Tuesday, September 18, 2012

UN Contradicts US on Bolivia Coca Policy

Though the Bolivian government’s policy towards coca cultivation has been criticized by the United States, a new United Nations report finds that the amount of land currently being used to grow coca leaves has fallen in the last year.

According to the 2011 National Coca Monitoring Survey for Bolivia (.pdf), compiled by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the area under cultivation fell some 12 percent, down to 27,200 hectares in 2011 from around 31,000 the previous year. The report also found that seizures of cocaine base have increased by 10 percent, and eradication of illicit coca fields is by nearly 30 percent.

The report’s release on Monday came just days after the White House released its annual Determination on Major Illicit Drug Transit and Drug Producing Countries, in which it identified Bolivia and Venezuela as “countries that have failed demonstrably during the previous 12 months to adhere to their obligations under international counternarcotics agreements.”

This is not the first time that US and UN figures on illicit drug production in the Andes have clashed. As WOLA noted in July, the UNODC’s survey of coca cultivation in Colombia showed a slight increase, while US numbers suggested a decrease.

But the most paradoxical aspect of the difference between the US and UN narratives on Bolivia’s drug policy is the fact that the statistics they cite are so similar. As InSight Crime’s Edward Fox points out, the White House Office of National Drug Control Police (ONDCP) also found a drop in coca cultivation in 2011, from 34,000 hectares to 30,000, and also registered an increase in eradication (20 percent). Nonetheless it found that cocaine production in Bolivia was up, and could potentially surpass that of Colombia.

In response to the US memo, the Bolivian government is crying foul. Last week President Evo Morales chalked up the US criticism of his drug policy to politics, telling reporters that the US lacks the “morality, authority and ethics” necessary to judge it objectively.


News Briefs

  • Some 130 prisoners have escaped from a prison in the northern Mexico state of Coahuila, apparently through a tunnel 7 meters long 1.2 meters wide, according to El Universal. The prison lies in the northern municipality of Piedras Negras, just 30 miles south of the US-Mexico border, sparking concerns that the escaped inmates (86 of whom were convicted of federal crimes) could attempt to cross into US territory.
  • Forensic officials in Mexico say they have identified six of the victims of last weekend’s wave of violence in the north of the country; two were former members of the military and four had criminal records.
  • Although Cuba is set to hold elections of Communist party representatives in February 2013, BBC Mundo notes that many locals are more concerned about the upcoming elections in Venezuela and the US, which will both likely have a greater impact on the country than the domestic vote.
  • A Colombian court has sentenced the editor of Swedish-based website Anncol, which regularly publishes FARC communiques, to eight years in jail on conspiracy charges, the BBC reports. According to El Tiempo, however, Joaquin Perez Becerra will likely be released on parole in just three years.
  • El Tiempo reports that the Colombian Senate is debating a bill meant to address the spike in acid attacks against women in the country, an issue recently profiled in the Washington Post. If passed, the bill would establish a minimum penalty of 6-20 years’ imprisonment for those behind the disfiguring attacks.
  • Reuters profiles Jason Puracal, the American citizen who was just released after being wrongfully convicted of money laundering and drug trafficking in Nicaragua in 2011, and whose imprisonment was protested by human rights activists around the world. According to Puracal, there are hundreds of other US citizens being wrongfully detained in prisons in the Central American country.
  • AFP reports that a Brazilian Supreme Court Judge in charge of the investigation into an alleged vote buying scheme linked to former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Jose Barbosa, has said there is “no doubt” that the vote buying occurred, and that money was paid to legislators "before, during and after" they voted on bills in the lower legislative house.
  • The Miami Herald reports that a date has been set for the trial of Angel Carromero, the Spanish man who was driving the vehicle which crashed on July 22, killing Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya. Carromero will face trial on October 5th.
  • In a potentially worrisome development for security in Peru, Peru21 reports that leaders of political movement dedicated to securing the release of Guzman and other first-generation Shining Path leaders, known as the Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights (Movadef), have said they do not reject returning to armed struggle.