Morales asks U.S. to reconsider aid cuts
Wednesday, February 08 2006 @ 06:34 PM UTC
Contributed by: Don Winner
(Editor's Comment: This political cartoon below show's what Evo Morales thinks of the United States)
The coca leaf is the key ingredient in cocaine, but it also has legal traditional uses in South America's poorest nation.
Morales has asked the U.S. government to enter into a "true" pact to fight drugs but has vowed his goal will be "zero cocaine," not "zero coca."
"We don't want the drug fight to be a political tool to defend geopolitical interests," Morales said. "We don't want a drug fight that is a pretext for the U.S. or other powers or governments ... to simply control (Bolivia's) government, blackmail or place conditions."
Bush also proposed cuts in anti-narcotics aid to most countries that make up the Andean Counterdrug Initiative, including Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Peru and Venezuela. Colombia is the only nation for which Bush has proposed a funding boost. U.S. funding for Bolivian anti-drug efforts has been declining since 2001, when it stood at $117 million.
But the president's comments appeared to indicate he believed the budget proposal was a reprisal against him and his opposition to eradication.
However, U.S. Ambassador David Greenlee said the cut was due solely to revised budget priorities in Washington.
"The truth is that the budget has nothing to do with where we are at this moment with eradication and this government," Greenlee told reporters.
Coca farmers deny that their harvests are being fed to cocaine labs, and claim instead to be meeting a legal - and underestimated, they say - demand for coca.
Also Tuesday, Morales presented his proposal for rewriting Bolivia's constitution to Congress.
Morales has vowed to create a "new Bolivia" by bringing more power to the majority poor Indian population.
Sending the law to Congress for approval is the beginning of a formal process that will decide the number and makeup of the constituent assembly members set to run for election on July 2. Morales is proposing that each of Bolivia's 68 voting districts elect three constituents each, at least one of which required to be a woman.
The president is also proposing that people as young as 18-years-old be able to run for the assembly, although only people 25 or older can run for Congress under current law.
"We're convinced that this law should be approved as soon as possible," Morales said in a press conference.
Morales said he hopes rewriting the Constitution will resolve not only the country's inequality, but help distribute unused land to peasants and increase state control over Bolivia's natural resources, especially its vast natural gas reserves.