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1980s Anti-Cocaine Efforts in Bolivia

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1980s Anti-Cocaine Efforts in Bolivia

Growth of Coca and Cocaine in Bolivia

In early 1986, Bolivia's Interior Minister, Fernando Barthelemy, was quoted as saying "growing fewer of the coca leaves from which the drug is produced could have serious results for the shattered Bolivian economy, which has become dependent on the illegal cocaine trade" because "cocaine brings in at least $450 million a year, about the same amount as legal exports."[1] In the last three years, the population of Chapare had doubled to 80,000 people.[2]

In 1972, Bolivia produced an estimated 4200 metric tons of coca, of which one-third (1400 metric tons) went to the drug trade. By 1978, the numbers climbed to 30,000 to 35,000 metric tons, with 80 percent (24,000 to 28,000) going to the illicit market.[3] Between 1973 and 1975, the price of a bale of coca leaves rose from $4 to $60.[3] By 1984, Bolivia was producing an estimated 49,000 metric tons of coca.[4]

The U.S. Funded "Leopards"

The Leopards Anti-Narcotics Squad was a 300-member police squad that was trained, equipped, and advised by the U.S. government. It was founded in 1983 and first deployed in 1984.[5][6][7] In early 1986, the Leopards destroyed a 25 acre cocaine paste facility in Ivargazama, an area that police say produces 1,1000 pounds of paste a month. However, the Leopards soon sparked anger when two members of the squad allegedly raped a local woman. The Leopards were surrounded and placed under siege by 17,000 angry farmers for three days.

1985: U.S. Ties Aid to Coca Eradication

In late 1985, newly elected president Victor Paz Estenssoro was under pressure from the U.S., which threatened to cut Bolivia's aid in half unless Bolivia could eliminate 10,000 acres of coca cultivation.[1] The government crop reduction program began in December 1985, promising farmers $350 for each hectare taken out of coca cultivation. At the time a farmer in Chapare told reporters that he earns 10 times more from coca than he could from any other crop.

Calls to cut off Bolivia's aid began prior to Paz Estenssoro's term in office, but some in the U.S. feared doing so would aid left-wing political parties' chances in Bolivia's presidential elections that year.[8] The U.S. Senate first passed a measure to tie aid to coca eradication, and the U.S. House followed up with its own measure on July 10, four days before Bolivia's presidential election.[9]

In November 1985, the Bolivian government announced an agreement with coca growers in the Chapare and Chimore regions to reduce coca cultivation by 2,500 acres.[10] Under the plan, each farmer could continue growing up to five acres, and the government would pay them $350 for each hectare (2.5 acres) they removed from coca production. Additionally, the government would "implement a U.S.-financed development plan in Chapare and Chimore that will provide electricity, roads and health and education facilities."

In addition, the government took even more direct action, employing 10 brigades of 10 workers each to manually remove coca plants. The U.S. agreed to pay the workers $140 per acre of coca removed, with a goal of removing 10,000 acres in a month. The first coca plant was removed by Interior Minister Fernando Barthelemy, causing the plot's owner to break down in tears. He was quoted as saying "Wiping out the plants on my coca farm is like killing my first-born son." Under the U.S. threat of pulling Bolivia's aid, Bolivia had until December 31 to complete the removal of 10,000 acres of coca.[11]

According to accounts from six months later, these coca eradication efforts were a failure: "Voluntary programs to replace coca with other crops have been a miserable failure. By this year, according to a 1983 US-Bolivia aid agreement, Bolivia was to have removed 10,000 acres of coca plants. To date, virtually no coca has been pulled out of the ground."[12]

1986: U.S. Troops Arrive

In April 1986, "about 300 American personnel" spent one week in Bolivia training Bolivian troops and conducting medical and dental programs in indigenous villages.[13] They were welcomed by a bomb threat at the Santa Cruz airport, "at least 300 protesters shouting anti-American slogans," and, before that, a bomb blast at "the offices of a U.S.-financed program for reducing coca production and substituting other crops."

In July, "one month after President Reagan signed a directive declaring drug trafficking a threat to national security," [14] the U.S. army returned to Bolivia, this time to assist the Leopards in a two-month effort to attack cocaine-processing plants in Beni and Chapare. The U.S. government said the troops were merely "support personnel" who are there to fly the Bolivians in their helicopters. However, the U.S. helicopter pilots were ordered to shoot back if fired upon. The U.S. military in the raids were provided with diplomatic immunity by the Bolivian government. At the time, cocaine accounted for bringing $600 million per year to Bolivia, compared to $500 million for all legal exports. The operation "[marked] the first time American troops have been deployed to combat civilians involved in the illicit drug trade."[15]

During the first few days of raids, very little was achieved. Most drug traffickers had already packed up and left before the troops arrived.[16] Columbians quoted did not expect the crackdown would reduce the amount of cocaine produced, since it is like "squeezing a balloon filled with water" - if the coca leaves were not grown in Bolivia, they would come from Peru and Columbia instead.[17]

During the U.S. troops' time in Bolivia, the price of coca fell dramatically. When it was announced that some of the troops and three of their six Black Hawk helicopters would leave October 25, the price of coca quadrupled.[18] A Cochabamba radio station said "the increase in price signaled that cocaine traffickers are preparing to gear up their activities."

