President Morales halts US' anti-drug agency's work in Bolivia

Other News Materials 2 November 2008 12:03 (UTC +04:00)

Bolivian President Evo Morales barred the US Drug Enforcement Adminstration from working in his country, accusing the agency of spying and providing financial support to Bolivia's conservative opposition, dpa reported.

The leftist Morales said Saturday on a visit to Chimore in Cochabamba department, an area where coca is grown, that it was a "personal decision" and he must defend Bolivia's sovereignty.

Garrison Courtney, a spokesman for the anti-drug agency, rejected Morales' accusations and said its agents had good relationships with their Bolivian counterparts.

The agency, also known as the DEA, has only advisers in Boliva who work with local authorities.

Morales' government already limited the DEA's work in Bolivia in October when it barred it from flying surveillance flights over coca-growing areas.

Coca leaves, which are used as traditional medicine and in religious ceremonies by South America's indigenous peoples, can be used to produce cocaine.

Government officials said the order by Morales, who once was the head of a coca-growers association, did not mean the US anti-drug agents would be forced to leave Bolivia.

In September, however, Morales did order US Ambassador Philip Goldberg out of the country after accusing the diplomat of supporting the opposition as Morales faced escalating anti-government protests and autonomy demands from resource-rich departments in eastern Bolivia.

The United States, meanwhile, has accused Bolivia of not doing enough to fight the production of illegal drugs.

Morales, however, said Saturday that his government had cleared 5,000 hectares of illegal coca plants from January to October.