Alex Massie

Losing (and punishing) Bolivia

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President Evo Morales of Bolivia is not everyone's cup of tea. And Bolivia remains a country that has no need to search for additional problems. That said, Morales is a voice of sanity on the subject of the Drug War. Washington's reponse? Fall into line, sonny. Or else. As Jaime Deramblum explains in (where else?) the Weekly Standard:

In November, Morales demanded that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) cease its operations in Bolivia. The DEA completed its exit from Bolivia in late January.

Before leaving office, President George W. Bush responded to Bolivia's lack of cooperation with anti-drug efforts by suspending its privileged trade status under the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA) and Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA). Both the ATPA and ATPDEA require that beneficiary countries provide a certain level of assistance to U.S. counternarcotics activities. The Bush administration was justified in suspending Bolivia's trade benefits, although its decision will have a considerable economic impact on the South American country and has been used by Morales for domestic propaganda purposes. Now the Obama administration must decide whether and when to restore those trade benefits...

ATPA trade preferences mean much more to Bolivia than they do to the United States. Before those trade preferences are restored, the Obama administration should insist that the Morales government agree to a minimum amount of anti-drug cooperation. I generally do not favor trade sanctions, but this is a special case. The terms of the ATPA and ATPDEA are quite clear. Bolivia should not be given a free pass. It is the world's third-largest coca producer, and is a key front in the war on drugs. Of course every country is a "key front" in the "war on drugs". Note too how bullying Bolivia has helped impoverish the country and boosted Morales' standing. In other words, there's no sign it's a policy that is working. But let's do it anyway! Mind you, given that this Congress is not likely to make a vritue of Free Trade this may not matter so much. Nonetheless, linking trade and drug policies seems a thoroughly misguided proposition to me.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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