LA PAZ, BOLIVIA
RELATIONS between the United States and Bolivia are being soured by President Jaime Paz Zamora's reluctance to order the Bolivian Army to join his country's antidrug fight, political observers say. Presidents Bush and Paz Zamora signed a treaty last May that included $33.2 million in US military aid if Bolivia agreed to requirements that include training two light infantry battalions to counter cocaine trafficking.
Signs that US patience is running out came in October. The US Embassy here announced part of the aid earmarked for the Army (about one-third of the package) would not be released unless the Army took an active role. ``We can't wait years for the decision on the entry of the Army,'' a US Embassy official says.
The Bolivian government has long argued that the Army would only intervene if the 1,000-strong antidrug police, known as UMOPAR, proved unable to fight the problem. Even then, the Army would only have a logistical support role, officials say.
But the government assurances have not persuaded leaders among the country's 60,000 coca growers, who argue the government is bowing to US pressure to ``militarize'' the problem.
At a demonstration Nov. 17 in the Chapare coca-growing region, 360 miles east of La Paz, coca union leaders threatened to march on La Paz if the government sends the Army.
``We are not going to permit militarization, because we are not the criminals and thieves who rob the dollars given from abroad,'' Segundino Montevilla, a peasant leader, told the 10,000 coca farmers at the demonstration.
US officials, however, are delighted with Bolivian progress on another drug front - coca eradication. Approximately $18 million is already safely deposited in the Bolivian Central Bank as a reward for the government reaching this year's target of 15,000 acres. Last year, the US Congress suspended $5.9 million in economic support funds when Bolivia only met less than half of its target of 6,250 acres.
In the 12 months since November 1989, the government has eradicated about 20,000 acres of coca, equivalent to one-fifth of all coca grown in the Chapare, the world's second-largest coca-growing area. It is not known how much new coca has been planted in more remote areas.