AIN in the News
Monitor Global Outlook, June 27/2014: “Bolivia has made progress, but the drug-trafficking business readjusts almost immediately so government efforts with communities has to remain constant,” says Kathryn Ledebur, head of the Bolivia-based Andean Information Network that monitors drug trafficking.
She says greater cooperation in South America is needed to control the problem, but she expressed concerned of overreliance on military actions such as the shoot-down policy.
“It’s a high-profile, dramatic initiative, but it is not going to do much because of the innumerable trafficking routs in the Amazon,” Ms. Ledebur says.
Global Post, June 26/2014: “Peru got burned [in 2012 when it became the world’s top cocaine producer] and they are looking to improve their international reputation,” says Kathryn Ledebur, head of the Bolivia-based nonprofit Andean Information Network. She suspects that Colombia’s figures in particular are “grossly underestimated.”
Inter Press Service News Agency, June 26/2014: “A very small country challenged the basic premises of U.S. domination and policy implications, and it succeeded.” — Kathryn Ledebur
“Nothing is done entirely without friction, but it has done away with cycles of protest and violence and the deaths of coca growers,” Kathryn Ledebur, director of the Andean Information Network, told IPS. “There continue to be human rights violations, but in the past they would rip out all their coca and there was no plan for how they should eat in the meantime.”
“If 15 years ago someone asked what would happen to an Andean country that loses all U.S. funding, we’d be talking about Marines coming in and things falling apart, but none of those things have happened,” said Ledebur.
“They pursue interdiction in a very traditional way,” said Ledebur.
Tendencias Científicas, June 26/2014: “Un país muy pequeño desafió las premisas básicas de la dominación de Estados Unidos y sus repercusiones políticas, y lo logró”: Kathryn Ledebur.
“Nada se hace enteramente sin fricción, pero el proceso acabó con los ciclos de protesta y violencia y la muerte de los cocaleros”, afirmó a IPS la directora de la Red Andina de Información, Kathryn Ledebur. “Sigue habiendo violaciones a los derechos humanos, pero en el pasado les arrancarían toda la coca” a los productores sin ofrecerles un plan de subsistencia alternativa, aseguró.
“Si hace 15 años alguien se preguntaba qué le pasaría a un país andino que pierde la financiación de Estados Unidos, estaríamos hablando de una invasión de los Marines y todo yéndose por la borda, pero nada de eso sucedió”, dijo Ledebur.
“Un país muy pequeño desafió las premisas básicas de la dominación de Estados Unidos y sus repercusiones políticas, y tuvo éxito”, añadió la activista.
Wall Street Journal, June 23/2014: “The continued reduction in Bolivia highlights the comparative advantages of gradual coca reduction,” said Kathryn Ledebur, director of the Andean Information Network, which studies Bolivia’s coca leaf sector, in an email.
BBC Mundo, April 9/2014: “Kathryn Ledebur, de la ONG Red Andina de Información, coincide en que en estos años de gobierno el MAS ha perdido el apoyo de muchos “subsectores” que formaban parte de sus bases. Sin embargo, le restó responsabilidad política a Morales.
“En Bolivia siempre hay protestas, es parte de la vida acá. En un año electoral no sorprende que muchos grupos aumenten sus reclamos, porque saben que el gobierno estará más receptivo”, afirmó.
También consideró que a pesar de que muchos grupos -como los indígenas, los campesinos y los cocaleros- se sienten identificados con el presidente, no significa que le darán un apoyo automático.
“No existe el concepto del cheque en blanco en Bolivia, el presidente constantemente tiene que consensuar con sus bases”, indicó Ledebur.”
New York Times, February 16/2014: “The Morales administration has basically cast off the recommendations of the I.M.F. and other huge international lending organizations, and for the first time, during his tenure, you see those macroeconomic indicators improve significantly, which finally gains the approval of organizations like the I.M.F.,” said Kathryn Ledebur, director of the Andean Information Network, a research group based in Bolivia.
Terra, September 25/2013: La directora de la ONG boliviana Red Andina de Información (AIN), Kathryn Ledebur, aconsejó hoy al Gobierno y a la sociedad civil de Colombia que definan su propia lucha antidrogas sin depender de Estados Unidos y con un enfoque social que no esté apoyado en “lo militarista”.
“Le diría a Colombia que no se acaba el mundo diciendo ‘no gracias’ a EE.UU. Merece la pena tomar decisiones autónomas basadas en el bienestar de la población en vez de las imposiciones de EE.UU., que se han ido desfasando aún más de la realidad”, observó Ledebur, estadounidense afincada en Cochabamba desde hace 23 años.
