November 23, 2001
Narco News 2001
Talks Begin but
National Coca Summit
Begins Today, Mediated by the Catholic Church
protests and blockades forced the government to suspend eradication
and withdraw 4,000 troops from the Chapare region
Embassy opposes the suspension; Bush calls Bolivian president
to Washington woodshed; presidents will meet on December 6th
Unrest in the Military:
Colonel accuses US Embassy of forming paramilitary mercenaries
with "the most racist commanders" to bypass Bolivian
Army because it is "90 percent indigenous"
Evo Morales: Bolivian Law 1008 specifically allows a "cato
of coca" (a 40 by 40 meter garden) per family in the Chapare
hardliners insist on resuming eradication on Wednesday, regardless
of the results of the talks
Indigenous leader El
Mallku threatens "Christmas Blockades," to surround
the capital of La Paz
Toll of 53 deaths, 500
wounded, due to US-imposed anti-coca policy
A Narco News Global Alert
Sometimes the lack of
press coverage in the
United States of the immediate history in our América
suggests that a story is too important to be told. Some news
has consequences to manufactured public illusions. Such is the
case with the news, this month, from Bolivia.
The US-imposed drug policy
of eradicating the coca plant, even for use as a food and sacrament
by indigenous farmers, is a rotund failure that has only succeeded
in destroying the economy of a nation, and it has destabilized
the US-backed regime of Bolivian President Jorge "Tuto"
recent days, Narco News has translated reports that indicate
on the verge of social uprising and that members
of the United States Congress are concerned about the price in human rights, militarization,
democracy and justice exacted by the drug policies demanded by
the US Ambassador in La Paz, Manuel Rocha.
United States press agencies
- despite loud self-praise of "having rediscovered foreign
news" post-9/11 - are not reporting the story.
Surely, it was news when
the Quiroga regime sent 4,000 military and police troops to the
Chapare region this month to forcibly eradicate coca.
It was news when the Bolivian
press discovered that 500 illegal paramilitary forces were among
those troops, and documented that they are funded by the United
States, to do the dirty work of assassinating peasant farmers
and social activists.
It was news when nine
farmers were assassinated.
It was news when US Ambassador
Manuel Rocha praised the bloodshed, in the Spanish-language press,
as "heroic" and "sacrificial."
It was news when the farmers
of the Chapare region of Bolivia announced plans to blockade
the nation's highways in protest of the military invasion.
It was news when other
social movements, including 250,000 retirees, joined in the social
All this was, and remains,
the news of recent days, that goes unreported in the commercial
Even now, when the Bolivian
government, defeated by the popular protests, its economy in
shambles, withdraws 4,000 troops from the Chapare region and
suspends the forced eradication of coca, there has so far been
no mention of the details in the US press.
Alone among the English-language
press has been the French wire service, Agence France Press,
with a report that appears below. But AP, UPI, Reuters, the New
York Times (with at least three correspondents in South America),
the Washington Post, the LA Times, CNN and the rest have chosen
to ignore the fact that one of three coca-growing countries in
South America has now suspended the program that eradicates coca
plants because of popular protests against the policy.
The subplot is that the
US embassy is hopping mad at the decision to suspend eradication,
has begun behind-the-scenes pressure tactics against the democratic
institutions of Bolivia, and that President George Bush has called
Bolivian president Jorge Quiroga to Washington on December 6th
to reiterate the US position that, when democracy conflicts with
drug policies imposed by the US, democracy must be stopped at
Here is the hard news
and immediate history from Bolivia.
From somewhere in a country
Al Giordano, publisher
The Narco News Bulletin
From Agence France-Presse,
November 22, 2001:
The Bolivian government
and unions representing
coca growers reached a peace deal Wednesday, agreeing to an end
to road blocks by protesters, demilitarization of the coca- growing
Chapare region and a pause in the eradication of illegal coca
plantations, officials from both sides said.
lawmakers, representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and activists,
also agreed to hold a "coca summit" this month, Interior
Minister Leopoldo Fernandez said.
Lawmaker Evo Morales,
who has acted as the coca-growers' leader, said he had ordered
a halt to road blocks on Bolivia 's main highway, the scene of
repeated and sometimes deadly clashes between protesters and
The nearly 35,000 families
who make their livelihood from growing coca -- the plant that
is the base ingredient of cocaine -- have been demonstrating
periodically over the last 18 months, demanding an end to the
coca eradication program.
Radio reports from the
region said the local population had greeted news of the accord
with jubilation, expressing hope that life in Chapare will now
return to normal.