As the last U.S. troops and Black Hawk helicopters pulled out November 15, the U.S. provided Bolivia with six Huey helicopters on loan to continue the drug raids. Bolivia's Information Minister, Herman Antelo, reported that "Bolivian and U.S. officials are working on a $300 million program designed to reduce coca leaf plantations from 150,000 acres to 25,000." The U.S. funded program would increase police patrols, offer farmers money to destroy coca, and purchase inputs and equipment for alternate crops. This was only expected to work if a continued crackdown on laboratories lowered coca prices so far that other crops became a better alternative to the farmers.[19]

"A product of George Bush's presidential ambitions and inter-departmental rivalry within the US government, this noisy 'collaborative operation' (six US helicopters and one Bolivian) has signally failed to decapitate the cocaine industry. After six weeks, Colonel John Taylor's troops had located seven deserted camps of the 35 listed for destruction by the DEA, captured not one gram of chlorohydrate, and detained one firm suspect - a 17 year-old passenger in a captured smuggler's aircraft whose pilot nimbly absconded into the jungle. Yet this showcase operation has succeeded in reducing the price of the (legal) coca-leaf cultivated by thousands of peasants from dollars 125 to dollars 25 a bale as well as raising fears of a future use of defoliants."[20]

In December of that year, Bolivians succeeded in destroying two processing factories, arresting three people with cocaine, money, and a car; eighteen people with either cocaine or chemicals used in making cocaine; and another 100 "suspected traffickers."[21]

Resources and Articles

Related SourceWatch Articles

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Peter McFarren, "Government May Send Troops to End Siege of Anti-narcotics Squad," The Associated Press, January 10, 1986.
  2. Peter McFarren, "Officials Say Fewer Than 100 Farmers Persist In Siege," The Associated Press, January 11, 1986.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Nicholas Gage, “Latins Now Leaders of Hard-Drug Trade,” New York Times,Apr. 21, 1975, pg. 1.
  4. Esther B. Fein, "Bolivia Offers Plan on Drugs," The New York Times, October 9, 1985.
  5. Peter McFarren, "Narcotic Unit's Involvement In Coup Attempt Slows Anti-Drug Battle," The Associated Press, July 7, 1984.
  6. Marlise Simons, "Bolivian Plot Embarrasses the U.S.," The New York Times, July 17, 1984.
  7. Peter McFarren, "Army Occupation Turns Coca Villages into Ghost Towns," The Associated Press, September 19, 1984.
  8. George Gedda, "Bolivian Police Crack Down on Smugglers, U.S. Says," The Associated Press, April 9, 1985.
  9. "United States: House Places Conditions on Aid to Bolivia, Peru," IPS-Inter Press Service, July 10, 1985.
  10. Peter McFarren, "Government, Growers Agree to Reduce Coca Leaf Production,"The Associated Press, November 9, 1985.
  11. Alberto Zuazo, "Bolivia begins drive to wipe out coca," United Press International, December 1, 1985.
  12. Mac Margolis, "Bolivian economy hooked on cocaine," Christian Science Monitor, May 14, 1986.
  13. Peter McFarren, "U.S. Military Units Begin Exercises in Cocaine Country," The Associated Press, April 28, 1986.
  14. Peter McFarren, "U.S. Military, Bolivian Police Prepare Raid on Cocaine Labs," The Associated Press, July 15, 1986.
  15. Peter McFarren, "U.S. Action Marks Shift In Dealing With Cocaine Problem," Associated Press, July 16, 1986.
  16. Kevin Noblet, "U.S.-Bolivian raids no surprise to cocaine traffickers," The Associated Press, July 19, 1986.
  17. Kevin Noblet, "U.S. And Bolivian Forces in Second Day of Raids," The Associated Press, July 19, 1986.
  18. Humberto Vacaflor, "Price of coca leaf quadruples in Bolivia," United Press International, October 16, 1986.
  19. Peter McFarren, "Last U.S. Soldiers Pull Out Of Bolivia," The Associated Press, November 15, 1986.
  20. James Dunkerly, "Third World Review: The tin miners march into history / The peaceful anti-Bolivian government protest which ended in martyrdom," The Guardian (London), September 26, 1986.
  21. Alberto Zuazo, "Two cocaine factories destroyed, 121 arrested," December 10, 1986.

External Articles

1984:

  • Peter McFarren, "Narcotic Unit's Involvement In Coup Attempt Slows Anti-Drug Battle," The Associated Press, July 7, 1984.
  • Peter McFarren, "Bolivia Reports Major Anti-Cocaine Raids," The Associated Press, August 21, 1984.
  • Joel Brinkley, "Bolivia Drug Crackdown Brews Trouble," The New York Times, September 12, 1984.
  • "Bolivia: Farmworkers on Hunger Strike to Demand Right to Grow Coca," IPS-Inter Press Service, October 30, 1984.
  • Alberto Zuazo, "Plot to assassinate U.S. ambassador uncovered," United Press International, December 7, 1984.

