New Viceroy Threatens Bolivian Democracy
U.S. Ambassador David N. Greenlee's Strange "Letter" About a Coup Plot
By Luis Gómez
Narco News Andean Bureau Chief
April 5, 2003
As Manuel Rocha, the former US Ambassador to Bolivia, tries to present his credentials as the new Ambassador in Venezuela to that nation’s President Hugo Chávez, the new Viceroy has arrived here: David N. Greenlee. His trajectory as a repressive agent in this country, that dates back 15 years, is surprising… And in recent days he has demonstrated that he is hell-bent on maintaining the Bolivian chapter of the so-called War on Drugs. In a few moments, kind readers: the story.
According to a report published in the biweekly Bolivian magazine, El Juguete Rabioso (“The Rabid Toy”), Greenlee’s relation to this country dates back to 1965, when the new ambassador served as a Peace Corps volunteer. Later, he left for Vietnam, and became an expert in undercover operations in the US “diplomatic” schools… where he shared experiences with the ex “Southern Command chief Gary Speer, and with Otto Reich.” The article in El Juguete Rabioso can be read, in Spanish, here:
Greenlee met his wife, Clara Jeanet Murillo, here in Bolivia, and has worked here as a diplomatic official. In fact, at the end of the 1980s he was interim ambassador for nearly two years, after the 1986 resignation of Edward Rowell. All of this was the product of an internal crisis caused by Bolivia’s largest drug scandal, the tragedy in Huanchaca, in which not only were various people assassinated (including the scientist Noel Kempff and the Congressman Edmundo Salazar), but also, the first (and only one ever found in Bolivia) cocaine hydrochloride laboratory was discovered for making the famous white powder.
Greenlee took advantage of his nomination as ambassador to initiate a wartime policy, according to the Juguete Rabioso report, focusing the entire war against narco-trafficking upon a single enemy: the coca growers’ movement. In fact, Congressman Evo Morales once commented to Narco News that “Greenlee personally led various repressive operations in the Chapare, and planned some of them such as the Villa Tunari massacre,” in 1988, where twelve people were assassinated (including women and children) and more than twenty were wounded.
This, without even mentioning – and we will bring you this story – that it was Greenlee who, from the second largest US Embassy in Latin America (it is barely smaller than that of Brazil), pushed the passage of a law that for a long time violated the rights of the farmers, users, and drug addicts, as well as having criminalized the coca leaf ever since: Law 1008. “About the regulation of coca and controlled substances,” as the law is titled, which is to say, the local anti-drug law.
But Mr. Greenlee, who counts among his abilities the speaking of Quechua (the most spoken language in the Chapare) isn’t just part of a black past in Bolivia. After having been US Ambassador to Paraguay, he was nominated last September 5th by George Bush to his new job in Bolivia. And don David Nicol, returning to the country of his wife, did not waste time… After a little more than a half year of pressuring President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada to change his position on coca in the Chapare, as Narco News Authentic Journalist Alex Contreras has already reported.
A few weeks ago, after the February 11 to 13 rebellion in La Paz, there was an action – it can’t be called “undercover” – to destabilize, or, as the leader of the Movement toward Socialism party (MAS) says: To threaten the principal leaders of the party of the coca growers and the other Bolivian social movements with death.
“I got a letter yesterday…”
On Saturday morning, March 22nd, Congressman and coca growers’ leader Evo Morales met with the Vice President of Bolivia, the former journalist Carlos Mesa. The Vice President delivered a “letter” sent directly from the office of Ambassador Greenlee. This same letter, days before, had been delivered by Mesa to the Senate Leader for the MAS party, the veteran union and social leader Filemón Escóbar.
The document, a white page without stationary nor anyone’s signature, said that the United States Embassy had obtained “trustworthy” information about a supposed coup d’etat that the MAS was planning for April, together with “key military personnel.” According to the “diplomatic” letter, the leaders of this witchcraft would be Antonio Peredo Leigue, the former Vice Presidential candidate for the MAS and current National Congressman, and the same Evo Morales, but that “internal struggles inside the party might delay the execution of this plan, and might even make the execution of this plan impossible so that it won’t happen.”
Internal fights? Well, certainly events prior to the delivery of this singular “letter” from Mr. Greenlee had demonstrated that problems exist inside of the MAS party, but the reference made by the document is much more serious: “There is a group inside of MAS that wants to see Evo Morales and Filemón Escóbar assassinated during this coup in April.” Kind readers: Did you get that? Well, they got it in the MAS too, because on March 27th they formally responded to Ambassador Greenlee.
In a communiqué titled “We defend Democracy: No to the Coup!” the MAS clarified that it is “not, directly or indirectly, promoting attitudes to alter the life of a democratic order in the country, such as the state of law.” And with respect to the supposed intentions to assassinate Evo and Filemón Escóbar, they made two convincing points:
- “We publicly and formally challenge Mr. David Greenlee… to demonstrate in a documented, trustworthy, and real, manner on what he bases his asseverations,” as well as calling upon the Ambassador to identify “who is plotting against the life of compañero Evo Morales Ayma.”
