LA PAZ – Bolivian President Evo Morales said he will not expel U.S. anti-narcotics agents, as sought by the coca growers who helped propel him to power, but warned foreign officials operating here to respect the nation’s sovereignty and dignity.
Coca growers gathered in the central city of Cochabamba for their annual congress voted Tuesday to ask Morales, who remains at the head of the largest growers union, to expel agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
The president said Wednesday that Bolivia should foster friendly international ties and that foreign officials should be allowed to continue operating in the Andean nation as long as they respect its laws.
He argued Bolivia needs to become better integrated with Latin America and the wider world, though emphasizing that those “relations must be oriented toward respecting dignity and sovereignty.”
Under a bilateral pact, the United States provides financial, material and technical assistance to Bolivia in battling the cocaine trade. Part of the program involves the presence of DEA agents in the central coca-growing region of Chapare.
Sources at the U.S. Em-bassy in La Paz told EFE that the request by the Chapare coca growers to boot the DEA agents prompted the mission to cancel a scheduled meeting with Bolivian anti-narcotics officials. EFE