<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
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Stupid, Ineffective, and Contradictory

As Cocaine Labs and Trafficking Expand in Bolivia's National Parks, the Government Turns a Blind Eye and Sends More Troops to the Chapare Instead


By Luis Gómez
Narco News Andean Bureau Chief

August 4, 2003

George Bush says it and so does U.S. drug czar John Walters. The President of Bolivia says it and so do his ministers: The anti-drug policies imposed by the United States on Bolivia are more successful every day that passes, although at the same time the crops have increased in this country, laboratories to make cocaine hydrochloride, that inhalable snow, have been discovered, and, well, that’s why that success that has been obtained in the “courageous” war on the narco and against 30,000 coca growers in this country… has led to a reduction of $13 million dollars in U.S. aid…

No, kind readers, this absurdity wasn’t created by this correspondent. It is, more or less, the present panorama in the War on Drugs, Bolivian Front. And, in fact, none of these singular aces of international policy (Powell, and the anti-czar, excuse me, the anti-drug czar Walters) offer the same version of the story that their Bolivian imitators tell, but, wait, we’ll explain it all here…

From Washington to the Chapare

Last week, the government published a report about its eradication efforts. The Joint Task Force, charged with eliminating coca plants in the Chapare region, once again had 1,500 troops, and not the 1,000 that it had before. Parallel to the report, and to not waste time, the government has already solicited the National Council Against Illicit Drug Traffic (CONALTID, in its Spanish initials, a non-transparent institution without any qualities other than administrative) asking for the reassignment of its “personnel.”

That is to say that times of conflict are returning, because the Six Federations (of coca growers) of the Tropic of Cochabamba, with its leader, Congressman Evo Morales in the lead, have already said various times that this year they are disposed to dialogue with the government on the issue of coca, but they will not permit more abuses or forced eradication in their region.

How are things going here? On Wednesday, July 30, the functionaries of President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada noticed that they were doing their jobs wrong, that in one year of work, from August 2002 to August 2003, they have eradicated 30 percent less coca than the previous president (Jorge Quiroga) did in the twelve months of his term between 2001 and 2002. Ernesto Justiniano, the vice minister of Social Defense (one of the offices charged with this task), justified the reduction in effectiveness. “If we take into account the statistics between 2001 and 2002, from January to December, the eradication is on its normal schedule…” Noting that the work is not always easy, he said, “the coca is camoflaged,” during a press conference last week.

In contrast, the Congressman Jorge Ledezma of the Movement Toward Socialism party (MAS, in its Spanish initials) gave his own explanation. “We are beating the government. They eradicate one hectare, and the coca growers plant a hectare-and-a-half,” because “survival of the coca growers” is at stake.

And, last Tuesday, alarming signals came out of Washington: In a series of declarations filled with unusual sincerity, the U.S. drug czar, John Walters, recognized, during a press conference with international reporters, that the quantity of cocaine that enters the United States probably has not lessened, that in Perú and Bolivia there were increases in coca crops (2,000 and 4,000 hectares, respectively), and that in both countries, “more effective controls will be needed over time.” Walters was magnaminous in spite of everyting “The advances that have been made in Perú and in Bolivia require follow-up… to complete the job.” And it seems like that’s what the bureaucrats of the Bolivian government would like to do.

Now, to be able to do their little job, the Bolivian bureaucrats count, as of a week ago, with 13 million dollars less of U.S. money. On July 25th, the U.S. Congress approved a budget that reduces aid to Bolivia from $104 million to $91 million dollars. On Friday, Ambassador David Greenlea confirmed that statistic, but to calm his accomplices… pardon me, the functionaries of Bolivia, he said that an “extra bonus” would be granted to cover the deficit. Two things are left very clear: That Viceroy Greenlee must know better than the Congress how much money there is, because these bonuses are not mentioned anywhere in the bill approved by the U.S. legislators… and, from there, as Greenlee did not explain the possible application of the bonuses in practice, it is clear that we in the public don’t know anything about the political and economic antidrug policies.

More or Less

According to Vice Minister Eduardo Justiniano, the reports by the U.S. government regarding the increase of 23 percent of coca crops are “refried,” because they use estimations made by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in June 2002: “This year, beginning in June, we have taken a second look, and we will know the results in September,” he said.

