Original Text–Memorandum of Justification for U.S. “Decertification” of Bolivia

Below is the text of the White House’s Memorandum of Justification  for  Bolivia, used to justify the ninth consecutive “decertification” of Bolivia’s drug control efforts:



“During the past 12 months, the Bolivian government has failed demonstrably to make sufficient efforts to meet its obligations under applicable international counternarcotics agreements or uphold the counternarcotics measures set forth in Section 489 (a) (1) of the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) of 1961, as amended. Bolivia is the world’s third largest cultivator of coca leaf used for the production of cocaine and other illegal narcotics derivatives.

Bolivia’s policy of allowing the cultivation of 20,000 hectares of coca exceeds the amount of coca needed for traditional purposes, as assessed by the European Union, by approximately 36 percent and exceeds the current Bolivian legal limit by 67 percent. While the Bolivian government and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimated that coca cultivation decreased to 20,200 hectares in 2015, the United states Government – using different methodology -estimated that coca leaf Cultivation increased in Bolivia to 36,500 hectares in 2015, representing a Is-year high.

UNODC data from 2015 shows that 65 percent of the coca produced in Bolivia is sold through local legal markets; the rest is unaccounted for and likely diverted for illicit purposes. UNODC officials have noted that 95 percent of coca grown in the Chapare region is not used for traditional consumption and that 89 percent of the coca grown in the Chapare region did not make it to the legal market in 2015. Bolivia’s precursor chemical law, enacted in 1988, is outdated and does not effectively control the import or trade of precursor chemicals.

Bolivia re-acceded to the 1961 U.N. Single convention on Narcotic Drugs with a reservation permitting coca to be used only within Bolivia for traditional, cultural, and medicinal purposes. Despite these stated conditions, Bolivia continues to promote the use of coca in other countries by not prohibiting the export of coca leaf (prohibited under the 1961 U.N. Convention) for consumption by Bolivians residing in Argentina and discussing potential export opportunities for coca products with other countries.

Peruvian officials estimate that 50 percent of all Peruvian cocaine transits Bolivia via aerial transshipment, commonly known as the “air bridge.” Most Bolivian cocaine is exported to other Latin American countries, especially Brazil and Argentina, for domestic consumption or for onward transit to west Africa and Europe rather than to the united States. During 2015, Bolivia signed counternarcotics cooperation agreements with Peru and Paraguay. It previously negotiated agreements with Argentina in 2000 and Brazil in 1978. Bolivia and Chile also maintain limited bilateral cooperation on counternarcotics‘ despite their ongoing dispute over access to the Pacific Ocean. The present impact of these agreements is unclear.

As a matter of official policy, the Government of Bolivia does not encourage or facilitate illegal activity associated with drug trafficking. Nevertheless, high-level government officials Acknowledge serious corruption in the judiciary and police. In 2015, corruption accusations were frequent and often unaddressed by an already strained judiciary.

If passed, Bolivia’s new counternarcotics laws could permit Bolivia to enhance its controls of precursor chemicals and its monitoring of coca cultivation. Implementation of those new laws will be crucial to bolstering Bolivia’s counternarcotics efforts. Bolivia should also strengthen efforts to stem the diversion of coca for cocaine processing by tightening controls over the coca leaf trade, achieving net reductions in coca cultivation, and improving law enforcement and judicial efforts to investigate and prosecute drug-related criminal activity. Enacting new asset forfeiture legislation to complement the new counternarcotics laws would also provide Bolivian law enforcement with improved tools and funding for future counternarcotics efforts.

At present, however, Bolivia’s actions represent counterproductive national drug control policies. Bolivia fails to account for excess coca production, it remains a major transit country for Peruvian coca and lacks adequate controls over its internal legal coca markets. Serious shortcomings in arrests and prosecutions expose its judicial system as ineffective in dealing with producers and traffickers. Therefore, Bolivia’s narcotics control performance in the Fiscal Year 2017 Majors List cycle again demonstrates that the country continues to make a smaller contribution than required to meet its obligations in the worldwide effort to control drugs.

Increased Bolivian counternarcotics cooperation with other countries and in international fora would be welcome. There are no U.S. counternarcotics assistance programs in Bolivia, but Bolivian law enforcement officials attended International Law Enforcement Academy training programs in 2015. There is little data on the potency of Bolivian coca, crop yields, and cocaine production in the country. The air bridge between Peru and Bolivia is a pressing issue that calls for improved cooperation between the two countries. Bilateral counternarcotics and law enforcement agreements with Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina should be energetically implemented and enhanced.

At the end of 2015, the Bolivian customs office was in the process of finalizing an agreement with the U.S. government that would permit information exchanges and collaboration to prevent illegal shipments and related criminal activities, including drug trafficking. In February 2015, the Bolivian government assisted the United states coast Guard in seizing 1,017 kilograms of cocaine with an estimated U.S. street value of $125 million dollars on a Bolivian-flagged vessel in panamanian waters. Bolivia subsequently waived its right of primary jurisdiction over the vessel and crew, which enabled criminal prosecution in the united states.

In accordance with U.S. legislation, the determination that Bolivia has failed demonstrably to make substantial efforts to adhere to its obligations under international counternarcotics agreements and to take counternarcotics measures set forth in the FAA does not result in the withholding of humanitarian and counternarcotics assistance. It is not in the vital interest of the United States to grant a national interest waiver to Bolivia. As United States assistance to and relations with Bolivia are extremely limited, there is no bilateral programming in place that is vital to the national interest of the United States.

Please visit AIN’s point by point response to this Memorandum of Justification & U.S. Decertification here.