Nearly three years after expelling the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from Bolivia, President Evo Morales continues to accuse the agency of seeking to control the drug trade for its own purposes.
In an interview with TeleSUR, Morales said that the DEA did not operate in accordance with its stated mission of combating drug trafficking while in his country, but worked to promote U.S. foreign policy interests. “The U.S. DEA did not fight against drug trafficking, they controlled it for political ends and now seeks to implicate governments who are not in accordance with the policies of developed countries," he said. The Bolivian president claimed that former DEA agents had confirmed this, though he did not name any individuals.
Morales' statement comes just days after he voiced concern over traveling to New York to attend a UN General Assembly meeting, saying he suspected that the U.S. would use the visit as an opportunity to plant drugs on his plane in an attempt to damage his reputation. As the leader told CNN en Español on Wednesday, he is afraid that the U.S. will attempt to remove him from power, as: "When presidents do not submit to the United States government, to its policies, there are coups."
While Morales has made similar accusations in the past, these recent remarks are an indication of how far Boliva-U.S. relations have deteriorated since diplomatic ties between the two countries soured in 2008. In March of this year, after his former top drug czar was arrested on drug trafficking charges, the left wing president took the opportunity to reiterate his position that U.S. anti-narcotics agents should not be invited into his country, insisting that they were instruments of "imperialism and capitalism."
In the wake of the DEA's dismissal, the Bolivian government has sought assistance in its anti-drug trafficking efforts from countries in the region such as Paraguay and Brazil. Now, it seems that the UK has also pledged to increase support for Bolivia’s efforts. According to the BBC, the British minister for Latin America, Jeremy Browne, has said the Serious Organised Crime Agency in London will coordinate more closely with counter-narcotics police in La Paz. "We are trying to reduce the demand for drugs in Britain, but we also realise that we do have a responsibility to try to reduce the supply," he said.
Meanwhile, there are some signs that the relationship between Bolivia and the U.S. could improve. As the Associated Press reported, Morales has said he is working with U.S. officials to draw up a diplomatic agreement which would normalize bilateral relations, but is still in the process of negotiating its details. Though insisting that Bolivia is keen to improve relations with the United States, he cautions that it is not willing to accept a "conspiratorial relationship."
"It's a big country that wants to impose small things on a small country. And what is it that Obama said at the last [regional OAS] summit of heads of state of the Americas? A relationship of mutual respect. That's what we want," he said.
The TeleSUR interview (in Spanish) is available below.