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Bolivia leader: US 'commands' Colombia's military

04 september 2012, 10:47
Bolivia President Evo Morales. ©REUTERS
Bolivia President Evo Morales. ©REUTERS
Bolivia President Evo Morales accused the US military of commanding Colombia's armed forces and of having a military base in the South American country, in a televised speech Sunday, AFP reports.

Morales was responding angrily to recent US figures that indicate Bolivia and Peru have surpassed Colombia as the world's biggest cocaine producers.

"Sure, Colombia is being downplayed as a country that has a drug problem -- because there is a US military base, there are Americans commanding the Armed Forces of Colombia," the president said in a speech to coca growers unions in Lauca N, about 650 kilometers (400 miles) from La Paz.

Washington "wants to praise the country where they have accepted US military bases," he said. In fact, there is no longer a US base in Colombia, but US military involvement is massive.

In 2008, Morales, a leftist and harsh critic of the United States, expelled representatives of the US Drug Enforcement Administration and USAID, as well the US ambassador, whom he accused of meddling in internal affairs.

The United States provided some $5.2 billion in anti-drug aid to Andean countries between 2006 and 2011, of which around 76 percent went to Colombia.

Peru received $659 million, while some $366 million went to Bolivia and $233 million to Ecuador.

Since 2009, Bolivia's constitution has described coca as a "cultural heritage, a renewable natural resource" and a key biodiversity element that helps maintain "Bolivian social cohesion."

Although the leaf can be processed into cocaine, it is also an age-old keystone of indigenous Andean culture, chewed to fight altitude sickness, taken as a tea and used in religious ceremonies.

But according to the United Nations, Bolivian are cultivating some 31,000 hectares (120 square miles) of coca plantations, more than double the amount allowed by Bolivian law.

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