1985:

  • Oakland Ross, "Cultivation of coca leaves pillar of Bolivian economy," The Globe and Mail (Canada), February 26, 1985.
  • Oakland Ross, "Bolivian cocaine campaign accomplished little," The Globe and Mail (Canada), February 27, 1985.
  • "United States: Lawmakers Urge Aid Cut-Off To Drug Producing Nations," IPS-Inter Press Service, March 14, 1985.
  • Larry Margasak, "Senators Urge Pressure on Bolivia to Reduce Cocaine Production," The Associated Press, March 28, 1985.
  • George Gedda, "Bolivian Police Crack Down on Smugglers, U.S. Says," The Associated Press, April 9, 1985.
  • "United States: House Places Conditions on Aid to Bolivia, Peru," IPS-Inter Press Service, July 10, 1985.
  • "Presidential Hopefuls Avoid Cocaine Issue," The Associated Press, July 11, 1985.
  • Anne Manuel, "Latin America: Lawmakers Still Oppose Aid to Bolivia, Peru," IPS-Inter Press Service, August 20, 1985.
  • Robert Doherty, "Herbicide to kill coca being tested in Colombia," United Press International, August 29, 1985.
  • Bolivia Proposes International Fund to Buy Narcotics at Source, The Associated Press, October 8, 1985.
  • Esther B. Fein, "Bolivia Offers Plan on Drugs," The New York Times, October 9, 1985.
  • Terry Osborne, "Bolivia: Digging Out From a Financial Earthquake," IPS-Inter Press Service, October 17, 1985.
  • Cocaine earnings raise Bolivia's dollar reserves, The Toronto Star, October 21, 1985.
  • Peter McFarren, "Government, Growers Agree to Reduce Coca Leaf Production," The Associated Press, November 9, 1985.
  • Alberto Zuazo, "Bolivia begins drive to wipe out coca," United Press International, December 1, 1985.

1986:

  • Alberto Zuazo, "U.S. suspends aid to Bolivia over cocaine problem," United Press International, March 3, 1986.
  • "State Department denies aid cutoff to Bolivia," United Press International, March 4, 1986.
  • Alberto Zuazo, "Blast slightly damages U.S. Embassy in Bolivia," United Press International, March 27, 1986.
  • "Bolivia: Cocaine Trafficking Worth Five Times Exports,"IPS-Inter Press Service, April 17, 1986.
  • Peter McFarren, "Bomb Damages U.S.-backed Office Scheduled for Military Exercises," The Associated Press, April 21, 1986.
  • Peter McFarren, "U.S. Military Units Begin Exercises in Cocaine Country," The Associated Press, April 28, 1986.
  • "Bolivia: Begins Controversial Joint Maneuvers with U.S.," IPS-Inter Press Service, April 28, 1986.
  • Mac Margolis, "Bolivian economy hooked on cocaine," Christian Science Monitor, May 14, 1986.
  • Peter McFarren, "U.S. Military, Bolivian Police Prepare Raid on Cocaine Labs," The Associated Press, July 15, 1986.
  • Bradley Graham, "U.S. Army Joins Bolivian Drug Drive; Copters to Carry Local Police Unit for Interception of Cocaine at Labs," The Washington Post, July 16, 1986.
  • Joel Brinkley, "U.S. Sends Troops to Aid Bolivians in Cocaine Raids," The New York Times, July 16, 1986.
  • Peter McFarren, "U.S. Troops Arrive for Drug Operation," The Associated Press, July 17, 1986.
  • "Is this how to fight a drug war?," Christian Science Monitor, July 17, 1986.
  • Michael White, "US troops help in Bolivian crackdown on drugs traffic," The Guardian (London), July 17, 1986.
  • Joel Brinkley, "U.S. to Avoid Clashes in Bolivia Raid," The New York Times, July 17, 1986.
  • Bradley Graham, "Bolivian Runs Risk in Drug Drive," The Washington Post, July 17, 1986.
  • Peter McFarren, "U.S.-Bolivian Teams Begin Raiding Cocaine Labs," The Associated Press, July 18, 1986.
  • "Bolivia: U.S. Troop Presence Draws Fire," IPS-Inter Press Service, July 18, 1986.
  • Joel Brinkley, "Bolivia Says Its Drive on Cocaine Will Go On Until Trade is Ended," The New York Times, July 18, 1986.
  • Richard Cohen, "The Great Bolivian Drug War," The Washington Post, July 18, 1986.
  • Tom Wells, "U.S.-Bolivian Drug Drive May Not Stop Cocaine Processors," The Associated Press, July 19, 1986.
  • Kevin Noblet, "U.S.-Bolivian raids no surprise to cocaine traffickers," The Associated Press, July 19, 1986.
  • Humberto Vacaflor, "Police find biggest cocaine lab yet in Bolivia," United Press International, September 9, 1986.
  • U.S. Troops to Remain in Bolivia at Least 30 More Days, The Associated Press, September 11, 1986.
  • Shirley Christian, "Bolivia's Coca Growers: Bitterness Over Lost Crop," The New York Times, September 24, 1986.