MINISTER OF PRESIDENCY ON COCA, ERADICATION, AND BILATERAL RELATIONS

Código Fecha Clasificación Origen
06LAPAZ417 16 February 2006 Confidencial Embassy La Paz

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 LA PAZ 000417

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA A/S T.SHANNON AND PDAS C.SHAPIRO
STATE FOR WHA/AND P.FRENCH AND L.PETRONI
NSC FOR D.FISK
USCINCSO ALSO FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/17/2016
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, ECON, SNAR, PINR, PHUM, EAID, BL
SUBJECT: MINISTER OF PRESIDENCY ON COCA, ERADICATION, AND
BILATERAL RELATIONS

REF: LA PAZ 0406

Classified By: Ambassador David Greenlee for reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).

1. (C) Summary: Minister of the Presidency Juan Ramos de la
Quintana told the Ambassador February 15 that the GOB wanted
USG agencies to continue their programs in the Chapare,
though implementation methods may need to be modified. He
acknowledged that the GOB’s counternarcotics policies were
still being formulated, but assured that the GOB’s commitment
to combat the illicit drug trade would be met and that the
cocalero federations did not speak on the GOB’s behalf.
Quintana said the depenalization and industrialization of
coca was a priority for President Evo Morales. The Minister
said cocaleros would be paid to eradicate coca in the
national parks while other negotiated alternatives would be
pursued with the cocalero federations. On interdiction,
Quintana asked for greater information sharing from the DEA
on organized criminal networks. When the Ambassador raised
objections about anti-U.S. rhetoric creeping into GOB
statements, the Minister blamed the Bolivian press for
distorting reality. Quintana was forthright, somewhat
confused, and suspicious of USG programs. The new GOB may or
may not be disposed ideologically to work with us; but it
certainly does not yet have the internal cohesion or
coherence to cooperate effectively. End Summary.


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FIRST MEETING WITH MINISTER OF THE PRESIDENCY QUINTANA


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2. (C) At our request, the Ambassador, DCM, and Econ/Pol
Chief met the evening of February 15 with Minister of the
Presidency Juan Ramos de la Quintana to seek clarification of
GOB policy regarding USG programs in the Chapare. Newspaper
headlines that morning carried the cocalero federations’
decision to throw out USG agencies operating in the region, a
position supported by GOB spokesman Alex Contreras (see
reftel). The Ambassador told Quintana that the federations’
statements—Evo Morales remains their titular head—and the
apparent presidential endorsement had sparked considerable
confusion about the GOB’s intent. The Ambassador suggested
that if eradication is to be stopped and USG involvement in
the Chapare ended, the new policy should be communicated
officially and we could begin shutting off our multi-million
dollar assistance programs now.

3. (C) Quintana responded that he appreciated open, frank
exchanges free of entangling rhetoric and underscored the
GOB’s continuing need for U.S. help on the counternarcotics
front. But, he added, that message is not being clearly
communicated because "...we do not yet have an agreement
between the GOB and all the relevant actors on this issue."
At the same time, he said the cocalero federations did not
speak on behalf of the GOB, which has a stronger commitment
than previous administrations and wants to "...break the
stigma that Bolivia protects narcotraffickers."

4. (C) In that vein, Quintana claimed the GOB had a sound
strategy to combat the illegal drug trade: compartmentalizing
the problem into "clear chapters" for greater enforcement
efficiency on the one hand, and depenalizing coca for
industrialization and commercialization on the other.
"Depenalization is a complex but necessary task because we
want coca to have commercial and industrial purposes. This
is an explicit priority for the President," he said, adding
that the GOB would meet next week with EU representatives to
discuss the terms of the demand study required for domestic
purposes. (Note: While not stated, the implication was that
the EU study should include consideration of Bolivian
domestic demand to include coca necessary for these
yet-only-imagined industrial purposes. End Note).


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A NEW APPROACH TO ERADICATION AND INTERDICTION


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5. (C) Quintana said the GOB would preserve the best of
previous GOB policies, including eradication, but implement
them differently. The first priority, he offered, is to
limit additional cultivation, although he added curiously
that the GOB would not strictly interpret the 3200 hectare
limit for Chapare cultivation set aside by the October 2004
agreement. He assured that eradication would continue in the
two problem areas of the Carrasco National Park and the
Yungas de Vandiola, saying that he would travel to the region
himself this weekend to meet with cocaleros, but noted that
existing military eradicators would work only in the areas
where they can proceed peacefully, with negotiation—an
open-ended concept—the rule in more conflictive zones.

