- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 18, 2008


President Evo Morales is leveling a barrage of accusations against the United States and expelling U.S. officials in the waning days of the Bush administration, steps that opponents fear foreshadow a big increase in drug trafficking.

Though Mr. Morales’ charges have not been substantiated, they reflect the degree to which his government relies on anti-American sentiment to maintain its popularity.

“First it was the U.S. ambassador, then it was USAID, then it was the DEA and now it’s the CIA,” Mr. Morales said recently, referring to the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

“We are going to go after them the same way that they have been after me,” said Mr. Morales, who accused the CIA of giving money to Santa Cruz Gov. Ruben Costas to finance a regional revolt.

Mr. Morales made the charges last week as his government prepared to fire 700 police officers in a purge of the national security services.

He did not go as far as his Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chavez, who claims the U.S. wants to assassinate him.

But the charges potentially affect any American who lives in or plans to visit Bolivia.

“CIA agents are entering the country disguised as American tourists,” said Juan Ramon Quintana, a top Morales aide who holds the title “presidency minister.”

Mr. Morales arrived at U.N. headquarters in New York Monday with yet another defiant message for the United States.

He said he wants improved relations with President-elect Barack Obama but will never allow the DEA to return to his country, accusing it of “political aggression.”

He said his government is setting up an intelligence operation to fight trafficking itself, but that Bolivia would wage a campaign to remove the coca leaf from the U.N. list of prohibited drugs.

Coca leaves are used to make cocaine. Peasants in the high Andes also chew the leaves or drink tea brewed from the leaves to stave off hunger and to cope with high altitude.

Mr. Morales had been under growing pressure from peasant groups and syndicates of coca farmers, who form the grass-roots base of his ruling Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party, to terminate U.S. anti-drug operations.

In May, the threat of violence by coca growers from the Chapare region against USAID forced aid workers to leave.

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