AG MINISTER SEEKS ENHANCED BILATERAL COOPERATION

Código Fecha Clasificación Origen
07LAPAZ914 5 April 2007 Solo uso oficial Embassy La Paz

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UNCLAS LA PAZ 000914

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR, ECON, PREL, PGOV, BL
SUBJECT: AG MINISTER SEEKS ENHANCED BILATERAL COOPERATION

REF: 06 LA PAZ 3096


SUMMARY


1. (SBU) In an April 4 meeting with the Ambassador,
Agriculture Minister Susana Rivero sought enhanced bilateral
cooperation, noting that assistance could help ensure the
success of a comprehensive agricultural development plan.
Rivero touched briefly on new GOB efforts to "rationalize"
coca, noting that this was a move she supported, but deferred
to Vice Minister of Coca and Alternative Development Felix
Barra, who also attended the meeting. The Ambassador assured
Rivero of USG commitment to bilateral assistance and said the
GOB needed to demonstrate quickly to a skeptical audience
that its approach to coca can produce results. End summary.


ENHANCED COOPERATION


2. (SBU) In an April 4 meeting with the Ambassador and
USAID/Bolivia Director Michael Yates, Agriculture Minister
Susana Rivero sought enhanced bilateral cooperation, noting
that assistance could help ensure the success of a
comprehensive agricultural development plan, due to be
released in 15 days. According to Rivero, the GOB will place
new emphasis on integrated rural development, focusing on
Bolivia’s poorest municipalities and encouraging production
of high-value products for well-defined domestic and
international markets. The plan will also address
outstanding land redistribution issues (reftel) and encourage
the sustainable management of forests turned over to local
communities and indigenous groups.

3. (SBU) In response, the Ambassador noted that USAID
agriculture, forestry, and integrated alternative development
programs are already closely aligned with GOB objectives.
The Ambassador told Rivero that USAID works directly with
small farmers and indigenous communities to encourage the
production of high-value products and pointed out that USAID
assistance to the forestry sector has helped Bolivia become
the world leader in certified natural tropical forests; he
also noted that USAID integrated alternative development
programs have generated significant growth in licit crop
cultivation and exports, providing much-needed jobs in
economically depressed areas.


COCA RATIONALIZATION


4. (SBU) Rivero touched briefly on new GOB efforts to
"rationalize" coca, noting that this was a move she
supported, but deferred to Vice Minister of Coca and
Alternative Development Felix Barra, who also attended the
meeting. Barra assured the Ambassador that the GOB
appreciated USG support and said the GOB had begun a "strong
effort" to reduce illicit coca cultivation. Barra asserted
that GOB calls for voluntary reductions in coca production
had produced "good results" but admitted that growth in
illicit cultivation in the Yungas remained a key concern.
The vice minister urged enhanced alternative development
efforts, particularly in the La Asunta region of the Yungas,
to strengthen economic opportunities and prevent communities
from turning to coca as a means of generating income.

5. (SBU) The Ambassador acknowledged Barra’s assertions but
noted that reports suggest a gradual increase in coca
cultivation, which could have negative implications not only
for Bolivia and the United States, but also for neighboring
countries like Brazil. The Ambassador re-iterated USG
willingness to work with the GOB to control and reduce
illicit coca cultivation but pointed out that the USG needs
to see results in attempts to reduce coca production through
negotiations with cocaleros.


COMMENT


6. (SBU) Rivero’s strong interest in enhanced bilateral
cooperation was unexpected, given her emphasis on
government-led agricultural development and "new policies"
for land distribution. The Ambassador responded positively
to Rivero’s request for a detailed USAID briefing and assured
the minister of USG commitment to bilateral assistance. He
also said the GOB needs to demonstrate quickly that its new
approach to coca can be successful, adding that USAID would
consider returning to Caranavi — but only if the GOB
provides physical and judicial security, returns 20,000
confiscated electric poles, and provides compensation for
last year’s seizure of equipment at the USAID-supported
Copacabana coffee plant. End comment.
GOLDBERG