Another point to consider is that after “patient” investigations, the Interior Minister Yerko Kukoc, has had to report, last Wednesday, that in Eastern Bolivia (the Amazon region of the country) almost 20 different points of coca cultivation have been discovered inside a nature reserve, the Amboró National Park. Those hectares of coca will be eradicated beginning on August 15th. Although 18 factories for producing cocaine hydrochloride have been destroyed, and new land routes for trafficking in the substance, near Brazil, have been discovered, Kukoc was categoric: They will not permit that these parts of Bolivia “be converted into another Chapare.”

Until now, for what we could investigate, and in consultation with Evo Morales, not a single coca grower has been arrested in these actions. That is to say that the narco – the real narco – has come in againt from outside after so much forced eradication, fumigations, and pressures: A decade ago there were no coca plantations in this region of Bolivia… Forget the fact that for the Amboró National Park to become “another Chapare” more than 30,000 coca growers disposed to defend the millenarian leaf, their means of subsistence, in that region, too. Or is he referring to the greater control enjoyed in that region by the military, police, and members of the Joint Task Force – accused a hundred times of human rights violations and assassination in the past ten years, and as Evo reminded us during a brief chat, are the principle traffickers of chemical precursors for making cocaine in the Chapare.

Although today it seems that the hurry to “complete the job” is enormous… Because one day after another, in spite of the denials by John Walters to claim that the rhythm of eradication has not been slowed and that they don’t yet have the statistics about this year’s coca crops, the weak government of Sánchez de Lozada has announced its new “strategy.” Beyond adding 500 soldiers to the eradication effort, it is going to improve its intelligence systems, as the daily La Razon reported last Friday… But, kind readers, the 500 new members of the Joint Task Force, in order to comply with the eradication methods set and maintained by the United States, they will be sent to the Chapare and not to Amboró National Park… and the intelligence systems will do the same… Is that not contradictory?

Worse, still: According to a report last Friday by the wire agency BOLPRESS, it is very possible that beyond Amboró Park there are at least four more new coca leaf growing regions and that all of this is part of a narco-trafficking route from Eastern Bolivia into Brazil:

The leader of the Committee for Santa Cruz, Lorgio Balcázar, said that his group warned that in this capital state there are not only coca plantations near Amboró Park, but also in the reserves of El Choré, in the town of Guarayos, and in parts of the provinces of Ñuflo de Chávez y Velasco, respectively.

“A network has been set up. Beyond Amboró Park, there is the extension of trafficking into Chané, Guarayos, Ñuflo de Chávez y Velasco, owing to the fact that in these regions the rivers that connect Bolivia with Brazil flow,” he said.

He said that the narco-traffickers, upon finding that the Chapare region is very controlled by the DEA and Bolivia’s FELCN agency, have adopted an alternative route of bringing its plantations into the state of Santa Cruz because of the ease of aquatic transport toward Brazil, since there is already much control on land and in the air.

Is this clear? Or is it that the Bolivian bureaucrats and their U.S. partners are not seeing the same information?

In any case, the coca growers of the Chapare are already resisting the new eradication efforts that, at least in regard to the anti-drug fight, have demonstrated themselves to be ineffective policies, because they don’t lessen the production of the millenarian leaf, thanks to the resistant force of the coca growers, and they don’t at all attack the production of drugs in Bolivia… Yes, because for this cause between ten and fifteen people die each year.

Without forgetting that all the characters in this supposed “War on Drugs” in Bolivia say one thing and do another, they also contradict each other… And John Walters is the first to do that. In the text of the famous “certification” that the gringo government delivers each year to the countries that obey its orders, the czar’s office establishes, as goals of the U.S. policy, “to dismantle the production of cocaine in Bolivia; to repress and destroy the illicit drugs and chemical precursors that are inside and cross the country, and to reduce and combat the internal consumers market for cocaine and other illicit drugs.” Later, they affirm that, “The challenge for the government of Bolivia will be the energetic eradication in the future to, in this style, demonstrate its determination to lessen the continuous efforts to cultivate and sell coca in the Chapare.” Now that the precursors, the drug factories, and the routes of trafficking are in other regions, though… that doesn’t matter to Washington.

Continuing with these kinds of repressive policies, increasing the number of troops in the Joint Task Force, insisting on focusing the problem of drug production on the Chapare, and similar policies, and at the same time recognizing that the cocaine that enters the United States is of the same quality and quantity, that the coca leaf crops are increasing, and making work plans without counting with precise data… kind readers: Isn’t that a stupid policy? You decide, because the coca growers led by Evo have already offered their word: “Not one hectare more will be eradicated in the Chapare by force.”

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America