vote.
  • September 9, 2008: US Ambassador to Bolivia, Philip Goldberg was kicked out of Bolivia for his involvement with the wealthy oligarchy in 4 gas-rich states.
  • September 16, 2008: Leopoldo Fernández, Governor of the Pando State was arrested by the Bolivian government for instigating the killings of 19 local, indigenous people.
  • November 3, 2008: President Morales announced that he is suspending "indefinitely" the operations of the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

The Recall Referendum

On August 10, 2008, President Morales, of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party, won an important victory in Bolivia’s recall referendum. President Morales and eight of Bolivia's governors were put to popular vote. The people supported the president with a whopping 67.4% of the vote and revoked by wide margins, two of the governors, Manfred Reyes Villa of Cochabamba and José Luis Paredes of La Paz.

Philip Goldberg

Philip Goldberg, U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia was sent packing on September 9, 2008. He was kicked out of Bolivia for his involvement with the wealthy oligarchy in 4 gas-rich states (Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, Tarija y Chuquisaca).

3 months before he arrived in Bolivia, he was working on another separatist movement as head of the US mission in Kosovo. "It was not by chance that this man was moved from Kosovo to Bolivia", said Róger Tuero, former head of the Political Science department at Gabriel René Autonomous University in Santa Cruz

Ambassador Goldberg was "one of the principal political and logistical supporters of still-Governor of Cochabamba, Manfred Reyes Villa, who created the worst ethnic, social, regional, and institution al crisis one can remember in the history of the Republic of Bolivia", according to Wilson García Mérida, a Bolivian journalist who lives in Cochabamba.

With a growing rebellion against US domination across Latin America, US imperialism has been furiously organising to get rid of Morales. Since the election of President Morales, USAID has poured over $120 million into opposition groups while Goldberg continually held meetings with opposition leaders. Two days after Goldberg was expelled, the US added Bolivia to their "black list" of countries that refuse to collaborate with Washington's "war on drugs". This black-listing includes a cutting of US trade preferences for Bolivia.

Leopoldo Fernández, Governor of Pando

On September 16, 2008, the Bolivian government arrested Leopoldo Fernández, Governor of the Pando State and leader of the right-wing Podemos party. He is being held for instigating the killings of 19 local, indigenous people aligned with President Morales.

Federíco Fuentes, writing for Green Left Weekly:

"The worst violence occurred on September 11, with the massacre in Pando of unarmed indigenous campesinos — including children and pregnant women — who were marching against the racist violence. It was carried out by paramilitaries created and controlled by Pando prefect (governor) Leopoldo Fernandez, since arrested over the atrocity."

Fernández has inspired "a systematic campaign of disinformation" in collusion with the right wing media in support of breaking up Bolivia, according to Bolivian journalist, Wilson García Mérida.

Manfred Reyes Villa, Governor of Cochabamba revoked by referendum

In 2000 Manfred Reyes Villa played a sinister role in the Bolivian Water Wars of 2000 when the World Bank declared it would not "renew" a $25 million dollar loan to Bolivia unless it privatized its water services. Reyes Villa is the leader of the Nueva Fuerza Republicana (New Republican Force) political party. He was mayor of Cochabamba 4 times and is the current Governor of Cochabamba, Bolivia and was revoked by the people in the August 10 referendum.

He ended up in 3rd place when he ran for president of Bolivia in 2002. Sanchez de Lozada, an ally of Reyes Villa was elected president, but was forced to resign the following year because of massive demonstrations against him in major cities of Bolivia. Reyes-Villa planned to run for president in the December 4, 2005 elections but instead, supported Jorge Quiroga, a right-wing candidate supported by the David Greenlee, the US Ambassador at that time.

Thousands of Bolivians demanded the resignation of Reyes-Villa in early 2007. The Bolivian people rose up against him when he helped form the opposition to the August 10 constitutional and land reform referendum. The referendum resulted in a victory and a fresh mandate for President Evo Morales to redistribute petroleum royalties and private farmlands among the country’s impoverished indigenous majority.

Bolivia's Suspends the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

President Evo Morales has now taken his most aggressive step to date in suspending DEA operations in Bolivia. It is our hope that this "indefinite suspension" will become a permanent expulsion. Since his election in 2005, his administration has steadily and patiently been working Bolivia free of the clutches of US imperialism. But this move removes the teeth of the U.S. military presence in their country. Whatever the reaction by the U.S. might be to this move, we can be sure that they will not give up their attempts to control the natural resources of Bolivia.

About Coca

In the central province of Chapare where coca is grown in abundance, President Morales made his announcement that the U.S. Drug Enforcment Administration is being suspended "indefinitely". By clipping the wings of the DEA in Bolivia, Morales is ending Washington's ruse and gaining more autonomy for the Bolivian people. In his announcement he stated:

"From today all the activities of the US DEA are suspended indefinitely ... Personnel from the DEA supported activities of the unsuccessful coup d'etat in Bolivia ... We have the obligation to defend the dignity and sovereignty of the Bolivian people."

Morales also noted that his government had eradicated more than 5,000 hectares (12,300 acres) of illegally planted coca, according to the BBC.

The BBC reported today:

"Coca is the raw material used in the production of cocaine and is widely grown in Bolivia. The country is a major producer of cocaine, but millions of Bolivians poorest people also chew coca leaves as part of their daily routine. Many believe the leaf offers health benefits."

Health Benefits of Coca

When the corporate media states "Many believe the leaf offers health benefits", they appear to cast some doubt on those benefits. Pharmacological research shows:

"The composition of coca leaves is more complete and rich in calories, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, fibre, ash, minerals (calcium, phosphorous, iron, potassium, magnesium, sodium, ascorbic acid, etc.) and vitamins A, C and E than other food plants and infusions in common use such as coffee, tea, camomile, etc. Thanks to this research, it is nowadays recognized that the coca leaf contains more proteins (19.9 per cent) than meat (19.4 per cent) and far more calcium (2,191 per cent) than condensed milk, and that it is richer in vitamin B-1 (276 per cent) than fresh carrots."

Coca leaves and the Bolivian Economy

In addition to offering health benefits, it is also an important industry in the economies of Bolivia, Peru and other South American countries. IPS News Agency reports,

"In 2007, coca producers sold around 81.5 million kilos of coca leaves in the legal markets of Villa Fátima in La Paz and Sacaba in Cochabamba, which represented sales of 29.2 million dollars."

As with more and more indigenous people across Latin America, the native people of Bolivia are gaining increasing clarity on the role Washington has played in controlling and profiting from their natural resources - from coca to natural gas and water. The Morales Administration is following the bidding of the people when it expels ambassadors, jails treasonous officials and rids the country of U.S. attacks on their sovereignty through USAID, "Free Trade", "Drug Enforcement" and other strategies and tactics. Bolivia is gradually gaining true independence and realizing their sovereignty for the first time in their history under the leadership of Evo Morales. But given its history, Washington will continue to attempt to overthrow the Bolivian government and tear the country to pieces in order to regain control of its gas-rich region. It is critical that people around the world continue to stand in solidarity with Bolivia against all forms of U.S. imperialism, under whatever cloak it might be hidden by Washington.

Republished from Axis of Logic

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