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Bolivians worry spat with US could kill jobs

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Just weeks after both countries expelled their respective ambassadors over a failure to cooperate on a range of issues, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced Thursday that the US is suspending a trade deal with Bolivia because Mr. Morales has failed to improve Bolivia's antidrug efforts.

"We don't have to be afraid of an economic blockade by the United States against the Bolivian people," said Morales. But the suspension will cost 20,000 Bolivian jobs and $150 million a year, according to his own government's estimates. And Morales's defiance is so far failing to alleviate the concerns of average Bolivians like Targui.

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.

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