Consideró además que “es interesante saber que un país tan pequeño como Bolivia puede rechazar una imposición política de Estados Unidos en una posición que antes era tan dependiente y rehacer una política sin excluir al resto de la comunidad internacional”.
La experta explicó que Bolivia rompió “con un sistema impuesto por EE.UU. hace más de 25 años” que implicaba “un desarrollo alternativo amarrado de la mano con la erradicación forzosa previa” sin apoyo popular, pues la hoja de coca en Bolivia no es sólo la materia prima de la cocaína, sino algo sagrado.
Por eso, relató, en 2004 el Gobierno de Carlos Mesa (2003-2005) acordó con la sociedad civil autorizar a los cocaleros la siembra de un “cato de coca”, una medida equivalente a 1.600 metros cuadrados, y el pago de un sueldo básico, lo que “ha reducido el conflicto y la violación de los derechos humanos en un 99 %”, agregó Lendebur.
UN News Agency, September 24/2013: Kathryn Ledebur –colaboradora en una serie de publicaciones sobre Derechos Humanos y políticas de drogas en los Estados Unidos y América Latina– afirmó que la demanda de la cocaína está fuera del alcance del Estado, por lo tanto, “es difícil acabar con un producto sobre el que no se tiene autonomía para frenar su consumo”.
Además indicó que Latinoamérica ha comenzado a impulsar una serie de políticas diferentes y eficaces que se convierten en un desafío al sistema internacional. “Es el ejemplo de Uruguay que ha legalizado el uso recreacional de marihuana”, evaluando diferentes factores y apostándole a cambios trascendentes, que se enfocan en darle una solución verdadera a la población afectada por este flagelo.
Ledebur sostuvo que no se puede frenar la producción pero sí distinguir el negocio multimillonario del narcotráfico, del pequeño productor de coca que solo es un eslabón en la gran cadena.
“Las políticas de América Latina se han enfocado en controlar o restringir a esos grupos marginados, en vez de incluirlos para poder concentrase en la parte que realmente se nutre sin que ellos se beneficien”.
“La erradicación forzosa implica que la gente no tenga comida. Por eso, la alternativa es sembrar más coca, porque los programas de sustitución no brindan las posibilidades de que las familias alimenten a sus hijos”.
“Es necesario que se acepte el estatus de los productores de coca; que se haga un registro legal de terrenos, que se establezca una posibilidad transicional para que la gente pueda sostenerse y complementar los ingresos; hacerlos menos vulnerables ante el conflicto para que decidan hacer una reducción sostenida de cultivos”.
Associated Press (via La Hora), August 5/2013: “El informe de la ONUDC demuestra la sostenibilidad de una estrategia que privilegia la participación de los productores de coca. Su sistema de monitoreo de cultivos es confiable y tiene apoyo de la comunidad internacional incluyendo Estados Unidos”, dijo a la AP la analista Kathryn Ledebur, directora de la Red Andina de Información, que trabaja en Bolivia.
Huffington Post, July 13/2013: “It’s an absurd expectation that Bolivia would extradite Snowden if he ever arrived there with this kind of precedent,” Kathyrn Ledebur, director of the Cochabamba-based Andean Information Network, told The Huffington Post. “It’s kind of this elephant on the table that they’re pretending doesn’t exist, but is a huge problem.”
El Nuevo Herald, May 4/2013: La AP consultó a la AP la analista Kathryn Ledebur si realmente Washington busca desestabilizar al izquierdista Evo Morales, como ha denunciado el mandatario, o es un pretexto suyo para afianzarse en el cargo.
“Ambas cosas. En este momento, no veo indicios claros de una intervención política de USAID y, si están intentando, no son eficaces. Ahora no hay mucha oposición a Evo Morales, ni una amenaza exterior palpable. No creo que Evo logre apoyo por echarlos, tampoco creo que nadie extrañara mucho a USAID”, dijo a la AP la analista Ledebur, de la Red Andina de Información, una organización sin fines de lucro que trabaja en Bolivia.
“Los indígenas no necesitan de alguien para convencerles que Evo no cumplía con sus promesas hacia los pueblos del oriente…la intención fue desprestigiar a los marchistas, quienes, creo tenían demandas legítimas”, dijo Ledebur.
AP (Washington Post, Huffington Post, NPR), May 1/2013: Analyst Kathryn Ledebur of the nonprofit Andean Information Network in Bolivia was not surprised by the expulsion, but by the fact that Morales took so long to do it after repeated threats, which she believes diminishes its political impact.
