Concern over jobs grows
The Bolivia Chamber of Exporters, a private sector group, estimates that more than 50,000 direct and some 150,000 indirect jobs in the export sector created under the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act, or ATPDEA, may disappear Nov. 1 as relations between Bolivia and the US falter.
The agreement, launched in 1991 for Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, has created economic incentives for the Andean nations to fight drug trafficking by allowing duty-free access to the US market for thousands of products.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2007 report on coca cultivation in the Andes found that it had increased in Bolivia just 5 percent in 2007, compared with 27 percent in Colombia. But the US Trade Representative's office says the Bolivian government has failed to close illegal coca markets and has publicly endorsed an increase in "legal" coca cultivation, which constitute grounds to suspend the ATPDEA.
Coca growers forced the US Agency for International Development (USAID) out of two provinces where it was trying to help locals find alternatives to coca. Morales, a union leader who rode a wave of support from his coca-grower base to the presidency, also barred the Drug Enforcement Administration from surveying coca fields by air, claiming he knew how to control drugs better.
But a top Bolivian official Friday accused the US of backing armed antigovernment groups in a violent jungle clash that left 15 people dead last month, including 13 of Morales's supporters.
Unreasonable US demands?