Bolivia's Morales Won't Reconsider DEA Expulsion to Court Obama
By Bill Varner
Nov. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Bolivian President Evo Morales said he won't reconsider allowing the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to remain in the country as a way to improve relations with the future American President Barack Obama.
Morales last week gave the DEA three months, as of Nov. 1, to leave the country, saying the agency was helping to undermine the Bolivian government. The accusations are "false and absurd," the U.S. embassy in La Paz said.
"The DEA will not return while I am president," Morales told reporters at the United Nations in New York. "That does not mean I am breaking relations with the United States. I want to improve things, but cooperation should not be conditional on other factors. There has to be respect for one government to another."
Morales spoke to reporters after delivering a speech to the UN General Assembly in which he criticized the Group of 20 nations' response in Washington last weekend to the global recession. The solution to the crisis, he said was to abandon the "neo-liberal and capitalist system" and allow all of the 192 UN member governments to contribute to a restructuring of global trade and financial regulation.
"The world has started to change," Morales, 49, said in reference to the election of Obama, an African-American, as the next president of the U.S. "There is an indigenous president of Bolivia and a black man president of the United States. We have a lot of things in common if we are talking about change, because I have a lot of experience with change, and it would be good to exchange experiences with the new president."
Morales, whose government allocated about $20 million to drug eradication efforts in 2009, said Bolivia is prepared to buy helicopters from European nations to carry out its own anti-drug campaign. He said he would also seek to have the coca leaf removed from the UN list of prohibited drugs in order to protect traditional consumption by Indians in the region.
Bolivia is the world's third-biggest producer of coca, the main ingredient for cocaine, after Colombia and Peru. The U.S. is the world's largest cocaine consumer.
"If there were no markets for cocaine in the U.S. and other countries there would not be this diversion of the coca leaf to cocaine," Morales said. "I regret that the DEA does not recognize this."
He said Bolivia, which has the second largest natural gas reserves in South America, `trusts" that the price of oil won't fall any further, is "prepared" for any impact of the global recession. The government can rely on $8 billion in foreign currency reserves, Morales said.
Bolivia's Central Bank reserves fell $181 million, or about 2 percent, from September 30, when the reserves totaled $7.8 billion, to November 12 as the demand for foreign currency increased in the Andean nation, a Bolivian Central Bank press release said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Bill Varner at the United Nations at firstname.lastname@example.org