War on terrorism meets “War on Drugs” in Bolivia
November 9, 2001
Filed under Archives
In the name of the “War on Terrorism,” the United States has increased funding to various South American governments. The United States, in conjunction with the World Bank/IMF, is planning to increase funding to Bolivia’s anti-drug campaign “Plan Dignidad.” “Plan Dignidad” was proposed by former president Hugo Banzar in 1998 with the goal of eradicating all illegal Bolivian coca crops by 2002. It is financed completely by the United States. The U.S. gives Bolivia an additional $40 million annually to aid further in countering the flow of narcotics.
“Bolivia has done in the past two to three years what no other country has done in the drug war in Latin America,” said Manuel Rocha, U.S. ambassador to Bolivia. “In Latin America this is a success story.”
Before 1998 there were 74,360 acres of illegally grown coca in Bolivia. As of March 2001 there are only 6,600 acres left. Working through an area larger than Connecticut, soldiers have literally ripped out the coca plants on nearly 40,000 family farms.
While the government eagerly welcomes “Plan Dignidad”’s progress, farmers and their allies are voicing distress.
“Coca was taken away and the farmers were abandoned—this is not a battle won,” said Rev. Sperandio Ravasio Martinelly, pastor of Villa Tunari parish in Chapare. “It is a human tragedy for thousands of poor families with no way to support themselves now.
A family growing 1- acres of coca could make $800 or more per year. That is 2 times the income of the average farmer in Bolivia.
The Bolivian government acknowledges that eradication implementation has outpaced alternative crop development. Only ¬ to of families have received alternative crop assistance at all, according to the U.N. Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention.
However, the government embraces coca eradication as an opportunity to help all Bolivians. Bolivia’s reputation for being a “drug haven” has kept foreign investors away and limited accessibility of international loans.
Resistance organizations have sprouted up throughout the country, composed mostly of indigenous farmers. “We are not going to stop growing coca,” said Congressman Evo Morales, leader of the Federation of Coca Growers. “And we will defend ourselves from this government, which has decided to blindly obey the orders of Washington with no thought given to its own citizens.”
Protestors are planning to intensify blockades on Nov. 6. Over a dozen protestors have been killed before Nov. 6 in the blockades.