<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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To Speak with the Owner of the Circus...

Bolivia’s Coca Growers Propose Talks with the U.S. Government


By Luis Gómez
Narco News Andean Bureau Chief

September 2, 2003

For more than 17 years, the coca growers of the Chapare region of Bolivia have resisted against the eradication of coca crops in their region… What began as a defense of their means of making a living became a fight against their extinction and, as Evo Morales said during the 2002 campaign that almost made him president, against Yankee intervention. But the Six Federations of Coca Growers of the Cochabamba Tropics, led by Morales, not just resisted through road blockades and direct confrontations with the repressive forces of the State: they also gave birth to their “political instrument for the sovereignty of the people,” the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS, in its Spanish initials)... today the second largest political party in Bolivia.

A year ago, September, as we reported on these pages, the Chapare coca growers began a series of talks with the government, backed by the strength they had developed and the power that today gives them representatives in the almost a third of the Senate and a quarter of the House of Representatives… Tired of the government’s inability to solve their problems, tired of the repression and attacks that they have suffered for more than a decade, they hoped that, in any case, the government of President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada would attend to its grievances… But that didn’t happen. The so-called “Coca Talks” had no impact whatsoever. The coca growers returned to the streets and the government returned to the path of repression.

A few days ago, the Permanent Human Rights Assembly of Bolivia reported that 21 coca growers have been killed in the past five years during confrontations and blockates, and during this time more than 1,200 have been imprisoned. True to form, the methods applied by Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada to improve the image of his government that began on August 6, 2002 have included the new increase in troops belonging to the Joint Task Force, charged with the forced eradication of coca leaf, from 1,000 to 1,500 soldiers. He also increased construction of new prisons and in the Chapare added a kanine training center (all of this, as we will see, with United States financing)... and, for course, without forgetting his tasks to politcally attack Evo Morales and his allies with the permanent qualification as “terrorists” that Sánchez de Lozada and his cabinet members have given them.

In spite of it all, the coca growers have, on more than one ocassion, proposed “a real and effective alliance against narco-trafficking and not as it occurs today, when some anti-drug agencies cover-up and favor this illegal activity,” as Evo told Narco News in response to the seizure of five tons of cocaine by authorities less than a month ago.

Last week, Evo, as the spokesman of the Chapare coca growers, proposed a direct dialogue between his bases and the government of George W. Bush… yes, kind readers, a Chapare-Washington dialogue, seriously…

Who Leads in Bolivia?

In March of 2002, a man named Patrick Duddy worked in the United States Embassy in Bolivia… What did he do? Well, he attended cocktail parties (including the one in his honor when Bush named him as consul in Sao Paulo, Brazil). But, also, according to the public record, he wrote long, miniscuous, and revealing reports for the office of Secretary of State Colin Powell. In those reports, it seems that Mr. Duddy explained how the money of the taxpayers of the United States was spent by gringo bureaucrats in Bolivia… Come, kind readers, let’s look at an example of Duddy’s work… get out your pen and paper.

Thanks to a document unearthed by authentic journalist Jeremy Bigwood, through the Freedom of Information Act of the United States (FOIA), Narco News has obtained the second part of a report about the “monitoring of final use” of military resources and logistical equipment by the office of anti-drug affairs of the embassy administered by Washington in Bolivia to promote its stellar show called the “war on drugs.”

“During 2001,” the document says of the Embassy’s Narcotics Affairs Section (NAS), “NAS/LA PAZ supported twenty-eight GOB CN (Government of Bolivia Narcotics Control) Projects totaling more than thirty-five million dollars.

For what did they use so much money? The Duddy report says that it was used to buy more than 1,000 vehicles for Bolivian Armed Forces units involved, as well as 80 flights, repair and maintenance of a pair of Hercules C-130B planes donated by the U.S., some Cessna planes, to construct 14 new military bases in the Chapare, the aforementioned canine training center, 175 computers, 616 communications kits (from hand radios to relay stations)... and also to provide food, transportation, fuel, vacations, and much more for the troops… everything distributed through (and controlled by) the eight offices that the U.S. anti-drug office has in this country…

Duddy also mentioned the existence of a fleet of 16 UH-1H helicopters, the presence of military and technical advisors (from Coast Guard members to experts in logistics and communications), the reuse of vehicles seized by anti-drug operations, 280 M4 rifles mainly delivered to the Special Force to Fight Against Narco-Trafficking in the local police forces, various tractors, trailers, all-terrain vehicles, a new hangar for the Hercules plane… all put in the hands of the Armed Forces and police of Bolivia thanks to the generosity of the United States government.

