Tuesday, December 2, 2008

MORALES DUMPS DEA AGENTS WORKING IN BOLIVIA

Al Jazeera Bolivia's president has suspended the work of agents from the US Drug Enforcement Administration, accusing them of spying inside Bolivia. Speaking in the coca-producing region of Chimore in central Chapare province on Saturday, Evo Morales said the US agency had supported the opposition and encouraged political violence that left 19 people dead. Morales said, "There were DEA agents that were doing political espionage ... financing criminal groups so that they could act against authorities, even the president."

He also directly accused DEA officials of disrupting government activities during the unrest in five of the country's nine departments in September by "funding civic leaders with the aim of sabotaging airports in eastern Bolivia ... to prevent visits from officials."

Relations with the United States have been tense since La Paz expelled the US ambassador in September after accusing him of encouraging divisions by offering support to opposition figures.

Bolivia is the world's third-largest cocaine producer after Colombia and Peru. The coca plant, from which cocaine is derived, has many uses in traditional Andean culture.

Morales was the leader of the Bolivian coca-growers union before becoming the country's first indigenous president. Bolivian police, working with DEA agents, have dramatically increased their cocaine seizures under Morales.

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