Monday, November 10, 2008

LATIN AMERICA REBELS AGAINST U.S. DRUG WAR MESSING WITH THEIR COUNTRIES

Christian Science Monitor - Bolivia has given US Drug Enforcement Administration officers three months to leave the country - claiming that agents were stirring up political strife in the deeply divided nation.

This fall, Ecuadorians voted yes to a new Constitution that calls for the closure by next year of one of the most important US operations in its war against drugs.

And for the fourth year in a row, Venezuela was singled out by President Bush - as was Bolivia for the first time - for having "failed demonstrably" in antidrug cooperation. . .

Early this month, Bolivian President Evo Morales, the nation's first indigenous leader who rose to power as head of the coca grower's federation, expelled the DEA, claiming that agents were stoking divisions in a country already violently divided over a new Constitution that seeks more state control over energy resources and more recognition for the indigenous.

"There were DEA agents who worked to conduct political espionage and to fund criminal groups so they could launch attacks on the lives of authorities, if not the president," Mr. Morales said last week

The DEA calls the claims baseless. "We go after drug traffickers.… We don't get involved in things outside our lane," says Garrison Courtney, spokesperson for the DEA. "These are really silly accusations."

The DEA presence in Venezuela has also been dramatically reduced in the past 18 months, according to State Department officials who characterize the reduction as evidence of Venezuela's weak support for international antinarcotics effort.

And Ecuador announced it will not renew the 10-year lease at the Manta airbase, one of the US's most significant operation zones in the region since 1999. President Rafael Correa, who promised in his campaign to close the base, calls it a matter of reciprocity. During a visit to Italy last year, he joked that if the US wanted its base, it would have to allow an Ecuadorian base in Miami.

The closure of Manta "will leave a serious gap in our abilities to monitor antinarcotics operations in the eastern Pacific," says one administration official who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

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