- To leave it “clearly established to national and international public opinion that the national government and the United States Embassy will be held exclusively responsible for any attempt upon the life of our national leader, compañero Evo Morales.
What has the Viceroy David Nicol Greenlee said in response? Well, nothing, or barely a pair of mentions in the local press about a United States law that obliges him to inform friendly governments about this kind of threat and his “moral” obligation: “As the U.S. government, we have certain ethical, legal, and moral, requirements that we always try to comply with.” And as for the source of the “letter?” “I have no comment.”
It seems that this decorated Vietnam veteran has ripped a hole in his “undercover” work… because his nighttime threats have been responded to… clearly, not like he demanded in writing last March 14th, the date on which he met with Vice President Mesa to deliver his little letter: “We solicit your collaboration to inform Morales about this attempt, in a manner in which he understands and accepts the seriousness of this information so that he takes the appropriate measures to protect himself. At the same time, we solicit you to confirm to us that this warning was delivered/reported and, later, to also let us know the reaction of Morales to this information.”
On and on… No one can believe that an Ambassador with so much experience in the field of intelligence and repression could be naïve. He’s not. The insidious planting of rumors inside of the MAS (that a group “inside of the MAS would want to have Evo Morales and Filemón Escóbar assassinated during this coup in April”) has had its effects, but, on the other hand, it has caused the government and its intelligence agencies to have to work to cover their tracks.
A difficult swallow and the
Last week, due to the internal tensions generated by Greenlee’s “letter,” and the more important tensions in the Chapare and in the Parliament, the MAS had to swallow a bitter pill. On Wednesday, March 26, in open session of the National Congress (Senators and Deputies together), Senator Filemón Escóbar, tired of legislative inactivity, publicly denounced this letter, warning that the mentioned coup d’etat would not have the current president as its victim, but, “rather, the MAS and Evo Morales.”
During almost 48 hours there were statements and problems between Evo, Filemón, and other MAS leaders, demonstrating that all was not well inside that movement, as Filemón confirmed later in an interview with the daily La Razón in La Paz (March 28, 2003). In a press conference in the halls of Congress on the 27th, and again with the coca growers on the 29th, the MAS came back and demonstrated that internal unity reins and that the political enemy could not divide them.
Amid a grand assembly in the Chapare town of Lauca Ñ, the coca growers showed their solidarity with Filemón Escóbar and Evo Morales against the death threats and what appeared to be a plot for a “self-coup” by the current government.
They also decided to radicalize their actions against the institutions of so-called “alternative development” and, beyond that, in all corners of the Chapare region, the forced eradication of coca leaf is being resisted by small groups and demonstrations trying to kick the military’s Joint Task Force out of the zone.
Internal divisions? Sure there are: It’s a political party! But this incident has caused the opposite of what Mr. David Nicol Greenlee wanted: Today the coca growers and the MAS are more united than ever and their struggle in defense of their sacred leaf is stronger.
On the other hand, in a show of speed and “intelligence,” the government, in just a few days, had to really work its agents to make sure that none of its interrogators would leak the letter by the Viceroy Greenlee. Last Saturday the news spread that the government of Sánchez de Lozada already knew about the “coup” for mid-April and that some military soldiers would be involved with it. (Don’t forget, kind readers, how a mid-April date of a coup in Bolivia would resonate with the anniversary of last April 11th’s attempted and failed coup in Venezuela: Was that the idea behind the timing? To simulate a coup from the Left to discredit the pro-democracy cause in Latin America?) Supported by a simplicity the broke the record of operating speed by the Brazilian intelligence agencies (even faster than when they were led by the narco-nazi Klaus Barbie years ago), the Bolivian president asked the opposition to let him govern and not be seditious…
Evo gave it back to him hard: “The seditious one is he who doesn’t listen to the people and governs instead in his own interests, those of his social class and of the multinational corporations… (Sánchez de Lozada) has to change his advisors and see the reality that the people live in and not that of his partners… A half block from Murillo Plaza, there are people begging while their children lick the streets.”
Thus, kind readers, Mr. Greenlee could not frighten the embattled social fighters of the MAS and its bases of support. But he tried, enthusiastically, to do it… albeit through an absurd route. And while the New Viceroy spends the money of U.S. taxpayers writing seditious letters, the coca growers have taken the offense and are fighting hard battles in the Chapare… We pray that you stay in contact with Narco News, from where, soon, you will be able to receive more reports about the War on Drugs in Bolivia, the New Viceroy Greenlee, the heroic defense of the coca leaf and the democracy that continues, alive and well, in this country.
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