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Bolivia and its fight against drugs without the DEA

The decision has cost the South American country a defamatory campaign and efforts by the United States to weaken the coca growers’ movement. The US does not want to accept that the Bolivian model has produced unparalleled results in terms of transparency, sovereign policy and investment of its own resources without foreign interference.


Jorge Petinaud Martinez


From 1994 to 2004, the average size of coca plantations in Bolivia was 36,000 hectares, and in 1994, 1995 and 1996 there were as many as 48,000 hectares.

In contrast, since the coming to power of the Movimiento al Socialismo-Instrumento Politico por la Soberanía de los Pueblos / MAS-IPSP (Movement Towards Socialism-Political Instrument for the Sovereignty of the Peoples) in 2006 until the coup d’etat in November 2019, this average fell to 25,792 hectares per year, “thanks to concerted eradication”. This is how Evo Morales, former Bolivian president and leader of MAS-IPSP, explains it, who claims these achievements were recognized by the international community and anti-drug organizations.

However, Morales has claimed that the United States and its Bolivian allies are promoting a campaign against the coca growers’ movement with the aim of weakening the MAS-IPSP government.

“As we have warned, the DEA’s conspiracy against leaders and senators from the Tropics is trying to denigrate the coca growers’ movement in order to weaken us politically,” Morales tweeted, warning that “the coup plotters want to strike a blow against the social base of MAS-IPSP” in order to undermine the government headed by the president, Luis Arce.

Evo said that during the period of governments subjected to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) there was more surplus coca in Bolivia.

“Without the DEA, Bolivia regained its dignity and sovereignty”, he added that “with the de facto government, a puppet of the United States, coca plantations grew to 29,400 hectares”.

It should not be forgotten that the Morales government expelled the DEA from its territory.

Removal of the DEA

On 3 November 2008, the government of President Evo Morales announced the expulsion of the DEA from Bolivian territory due to its political espionage activities and its financial support for criminal groups.

The sovereign decision was taken because that year the US anti-narcotics agency financed the occupation of airports (promoted by opposition political operators under the name of “civics”) in the departments of Santa Cruz, Pando, Beni and Tarija, when the opposition political was promoting a coup d’etat which fail ed.

In an exclusive interview with Prensa Latina-Escaner, former Bolivian Minister of the Presidency Juan Ramón Quintana stated that the ‘fourth-generation’ coup perpetrated in November 2019 was an act of revenge against the government that removed the DEA.

“The coup of 2019 cannot be understood without the illegal financing of the DEA, as an act of revenge, of retribution”.

According to Quintana, the expulsion of these US agents marked the end of the 30 or 40 years of impunity since the DEA was installed in the highland country, where its agents were involved in systematic violations of the human rights of coca growers and other actors in Bolivian political life.

“Let us not forget that they used UH-1 helicopters to machine-gun this sector of the population and that they used the National Police as their neo-colonial force to torture, kill and repress our citizens,” he says.

He adds that until “Evo Morales came to power, the DEA operated above Bolivian political jurisdictional justice, flagrantly violating national sovereignty, which was recovered with its expulsion.”

“That foreign force occupied a part of the national territory in violation of the Political Constitution of the State, and its public or covert operations were throwing the country’s sovereignty to the ground,” he explains.

“In return for their presence, the United States conditioned credits, military and police aid. It was like a sort of North American Viceroyalty that turned Bolivia into a kind of protectorate for its own interests”. “The expulsion of the DEA meant the recovery of political sovereignty, so that the state, through the executive branch, regained the capacity to make decisions in the fight against drug trafficking”.

Quintana affirms that until then Washington’s political interests prevailed over those of the Bolivian state, which with the expulsion recovered its sovereign power in the field of security.

“In other words, a process of decolonization took place in the struggle against drug trafficking. The recovery of our sovereignty ended the lie, the myth, the fallacy of the fight against drug trafficking advocated by Washington on a global scale,” he says.

After the withdrawal of the DEA, Bolivia established an objective and real policy to strike at the entire drug production chain: against the actors, the logistics, the accomplices and the cover-ups in a true strategy of combat without interference or intervention.

“All of this with the capacity for political command over the security forces and with a conception that was the antithesis of the US”, the former minister points out.

Quintana considers that the nationalization of part of the security policy allowed this phenomenon to be extended to other sectors: natural resources, strategic state companies, political power, as well as the design of a sovereign strategy to fight drug trafficking in line with the country’s interests and sovereignty.

In his opinion, all of this led to a geopolitical break in US influence in the region, as when it left Bolivia it was left without the capacity to control Brazil, Peru, Paraguay and Chile.

In addition, the former minister highlighted that the departure of the DEA brought several benefits for Bolivia, such as the country’s capacity to develop strategic alliance policies with countries in the region without US control.

In the eyes of the world

At the international level, Bolivia’s image changed, as until then the DEA had criminalized the Andean-Amazonian nation by labelling it a “narco-state” in order to legitimize its intervention.

Washington, however, began a campaign from the outside to create the image that the Plurinational State was a narcotics producer.

But this fallacious and deceitful strategy by the United States was disproved by the reports of the United Nations,” emphasizes Quintana, “which got involved through its anti-drugs agency, became involved in the policy of nationalization of this problem and accompanied the process of building consensus for the eradication of coca plantations.

“In reality, between 2006 and 2019, Evo achieved more credibility for the fight against drug trafficking [by working in] in collaboration with the United Nations and with funding from the European Union.

“The results were surprising: higher levels of seizures of narcotics during military operations, effective rationalization of surplus coca areas without the use of herbicides and zero human rights violations,” concludes Quintana.

Bolivia then became an example for exporting its own model in the fight against drug trafficking, which brought unparalleled results in light of its transparency, sovereign policy and investment of its own resources without foreign interference. (PL)

(Translated by Rene Phelvin – Email: – Photos: Puxabay

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