Associated Press
Bolivian President Evo Morales

Bolivia Suspends U.S. DEA Operations

November 02, 2008 12:07 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
U.S. relations with Bolivia continue to suffer as Bolivian President Evo Morales accuses Drug Enforcement Agency workers of spying.

Morales Expels DEA; Tensions Heightening


Agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency have been accused of “doing political espionage … financing criminal groups so that they could act against authorities, even the president,” in Bolivia, Reuters reports. Evo Morales, that country’s president, has barred the DEA from operating in Bolivia, the world’s third-largest producer of cocaine.

Reuters quoted an unnamed State Department spokesman as saying: “We reject accusations that the DEA or any other U.S. government agency has supported the opposition or conspired against the Bolivian government. These accusations are false and absurd. If cooperation with the United States is suspended, more drugs will be produced in Bolivia. The resulting effects of corruption, violence and tragedy will mainly hurt Bolivia itself.”

The move is the latest example of how relationships between America and some of its South American neighbors, namely Venezuela and Bolivia, are deteriorating.

In September, Morales expelled the U.S. ambassador for allegedly helping in an opposition movement. Venezuela’s President, Hugo Chavez, then expelled the U.S. ambassador from his country, too, to support Morales, and because Chavez said the ambassador was involved in an assassination conspiracy. Both ambassadors denied the accusations.

On Sept. 14, Chavez criticized those who questioned the legitimacy of his assassination accusations. According to the Associated Press, Venezuelans are split on validity of the claims. Chavez has said he will not restore normal relations with the United States until President George W. Bush’s term is over.

Background: Russia–Venezuela relationship worries U.S.

While the United States’ relationship with countries in the region has become increasingly strained, Russia has become more friendly with Venezuela, which has raised additional concerns in the United States. Last month Russian sent ships to South America for joint manuevers with the Venezuelan military this month.

In July, Venezuela, one of the world’s main oil producers, and Russia hatched a five-year plan whereby Russian oil companies LUKoil and Gazprom will invest up to $30 billion into Venezuela’s Orinoco Basin. Also in July, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez traveled to Russia and “purchased a number of anti-aircraft systems; three ‘Varshavianka’-class submarines; 53 helicopters; and 24 Sukhoi fighter planes, with a total price tag of $4.5 billion,” according to FrontPage magazine.

Then on Sept. 10, two Russian Tu-160 “Blackjack” bombers arrived in Venezuela, allegedly to help patrol neutral waters in the Caribbean and Pacific. U.S. officials feared that the planes could have been carrying nuclear weapons; the Russian air force initially substantiated these accusations but then backtracked.

The Venezuelan government also released a statement saying that the conflict in Georgia was “planned, prepared, and ordered” by the United States in an “incitement of violence,” FrontPage reports.

Historical Context: The history of U.S.-Latin American conflict

U.S.-Latin American tension traces its roots to the Cold War, when the area was used as a “chessboard” between the United States and the Soviet Union, according to findingDulcinea, citing a report from the Daily Times of Pakistan. Since then, “left-wing ideology” has continued to take hold in the region that strives for “affluence and modernity.”

The United States declared its hegemony over Latin America in the 1823 Monroe Doctrine. The AFP claims that the United States used that doctrine to assert its control during the Cold War and, because of this, Latin American countries “are determined to have full sovereign control over their affairs.” The news agency lays out where each Latin American nation fits in the diplomatic landscape: “Currently, the moderate left wing of the region includes Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. The left-wing includes Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador. The United States’ main allies in Latin America are Colombia, which receives five billion dollars a year to fight the illegal narcotics trade, and Mexico. It also has good relations with Costa Rica.”

Related Topic: Iran enters the mix

The Russia–Venezuela alliance isn’t the only concern in the region for the United States. Iran, one of the primary foes of the Untied States, has become a major player in South America. In early September, Morales traveled to Tehran to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Morales also opted to relocate Bolivia’s only embassy in the Middle East from Cairo to Tehran, the Diplomatic Courier writes. Iran has said it will invest more than $1 billion to Bolivia’s natural gas industry.

Ahmadinejad’s relationship with Venezuela has also improved. Chavez has traveled to Iran for “no less than six visits” with the Iranian president. According to the Diplomatic Courier, “Iran has expressed no misgivings about nurturing alliances with very Catholic countries like Bolivia or Venezuela, illustrating that despite the Islamist rhetoric, policy makers in Tehran are making pragmatic calculations.”

Reference: Focus on Bolivia


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