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In Latin America, leftist leaders evict US drug warriors

Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela push back on US operations.

Taking note: Bolivian soldiers attended a ceremony Nov. 1 at which President Evo Morales celebrated the eradication of some 12,300 acres of coca farms this year in Chimore.

David Mercado/Reuters

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Bolivia has given US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officers three months to leave the country – claiming that agents were stirring up political strife in the deeply divided nation.

This fall, Ecuadorians voted yes to a new Constitution that calls for the closure by next year of one of the most important US operations in its war against drugs.

And for the fourth year in a row, Venezuela was singled out by President Bush – as was Bolivia for the first time – for having "failed demonstrably" in antidrug cooperation.

The US has long had a presence in Latin America to stem the northward drug flow; Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia are the world's largest cocaine producers. The US still boasts strong partnerships with many countries, such as Colombia and Mexico. But in others, particularly those led by leftists who have risen in collective condemnation of Washington, leaders are increasingly severing ties.

Their push for more self-determination could represent an opportunity to improve a strategy seen by many as a failure, says Kathryn Ledebur, director of the Andean Information Network in Bolivia.

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