Iran will provide training and equipment to Bolivia’s anti-drug task force, demonstrating Bolivia’s determination to look beyond the United States for allies in its fight against drug trafficking.
On June 20, President Evo Morales of Bolivia and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad signed a bilateral agreement to strengthen the Andean country’s fight against drugs, during the Iranian leader's South America visit. The pact is geared at decreasing the production, distribution, trafficking and abuse of drugs in Bolivia, explained Bolivia’s El Diario.
According to drug czar Felipe Caceres, cited in El Nuevo Herald, the agreement specified that the Iranian military will train 10 anti-narcotics officers in intelligence and planning operations. Iran will also provide communications equipment for Bolivia’s anti-drug task force.
It is not yet clear when or where the training will take place.
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In the past, the United States had been heavily involved in anti-drug efforts in Bolivia. However, in 2008, Morales expelled representatives from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), accusing them of supporting opposition leaders against the Morales administration. Diplomatic relations with the US were only re-established in 2011.
Bolivia has turned to nations other than the US to support its fight against drug trafficking. In January 2012, Bolivia made a coca monitoring deal with the US and Brazil, relying on the US for equipment and training while turning to its South American neighbor for satellite imagery and analysis. According to the Miami Herald, Brazil has also provided Bolivia with reconnaissance drones to locate cocaine processing labs.
This agreement between Bolivia and Iran is yet another indicator that Bolivia is seeking new allies in its counternarcotics operations. Bolivia established diplomatic relations with Iran in 2006, and this is the third time Ahmadinejad has visited the South American country since then.
Iran has built closer ties to several Latin American countries in recent years, particularly Venezuela, a close Bolivian ally. On June 18, El Nuevo Herald reported that Iran had been providing Venezuela with drones. There is also a fear, so far with little evidence to support it, that Iran has been funding Hezbollah operations in Latin America.