Bolivia says won't let U.S. anti-drug agents return
LA PAZ (Reuters) - Bolivia, the world's No. 3 cocaine producer, said on Monday it would not let U.S. anti-drug agents return even as government officials work with Washington on a plan to fight the narcotics trade.
Bolivia and the United States agreed earlier this month to patch up their differences and restore full diplomatic relations three years after the Andean nation's leftist president threw out the American ambassador and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents.
As part of that agreement, they pledged to work together to tackle illegal drug production and trafficking, but Government Minister Wilfredo Chavez said the DEA staff would not be allowed back into the Andean country.
"The DEA is not going to return because of the effect they've had on the country, for the role they've played," Chavez said as he outlined an anti-drug plan being negotiated with neighboring Brazil and the United States.
Bolivian President Evo Morales, a former coca leaf farmer and fierce critic of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America, has repeatedly accused the DEA of conspiring with his rightist political rivals.
Chavez played down the scope of the plan under discussion, saying it had "a much more operational focus" and would include digital monitoring of coca crops.
The accord was due to be signed last week but Chavez said Bolivia had asked for some last-minute revisions to the document in order to guarantee "absolute and total control" over the fight against drugs in its territory.
Bolivia is the world's third-biggest producer of cocaine after Colombia and Peru and coca elimination programs have been outpaced by the spread of new crops, sounding alarm bells in neighboring Brazil as well as the United States.
Both countries are important markets for cocaine.
(Reporting by Carlos Alberto Quiroga; Writing by Helen Popper; Editing by Bill Trott)