LA PAZ – The U.S. government confirmed that Bolivia has fewer coca plantations but it is producing more cocaine because drug traffickers are using a more “efficient” process known as the “Colombian method,” according to an interview published Sunday in the daily Pagina Siete.
“That is the paradox in Bolivia. There are fewer coca plantations in the past three years, but there’s more production of cocaine,” said the outgoing chief of the U.S. diplomatic mission in La Paz, charge d’affaires John Creamer, whose new post will be U.S. consul in Rio de Janeiro.
Creamer assumed leadership of the diplomatic legation in 2008 when Bolivian President Evo Morales expelled then-Ambassador Philip Goldberg, claiming that the envoy was conspiring against him.
The charge d’affaires emphasized that authorities destroyed coca cultivation – which is the basis for cocaine production – in 2009, 2010 and particularly in 2011, but at the same time, he said, drug traffickers have been found to be producing more cocaine using the Colombian method.
“They ... can obtain more cocaine with lesser quantities of coca leaves,” Creamer said, emphasizing that Bolivia’s challenge consists of maintaining its efforts to eradicate coca plantations and improving its ability to attack drug traffickers.
He also pointed to the problem of “resowing” coca plantations, which is preventing the government from achieving a definitive victory in this area.
Since Morales came to power in 2006, coca cultivation in Bolivia has increased from 25,400 hectares to 31,000 hectares (63,500 acres to 77,500 acres), according to the latest U.N. figures, which are from 2010.
Bolivia’s anti-drug law allows the legal cultivation of just 12,000 hectares (30,000 acres) of coca for traditional purposes.
Creamer also said that the United States will not support the new reservation in the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs proposed by Bolivia to the U.N. supporting “the chewing of coca leaf” because Washington believes that it places the integrity of the international anti-drug treaty in jeopardy.
Bolivia last year denounced and withdrew from the treaty but then it requested that it be modified to include the chewing of coca leaf, a request that may only be rejected if a third (63) of the 191 U.N. signatories agree.
Creamer acknowledged that he feels it will be “difficult” for that number of countries to oppose the return of Bolivia as a member of the treaty.
He also said that the anti-drug division at the U.S. Embassy will not leave Bolivia as La Paz has been saying but it will reduce its cooperation with local authorities given the decision by the government to “nationalize” the anti-drug fight.
Ninety-five percent of the cocaine seized in the United States comes from Colombia and less than 1 percent from Bolivia, which – nevertheless – supplies 60 percent of the Brazilian market, according to figures cited by Creamer.