Morales said he and U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia David Greenlee concurred during a nearly two-hour-long meeting Saturday at the Government Palace on the need to eliminate cocaine production.
“At least we agreed on zero cocaine,” said Morales, who was re-elected president of the coca grower's union in the central Chapare region on Tuesday.
The Bolivian leader said he also came away from the meeting confident that Washington will understand his country's need to maintain legal, but regulated, coca production.
“I have realized that (Greenlee) understands perfectly, although he did not say it, that this regulation of coca farming is important,” the Bolivian president said.
One of the most sensitive issues in U.S. relations with Bolivia is the production of coca. Poor Bolivians traditionally chew the leaf to combat hunger and the effects of altitude, and Morales has said he wants to resist coca eradication in Bolivia while cracking down on the international cartels that traffic the plant.
Morales had begun using the term “regulation” to refer to the need to control the farms, not eradicate them.
During Saturday’s meeting, Morales also said that U.S. antidrug agencies will continue operating in Bolivia “if they do not violate human rights.” On Tuesday, the coca growers' union in Chapare voted to demand the exit of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and anti-narcotics officials and any organizations with U.S. funding.
Coca grown in the Chapare is considered illegal, although a temporary agreement struck between coca farmers and former president Carlos Mesa in 2004 allowed each coca-farming family to grow 1,600 square meters (0.4 acres) of coca. Greenlee in the past has reiterated Washington's opposition to the agreement.
Bolivia is the third producer of coca and cocaine in the world, after Colombia and Peru.