Two weeks of clashes between
protesters and security forces have left three people dead and
at least 30 others wounded over the past two weeks.
The conflict has claimed
53 lives in the past four years while 500 people have been wounded....
From the daily Los
Tiempos/La Prensa news agency
Cochabamba, November 22, 2001
Translated by The Narco
Forces Do the
Work in Chapare
Expeditionary Task Force that entered the
is infiltrated by "mercenaries"
The High Commander of the Armed Forces has problems.
A retired colonel, that is spokesman for a group of officers,
denounced that the Expeditionary Task-Force is infiltrated by
"mercenaries" that do the "dirty work" in
the Chapare and are commanded by racist officers.
The existence of the Expeditionary
Forces was denounced by the Public Defender, Ana Maria Romero
de Campero. She said that it's about "mercenaries"
recruited by the Army who violate the human rights of the farmers
who produce coca.
Up until now, the High
Military Command has not directly justified the creation of these
forces, taking into account that an order from the Minister of
Defense and the approval of the National Congress would be required.
The colonel interviewed
said he would prefer to run the risk of speaking about the "expeditionaries"
than maintain a complicit silence.
Q. When was the Expeditionary Task Force created?
A. The idea has been thought about for some time.
But this process was made concrete in December of last year and
January of this year, when between 1,000 and 2,000 persons were
recruited, I believe, for this mission. The argument was that
it "would not be good to compromise the institution with
Q. Why does the Army need a special force like this
A. At the international level, indigenous or ethnic
uprisings have started by identified as a "new threat"
to the political system, apart from terrorism, drug trafficking
or subversion. And in the face of this "new threat,"
the Army of a country needs to take on "new roles."
Q. Where in the international discussion has this
supposed "new threat" been identified?
A. In short, this came already prepared from the
United States. The military chiefs don't command anything here.
They receive all their instructions from the Embassy.
The North Americans believe
they can't trust the Army because 90 percent of the troops are
of Aymara, Quecha, or Guaraní indigenous origen. Among
the officers, fifty percent are of indigenous origen.
Q. But then, who belongs to the Expeditionary Forces,
if not the same soldiers?
A. The most reactionary, racist and notoriously discriminatory
officers. There are civilians among the troops, but those that
command are members of the Army. For example, there are officials
there that were in the reserves, known for conducting the massacre
of Garcia Meza.
Q. How do the military officials view the creation
of this expeditionary force?
A. The expeditionaries are now a para-police force.
The active officials absolutely reject that. It's that this mercenary
force has been created to substitute the Army. The bad feeling
has had repercussions in the form of a lack of discipline.
Q. A lack of discipline on the Army Bases?
A. In the Chapare, there have been examples of soldiers
and officers being mistreated. They live in large tents, clothes
and food arrive late, they live, really, in the conditions of
the poor. Oh, when those soldiers begin to discuss this openly!
Nobody pays any attention to the commanders. The officers are
Q. Are the expeditionary forces treated better?
A. I don't know if they are paid $1,000 dollars a
month as I read somewhere. I don't think so. What I know is that
they are contracted through the Minister of Defense and the Interior
Minister. The commander of the Army (General Juan Hurtado) knows
all of this. Maybe the NAS (the US anti-drug agency) doesn't
pay for all of it. Maybe they are also paid through the National
Budget. It could be anything because what the Embassy says, goes.
Q. Are there rules that define the limits of the expeditionary
A. There should be, but I don't know. The Army shouldn't
even be used for tasks of domestic security. Before accepting
that the police have been overwhelmed, the government should
give the police all the equipment, uniforms and weapons they
The mercenaries work with
high-caliber weapons. It's function is to repress and to punish.
The soldier of the Army is inhibited from doing that.
Plea of the Defender
The Public Defender, Ana Maria Romero, awaits an explanation
from the Armed Forces about the formation, legal grounds, command
system and realm of the activity of the Expeditionary Task Force
in the Chapare.
The defender's office
solicited a written report from the Expeditionary Forces commander,
Colonel Aurelio Burgos.
The official then passed
the petition along to his superiors.
The Armed Forces should
state the constitutional, legal or administrative rules that
allow the creation of the expeditionary forces, detailing the
area of action that they are involved in, the specific line of
command on which they depend, the geographic area in which they
operate and the mechanism for contracting the recruits.
The ex Defense Minister,
Oscar Vargas, has said that there is nothing illegal about the
creation of the "expeditionaries."
