Colombia and Bolivia clashed this weekend over the effectiveness of counter-narcotics strategies in the two countries.
At a meeting of coca-growers in the central Bolivian region of Cochabamba on Sunday, President Evo Morales criticized a July U.S. government survey which said that “Colombia is producing less cocaine than either Peru or Bolivia.”
The Bolivian President claimed that the U.S. government only reported Bolivia as producing more cocaine than Colombia because Colombia “accepts” U.S. military bases on its land.
“The U.S. is playing down Colombia as a country that has problems with narco-trafficking because they have military bases there, there are the North Americans commanding the armed forces of Colombia so the U.S. wants to support the country that accepts their military bases,” said Morales.
A statement from the Colombian minister for foreign affairs rejected the claims of the Bolivian president slamming the “groundless accustions” and said that the “Colombian government will stand firm in its policy to combat drugs including international cooperation.”
The U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy released the report in July which recorded a 72% drop in Colombian cocaine production since 2001, placing the country behind Peru and Bolivia.
Morales, a former coca producer, rejected the figures and said that coca plantation in Bolivia is only 76,000 acres which is less than half that of Peru or Colombia, making it “impossible for Bolivia to produce that amount of cocaine,” according to a report in Colombian newspaper El Pais.
Since Morales came to power in 2006, the coca cultivation area has allegedly increased by about a fifth, but the Bolivian government has argued that part of this is for “legal and cultural use, and eradicates what is destined for drug trafficking.”
The Colombian statement backed its approach of working in tandem with the U.S. and called for “all countries to strengthen their internal actions and cooperate with the international community in the fight against drugs, a joint effort is the most effective way to overcome this global scourge.”