Morales: DEA will not return to Bolivia
LA PAZ — Bolivian President Evo Morales stated unequivocally Tuesday that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will not return to Bolivia, despite the new agreement that calls for greater cooperation in the fight against drug traffickers.
“The DEA will not return because of issues of sovereignty,” Morales said during a meeting of leaders of the Andean states in Bogota. He called Monday’s agreement one of “mutual respect,” and said, “For the first time, since the founding of Bolivia, the U.S. will respect Bolivian rule, including Bolivian laws and the constitution.”
Bolivian law permits the cultivation of coca for traditional uses, while the U.S. deems all coca cultivation illegal. Morales himself was a coca grower and a leader of the coca-farmers’ fight against DEA eradication programs.
“I was personally a victim of the DEA,” Morales said. “Armed, uniformed Americans commanded the police, commanded the armed forces. They repressed us. That is over.”
Morales expelled the DEA, and U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg, in September 2008 after accusing them of conspiring to overthrow his administration.
During a press conference Tuesday in La Paz, Vice President Álvaro García Linera said he stood by the the decision to expel Goldberg and the DEA because it, “saved our country from a coup d’état.”
“In no article of the agreement does it say the DEA will return,” García Linera said. “We do not need it. We do not need a foreign police agency of political character in our country.”
García Linera, while admitting some difficulties, said the Bolivian police, intelligence agencies and armed forces were improving their fight against drug traffickers without the help of the DEA.