From the daily Los
November 24, 2001
Translated by The Narco
in the Chapare:
comes the Coca Summit
By Norman Chinchilla
And the white smoke signal
rose from Chapare.
After 18 days of conflict and more than eight hours of talks,
a National Coca Summit will have to find a solution to the problems
that bother the coca growers, as well as resolve the demand of
a cato (a 40 by 40 meter garden) of coca per family.
This solution cannot be
called definitive, but the Cochabamba tropic has returned to
its normal tranquility, because the coca growers agreed to suspend
their intents to blockade the highway and the government withdrew
police and military troops to their bases in the Chapare, as
well as suspended the task of eradication while the national
meeting is prepared by the Catholic Church and the Public Defender.
These are the conclusions
that ended the negotiation between governmental authorities and
coca growers leaders Wednesday in Shinahota.
The Interior Minister
Leopoldo Fernandez and Defense Minister Oscar Guilarte arrived
in Shinahota yesterday, a little after 10:30 a.m. to begin talks
with the coca growers
The proposal to hold a
"national coca summit" was proposed by the Interior
Minister, after having listened for more than three hours to
the complaints of various men and women, including one child,
who suffer difficulties of being unable to bring their agricultural
products to market and due to the conflict in the region that,
in the past two weeks, has become "a war of soldiers against
coca growers," as the child, crying, defined it
The Church is in charge
of organizing the summit, to be held in the city of Cochabamba
October 15: The deadline
given by the coca growers for the government to respond to their
plea for the legal cultivation of a cato of coca per family.
October 18: An assembly
of coca growers decides to begin a blockade on November 6th.
The government, little by little, sends military and police troops
to conduct "dissuasion tasks" (psychological warfare).
President "Tuto" Quiroga announces an iron fist policy
in the Chapare.
November 6: Military and
police forces impede the blockade and traffic moves. Coca growers
leader Evo Morales is stopped from leaving the town of Eterazama,
where he remains until the end of the conflict.
November 9: A massacre
in El Chalco of six landless peasants creates momentum on the
side of the coca growers of Chapare.
November 13: President
Jorge Quiroga visits the bishops meeting in Casa Maurer in Cochabamba.
The Church pleas for the Chapare to be made a priority.
November 14: The Church
insists on talks in Chapare. The Armed Forces admit the existence
of "hit men" (members of the Expeditionary Task Force)
November 15: A confrontation
between coca growers and military soldiers causes three deaths
(of the growers) in the town of Senda 6 from bullet wounds. Eight
more coca growers are wounded. The conflicts increase.
November 25, 2001
From the daily La Razon,
La Paz, Bolivia
Translated by The Narco
The warning, by the government, to resume the eradication of
coca on Wednesday, has been met by an announcement by the coca
growers that they will resume their vigils at the encampments
of the eradicators. In this climate of confrontation, today the
talks about coca and economic development of the region will
begin at 9 a.m.
A pilgrimage to the Christ
of Concordia and a mass will precede the opening of the meeting
that continues to cause worry in governmental agencies connected
to the anti-drug fight and also to the Embassy of the United
States, that, according to the Governmental Commission of the
House of Representatives, has also been invited to participate
in the sessions that will be held at Don Bosco college
Congressman Roberto Fernández,
of the House Commission on Government, warned that if the dialogue
fails it will be the responsibility of the government for intransigence
in the talks, by having ordered a deadline of Tuesday to find
solutions for the region.
The talks will be conducted
behind closed doors.
from the daily Opinion,
November 25, 2001
Translated by The Narco
of Coca" is the
Obligated by Talks
disagreements over the production of coca in the Chapare, the
government and coca growers sit down at the same table to seek
peace in the Chapare and in the country
After a long conflict and with the fear of a rupture
at any moment, the Coca Summit begins today in the coliseum of
Don Bosco college of Cochabamba, under tight security. The mediators
- the Church, the Public Defender and the Human Rights Assembly
- have elaborated rules for the talks that seek an understanding
between the parties to the conflict, said the Archbishop's press
secretary Mariluz Bustamante.
The start of the anticipated
meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Sunday. The mediators selected
are Monsignor Tito Solari for the Catholic Church, Public Defender
Ana Maria Romero de Campero and the president of the Bolivian
Human Rights Assembly, Waldo Albarracín. The attendance
of the Interior Minister, Leopoldo Fernández, is confirmed.