6. (C) Quintana saw no change in the GOB’s willingness to
cooperate with the USG on interdiction and noted that the DEA
was welcome to stay in the Chapare. The GOB’s non-political
approach to interdiction was exemplified, he said, by the
non-partisan appointment of a new chief for the
counternarcotics police. The Minister asserted that these
units had committed human rights violations in the past, a
situation this GOB would not tolerate. The Ambassador
retorted that any such incidents did not involve DEA agents
and that we shared Quintana’s concern about human rights.
Quintana went on to say that he was not critical of the
results obtained by interdiction efforts, but of the methods
used to obtain them. "In the past, because of the weakness
of Bolivian institutions, USG involvement appeared more like
intervention than cooperation. We ask that your cooperation
be transparent, conducted with consideration and respect."
While expressing a desire to be autonomous in their
interdiction operations, he acknowledged the need for the
USG’s offer of helicopters and other equipment "in the spirit
of shared responsibility," and said the GOB had no plans to
alter the DEA’s role in the drug enforcement arena.

7. (C) When the Ambassador asked what immediate changes in
the interdiction efforts were contemplated, Quintana observed
that the GOB had little understanding of how criminal
organizations operated in Bolivia. "All we get," he
complained, "are statistics on drugs intercepted and labs
destroyed, but nothing on Bolivian criminal organizations and
their links to other countries. This makes us suspicious
that the counter-narcotics efforts are not sufficiently
explained to the GOB or the Bolivian people." He also
lamented that the Bolivian anti-drug unit (FELCN) did not
have an institute to study criminal organizations. The
Ambassador replied that maintaining the integrity of
international criminal investigations was crucial but that he
would raise the issue with the DEA.


INTELLIGENCE ISSUES


8. (C) The Minister noted that the GOB wanted its
intelligence services to respond better to the needs of the
GOB and was suspicious of their relationship with the DEA.
(Note: Quintana associated intelligence cooperation only with
the DEA and the counternarcotics effort. End Note.) The
Minister said that he wanted "a more democratic intelligence
service" in the future. The Ambassador noted USG interest in
promoting intelligence cooperation on counter-terrorism
issues as well, given regional threats in the Tri-Border
region and elsewhere, and suggested a subsequent meeting to
discuss these issues in greater depth.


MUTUAL DESIRE FOR CONSTRUCTIVE ENGAGEMENT


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9. (C) The Ambassador expressed concern about anti-U.S.
rhetoric creeping into GOB statements and policies and warned
that gratuitous insults did not encourage strong bilateral
ties. Talking about imaginary U.S. military bases in
Paraguay "as you have done publicly, Mr. Minister," does
little to build confidence. Noting the billions of U.S.
dollars of assistance in the past few decades, including the
nearly one million in disaster assistance for Bolivian flood
victims, the Ambassador observed that the USG would sometimes
appreciate a good word or thank you, something President
Morales notably forgot to offer in his conversation with
President Bush.

10. (C) While acknowledging that the GOB probably had no
intention of ratifying an Article 98 agreement, the
Ambassador asked that the GOB respect the U.S. position
without intentionally mischaracterizing it and claiming that
the U.S. sought to shield its soldiers from justice. The
issue is one of jurisdiction, not immunity, he said, and
noted that over 100 countries had signed Article 98
agreements with the U.S.


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ATTACKING THE PRESS AND RE-ORIENTING USG ASSISTANCE


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11. (C) Quintana, perhaps a little disingenuously, said he
shared the Ambassador’s concerns about poisonous rhetoric,
but blamed the press for distorting the GOB’s comments about
the U.S. He described the Bolivian press as unprofessional
and perverse because it was too closely associated with
political parties. At the same time, Quintana said the U.S.
was counterproductively omnipresent in Bolivian
institutions—an ironic exageration in view of reportedly
increasing Venezuelan and Cuban presence—and suggested that
our assistance was too dispersed to be strategically
effective. He lamented the uneven economic development
throughout the country, noting that Potosi remained in abject
poverty while Santa Cruz was developing fast "with its
radical federalist ideas," and suggested a U.S. Corps of
Engineers road project uniting the country would be a smart,
focussed investment. The Ambassador reminded Quintana that
the GOB nixed expanded military help by attacking us on
Article 98.

12. (C) Comment: Quintana seemed forthright, a little
confused, and abidingly suspicious of USG intentions. He
exposed inaccurate views about existing USG programs, a
strong ideological bent on coca, and a disturbing
disaffection with the media—particularly disturbing since
the MAS is considering laws to limit freedom of press. His
most revealing comment was that the GOB is still struggling
to clarify its policies, including on counternarcotics.
Whether the new GOB wants to work with us is an open
question; whether it can work with us is equally perplexing.
End Comment.
GREENLEE