Kind readers, with the information already at hand, various things are clear. The first is that a large part of the gringo “aid” was, at least in 2001, for military spending. According to the the budget proposal this year by the State Department for anti-drug activities, in 2001, Bolivia received $52 million dollars… this signifies that 70 percent went directly to repressive forces, without counting the “emergency aid” for Plan Colombia in 2000 that went to Bolivia, which was $110 million dollars…

And, well, if it results that if the gringo aid in Bolivia pays for the weapons, the uniforms, the logistics equipment, pays for the food and makes gifts of airplanes and helicopters, it thus has to maintain strict control over its donations, which it audits regularly. We see, in the approximately 12 pages of the report, that there are also some statements made by Duddy that deserve attention…

First of all, it’s worth mentioning that the report tells of “Personal use of vehicles by senior Bolivian officials in certain programs,” and that these officials “Frequently abuse the privilege of having a vehicle and use it for personal travel.”

In other words, they’re corrupt. Mr. Duddy also mentions an undetermined number of “serious vehicular accidents… that involve negligence.” That means that, beyond being corrupt, the Bolivian officials are also bad drivers. And get this fact: the central office of the NAS in La Paz saves copies in all the reports and audits… and nobody says anything about it…

Another matter of interest involved interdiction flights and, in general, all the aerial missions of the anti-drug forces in Bolivia (transportation of equipment and troops, recognissance flights, and others):

“The aviation advisor, the NAS director, and Deputy Director, approve all routine and operational missions and expenditures for the C-130B Program, only the NAS director or Deputy director can authorize non-routine missions.”

In other words: Bolivian military officials do not fly without the authorization of the U.S. Embassy’s anti-drug office… more or less the same occurs with land and water missions, where those who coordinate the work are U.S. military and anti-drug advisors.

A curious fact: In 2001, the Joint Task Force (FTC, in its Spanish initials), which was eradicating coca in Bolivia, “Consisted of 1,563 military, police and civilian personnel. One-half of the JTF eradicated illicit coca plants, while the other half provided security for the camps and in the coca fields.” Let’s look: barely 781 people are dedicated to cutting plants while 781 guard them… Could there be, behind every eradicator with a machete sickle, another with a loaded weapon just in case hundreds of coca growers armed with sticks and stones show up?

Of course, Patrick Duddy would mention the problem of the excessive rotation of military troops in the various drug war bases, for which NAS spent a lot of money to rent buses, pay drivers, and purchase gasoline to transport them… because it was the NAS that organized the transport of equipment and troops in coordination with the top U.S. military officials in this country.

The gringos “help” the Bolivians: they train, equip, give them all their airplanes, they pay them, and they don’t allow them to do anything without supervision… and they achieve minimal results. Thus, do the coca growers of the Chapare have a point when they want to open direct dialogues with the United States? To this correspondent, it seems that they do…

Evo: “We Want a Strategic Alliance”

Last Tuesday, August 26th, Evo Morales gave a press conference on the theme that “there never will be ‘zero coca’ in the Chapare. ” He said that the Six Federations of the Tropic of Cochabamba want to open a direct dialogue with the U.S. government, and he made two things very clear:

1. “To demonstrate that industrialization, and control of the sale of coca leaf that is produced in the Chapare, is viable.”

2. “To participate actively in the fight against narco-trafficking,” because there, given the enormous and efficient ability of the organizations of coca-growers unions of the region, “there will be less drugs, precursor chemicals, and narco-traffickers.”

Evo also said that if they find coca growers involved in narco-trafficking they will be unconditionally delivered to the authorities, and their lands will be confiscated. In this dialogue, said Evo Morales, more serious than ever, “reason and arguments will have to be given, not special interests and political pretentions, in order to establish a coca policy that respects local uses and customs.”

“We want a strategy for a real fight against narco-trafficking with the United States Embassy… it is much better to negotiate and dialogue with those who really make the decisions about coca leaf in Bolivia,” added Evo, while he slammed the lack of autonomy and independence of the government of Sánchez de Lozada.

And when they asked him about the failure of talks with the Bolivian government, he recalled that it wasn’t the coca growers who said no to this meeting, but, rather, it was the government. “Now, they can’t tell us not to dialogue with the owners of the circus,” he concluded. Of course, the bureaucrats of the Bolivian government belittled the proposal (and one intellectual whore on the payroll even said it would be unpatriotic)... but the gauntlet has been laid down… And Evo was certain to mention a popular phrase, because, as we just saw, the coca growers truly want to solve the coca leaf problem… and they’ve already stopped talking “to the clowns, in order to speak with the owners of the circus.” Will Bush put on the ringleader’s suit to speak with them?

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