He will arrive to this city accompanied by two other ministers
whose names and positions have not yet been announced. Representing
the coca growers, logically, will be Congressman Evo Morales,
but he will arrive accompanied by various leaders directly involved
in the problem in the Chapare. The list of names had not yet
been received yesterday by the Archbishop.
cato of coca and Law 1008
Coca is the obligatory
issue that will be dealt with in the talks that begin this Sunday
in Cochabamba. The government and the leaders of the sector,
plus private businesspeople and Civil Society in the region will
give their points of view.
The president's office
insists on a position that will not permit even a centimeter
of coca to be cultivated in the Chapare. It remains to be seen
if it is necessary to reiterate that on the first day of the
talks that will be on the theme of Law 1008. The coca producers
assure that the same Law 1008 allows it, because Article 12 "recognizes
the small producers of coca in regions A and B," which corresponds
to La Paz and Cochabamba, including the Chapare, said growers
leader Leonilda Zurita. The debate will center upon coca and
economic development for the state of Cochabamba. The application
of Law 1008 in the region generates divergent positions between
the coca growers and the government. The growers acknowledge
and back Law 1008, because they consider that it guarantees protection
to the small coca producers. The government has a different vision.
"Thus, the first day will be dedicated to analyzing these
two positions and we will have to come to a conclusion,"
said Public Defender Ana Maria de Campero. The meetings that
begin on Sunday will concentrate on the issue of the Chapare
and from there suggestions for future talks or investigations
will come, said the Public Defender.
Pact Until the End
From the daily La Prensa
November 24, 2001
Translated by The Narco
"The president's chief
of staff would like
to speak with the Interior Minister, please." Leopoldo Fernandez,
the Interior Minister, took the telephone while his aide asked
everyone to leave the room, including the secretary of the deputy
mayor of Shinahota. The problem was serious. The first agreement
with the coca growers did not have the US Embassy's permission.
Wednesday, November 21:
There was a heat-wave in the Chapare, in spite of a storm that
could not turn off the oven that was the Cochabamba tropic at
The contact between Murillo
Plaza and the street of this Chapare town was constant.
A journalist who traveled
from La Paz and awaited a telephone call from his media commented
that, on at least two occasions, the president's chief of staff
had asked him to speak with Interior Minister Fernandez.
The matter was extremely
delicate, because the minister sent to the Chapare had already
admitted the possibility of suspending coca eradication for some
days in the region.
While the Minister spoke
with the capital of La Paz, the coca growers advisor Filemon
Escobar left the meeting, smiling. He was the first to comment
that the government had agreed to suspend the destruction of
There was incredulity
among the journalists, because Fernandez - just minutes before
meeting with the farmers' leadership and the government commission
- had said that the elimination of the crops was not negotiable.
The government's Minister of Information, Mauro Bertero, had
said the same thing.
The gestures made by the
government negotiator remained unauthorized by the government.
Representatives of the
United States delegation were in constant contact with the Quemado
Presidential Palace. The potential suspension of the destruction
of the coca bush and a possible negotiation that would allow
a cato (40 by 40 meter garden) of coca per family were unacceptable.
It is the US government
that economically sustains a grand part of the anti-drug fight
in the country.
It is with resources from
that country that the troops of the Expeditionary Task Force
are paid, a unit that - according to the explanation of the Military
Command - was created to participate in the elimination of coca
The necessity to bring
peace to the Chapare was urgent. That necessity was felt by Minister
Fernandez in the place of the conflict, but not hundreds of kilometers
from there. The Interior Minister explained that there was no
other alternative. It was accepted unwillingly.
The day after the agreement,
he called a press conference in the lobby of his office, but
not in the National Palace.
It was known that the
president's office - through Bertero - tried to influence the
statement that Fernandez read to the press.
The objective of the communiqué
was clear: To establish Tuesday as the last day of the suspension
In this light, it was
proposed that the meeting begin yesterday and continue until
During his meeting with
the journalists, Fernandez was visibly tired. The circles under
his red eyes revealed that he had slept little the night before.
After arriving in the
capital from Chapare, Fernandez continued working. It was the
moment to convince the Embassy of the need to have the agreement.
The government knows that
the most likely outcome is that agreement will not be reached,
but it seeks to demonstrate to the country that Evo Morales and
his people don't have the will to find solutions. The objective
seems to be to isolate Evo Morales even more.
The mediators of the coca
talks are not ready to accept absolute deadlines and if the issues
are not resolved by Tuesday, they will ask that it be extended.
However, the authorities
don't seem disposed to accept an extension of the talks. And
the Government Information Minister Mauro Bertero said that the
deadline is Tuesday and that the eradication will resume then
no matter what happens in the talks.
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