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BRIEF

Morales: DEA Will Not Return to Bolivia

BOLIVIA / 9 NOV 2011 BY WILLIAM W. CUMMINGS EN

Bolivian President Evo Morales stated unequivocally that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will not return to Bolivia, despite a new agreement between the two countries to cooperate in the fight against drug trafficking.

"The DEA will not return because of issues of sovereignty," Morales said Tuesday 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 Alvaro Garcia Linera said he stood by the the decision to expel Goldberg and the DEA because it "saved our country from a coup d'etat."

"In no article of the agreement does it say the DEA will return," Garcia Linera said. "We do not need it. We do not need a foreign police agency of political character in our country."

Garcia 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.

See William W. Cummings' blog.

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