“USAID alternative development efforts tied to forced coca eradication provoked his mistrust,” she said of Morales, a longtime coca-growers union leader before his December 2005 election as Bolivia’s first indigenous president. Since U.S. assistance has “dwindled to a trickle,” the financial impact will be limited as well, she said.
Ledebur said Morales was also upset that USAID money reached lowland regional governments he accused of trying to overthrow him in 2008. Lopez said all agency democracy-promotion programs in Bolivia ended the following year.
New York Times, May 1/2013: Kathryn Ledebur, director of the Andean Information Network, a Bolivian research group, said Mr. Morales has long distrusted the aid agency, since the days when it helped finance a program to get coca growers, an important constituency for the president, to switch to other crops. The program was linked to a highly unpopular campaign for the forced eradication of coca.
BBC, May 1/2013: BBC World Service Podcast
Christian Science Monitor, May 1/2013: “Morales’s contentious relationship with USAID originated as a result of the largely ineffective alternative development programs it enacted in the Chapare region, which at the peak of forced eradication required coca growers to eliminate their coca and leave unions before they receive aid,” says Kathryn Ledebur, director of the Andean Information Network, a Bolivia-based advocacy group.
“This longstanding mistrust was exacerbated after his election when the government accused USAID of working with opposition groups to undermine his administration,” says Ms. Ledebur.
Indian Country Today, January 16/2013: “This is an achievement for Bolivia, and an important international precedent,” said Kathryn Ledebur, director of Bolivia-based policy watchdog the Andean Information Network. “The definition of the coca leaf as a dangerous narcotic alongside heroin, cocaine and opium in the Convention text is a glaring error without any scientific basis, and in this case Bolivia followed U.N. guidelines to successfully separate the two.”
Al Jazeera, January 4/2013: Speaking to Al Jazeera, Kathryn Ledebur, the director of the Andean Information Network who co-authored the report, explained how Bolivia went about rejecting US drugs eradication policies.
“The problem that you had with forced eradication is the forces would rip out the coca crop, people would have nothing to eat and coca would just move around the region and people would quickly replant.
“With the programme that they have now, because people know that they can have a small amount of coca and because there’s less coca in the country in these controlled regions, the price of coca is quite high.
“In fact it’s the same whether they’re in the legal and illegal markets. So it’s these kind of alternatives for people that they can put in place since they know they have the coca, that gives this a much better chance of being sustainable, and improved quality of life for these farmers.”
New York Times, December 26/2012: “It’s fascinating to look at a country that kicked out the United States ambassador and the D.E.A., and the expectation on the part of the United States is that drug war efforts would fall apart,” said Kathryn Ledebur, director of the Andean Information Network, a Bolivian research group. Instead, she said, Bolivia’s approach is “showing results.”
Washington Post, December 11/2012: But another Bolivia-watcher, Kathryn Ledebur of the Andean Information Network, predicted no other political fallout save “a lot of cursing and screaming at the next Cabinet meeting …”
Indian Country Today, October 8/2012: “Bolivia is a tiny country that challenged a giant,” said Kathryn Ledebur, director of Bolivia-based advocacy group The Andean Information Network (AIN). “A lot of people didn’t like the way they did it, but anti-drug efforts have not fallen apart–it shows there are different paths that all nations should explore.”
Folha de Sao Paulo, August 20/2012: “Como lembra Kathryn Ledebur, diretora da ONG Rede Andina da Informação, especializada no tema na Bolívia, é ‘um mito pensar que se pode controlar o fluxo de drogas’ numa fronteira como a de Brasil e Bolívia. Vide o caso americano-mexicano.” [Translation: "As noted by Kathryn Ledebur, director of the Andean Information Network, an NGO specializing in Bolivia, 'it is a myth that you can control the flow of drugs' between a border like Brazil and Bolivia. Look the Mexican-American case."]
Christian Science Monitor, July 30/2012: “[Bolivia] challenged the United States, and it turned out the United States was not the omnipotent force in drug war policy that it seemed to be,” says Kathryn Ledebur, director of the Andean Information Network, a Bolivia-based advocacy group. “And it was important to establish that for everyone in Latin America.”
North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA), July 2/2012: Police rebels, too, insisted that their mobilization was strictly a labor action. According to the Andean Information Network (AIN), the police have had legitimate grievances against Morales, whom they perceive as exacerbating traditional rivalries between the police and the military.
As Kathryn Ledebur of AIN recently told Al Jazeera, “There are legitimate demands and political issues; its always a combination of complex factors in Bolivian protests.” Still, she argues, it strains credibility to imagine that the police, who are widely regarded as corrupt and inefficient, could muster enough popular support to engineer a coup.
