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  HOME | Bolivia

Morales: Drug Cartels Better Equipped Than Bolivian Army

LA PAZ – President Evo Morales confirmed Tuesday that drug traffickers have more technology and modern equipment than Bolivia’s police and armed forces, and he asked for help from the international community to address that deficiency.

“By now, I have taken note that ... drug trafficking has more technology than the national police, more modern equipment than the armed forces,” he said in a speech at the foreign ministry.

Morales, who remains leader of the country’s largest union of coca growers, spoke about the matter at the presentation of the delegate for Bolivia from the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, Cesar Guedes of Peru.

The Bolivian leader demanded that the U.N. coordinate international action in the fight against drug trafficking to cooperate with Bolivia, for example by providing radar and secure-communications equipment.

Bolivia, like neighboring Peru, permits cultivation of coca – the raw material of cocaine – in limited quantities for use in folk remedies, teas and Andean religious rights, but both governments maintain a hard line toward illegal drugs.

“Drug trafficking also corrupts authorities responsible for the fight against drug trafficking. An enormous crime,” Morales said Tuesday.

He accused the United States of not taking “true responsibility” in the fight, asserting that Washington uses the issue for “geopolitical interests” to make drug trafficking denunciations against leaders who are working for “the liberation of peoples.”

He also asked the producers of coca, which in its unadulterated form as coca leaf is a mild stimulated comparable to caffeine, to help fight against drug trafficking by reducing their crops.

In remarks to the press at the close of the event, the charge d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Bolivia, John Creamer, asked the Morales government “to overcome ideological differences, overcome those problems of the past” and work to mitigate the damage drug trafficking is doing.

Since he came to power in 2006, Morales – Bolivia’s first indigenous president – has defended coca leaf and its cultural, medicinal and industrial uses.

At the same time, he has pushed the fight against drug trafficking, thought he expelled U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents at the end of 2008 after accusing them of meddling in Bolivian politics.

Meanwhile, Guedes said that his appointment shows that “it is of special interest” to the UNODC once again to have an accredited representative in Bolivia and he promised the support of that office for the Morales government in the fight against drug trafficking and crime.

Guedes and Bolivian authorities have designed a five-year plan to fight drug trafficking, organized crime and corruption, a project that will demand an investment of $47.9 million, a sum that the international community will be asked to provide. EFE

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