Recent actions by the government of Bolivia have raised questions about its commitment to fighting the trafficking of illegal drugs. The actions are unfortunate and, to the detriment of the Bolivian people, have resulted in a decision by the United States to suspend that nation's participation in an important trade program.
Bolivia, along with 3 other Andean nations, is eligible to receive duty-free treatment for most of its exports to the U.S. in exchange for cooperating in the war on drugs. The region produces most of the world's cocaine, and Bolivia is one of the largest sources of the drug. Thus, its participation is key for overall success in reducing the social damage which illicit drug production and trafficking causes nations. But, with access to the duty-free trade status, Bolivia can succeed as well, with increased sales of jewelry, textiles and clothing, tin and crude oil, and the jobs those products represent.
Yet the Bolivian government has failed to honor its pledge to help fight drugs. Over the previous 2 years it rejected or simply ignored almost a dozen U.S. recommendations aimed at improving the effort. Government statements that it has stepped up drug fighting operations and efforts to eliminate illegal coca cultivations don't show it has the situation under control. Rather, they suggest such steps were needed because things have gotten out of hand. In fact, data from the United Nations show that coca cultivation in Bolivia has increased 5 percent over the previous year alone.
The U.S. is prepared to work with the Bolivian government to resolve the matter, and remains committed to promoting development in the Andean region. The trade preferences for Bolivian goods can be restored as soon as the La Paz government shows that it is committed to honoring its international obligations to fight drugs.