Al Jazeera, June 28/2012: [Broadcasted interview. See link for full video.] “It’s very complicated when you talk about Morales’ role and responsibility or the efforts that he makes for indigenous people because who is an indigenous person in Bolivia? So a Morales programme to benefit indigenous people is not very straightforward.” - Kathryn Ledebur of the Andean Information Network
Washington Post and Associated Press, May 31/2012: Analyst Kathryn Ledebur of the Cochabamba-based Andean Information Network said the asylum bid looked like an attempt to sour Bolivian-Brazilian relations ahead of the summit.
“They may be going after him (Pinto) politically with all these charges. At the same time, he may have done two- thirds of what they are accusing him,” said Ledebur.
Indian Country Today, May 10/2012 with quotes from AIN founders Linda Farthing and Benjamin Kohl: But economic growth was sluggish prompting questions about who had truly benefitted from the reforms, and protests against water privatization in 2000 and the El Alto conflict in 2003 manifested boiling dissatisfaction with the government’s pro-privatization stance, according to Benjamin Kohl and Linda Farthing, who investigate economic reforms in their book Impasse in Bolivia.
The neoliberal plan also included bringing down out-of-control inflation because the country’s currency was rapidly losing value. On the inflation front the reforms were successful, but sluggish economic growth from 2000 to 2005 prompted questions about who benefited from the reforms, especially as they resulted in the elimination of thousands of jobs in state-run companies, according to Kohl and Farthing. The protests against water privatization in 2000 and the El Alto conflict in 2003 manifested boiling dissatisfaction with the government’s pro-privatization stance.
“It’s ironic that past Bolivian administrations were the faithful pupils of neoliberalism,” says Kathryn Ledebur, director of policy analyst group the Andean Information Network. “They followed all the rules, but the results left a lot to be desired and [left] the bulk of the population impoverished. The demise of their political credibility and clout coincided neatly with demands for a new model.”
Washington Office on Latin America, Mar 22/2012: Podcast: Bolivia is criticized in a recent State Department counter-drug report, while the country seeks an exemption from an international ban on coca leaves. Adam talks with Kathryn Ledebur of the Andean Information Network in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
Time, Feb 29/2012: Even if that conspiracy claim is unfounded, Morales’ frustration underscores alternative development’s poor track record: after almost 20 years, the USAID program had never achieved a sustainable decline in Bolivia’s coca crop. And a big reason for that failure, says Kathryn Ledebur, director of the Andean Information Network, a Bolivia-based drug-war watchdog group, is that such programs rarely “take into account the reality on the ground.” For example, in Bolivia’s other coca-growing region, the Chapare, USAID pushed the cultivation of pineapple, much of which rotted for lack of markets, and then sustainable forest management, which left families with scant, if any, income for a decade as they waited for trees to mature. In each case, farmers simply returned to coca.
What’s more, U.S. counterdrug officials hardly helped the effort with imperious demands that the Bolivian government quash all coca growing — even though almost half of the country’s 36,000-hectare (89,000 acres) coca crop gets used in tea and other benign, legitimate products. The U.N.’s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has been just as high-handed: this week, the INCB scolded Bolivia for defending the traditional, nonnarcotic uses of coca. Bolivia is South America’s third largest coca producer behind Colombia and Peru, but much less of its harvest ends up getting snorted as cocaine.
The good news about the coffee success, says Ledebur, is that it “cuts through the myth that coca farmers are inherently invested in the drug trade. They are simply pragmatic business people looking to sustain their families.” But that pragmatism works both ways. “We are totally susceptible to the New York Stock Exchange,” notes FECAFEB president Eustaquio Huiza — which is why Choquehuanca admits that his fellow coffee farmers leave a little coca in the ground. Should coffee-bean prices crash, they can always fall back on their former staple crop. The one that always has a market.
Associated Press, Jan 10/2012: Drug policy expert Kathryn Ledebur of the Bolivia-based Andean Information Network said Soberon’s resignation could raise the potential for violence in Peru’s coca-growing regions.
“With Soberon’s appointment, for the first time in Peru you had a drug control chief with legitimacy with the affected coca-grower population,” she said.
Hopes for a Bolivian-style approach to eradication that is less alienating to growers are now dimmed, she added.
BBC Mundo, Oct 16/2011: “Quizás no sea una garantía absoluta de imparcialidad, pero es un sistema mucho más justo que el que había antes”, dijo a este medio Kathryn Ledebur, de la Red Andina de Información, una ONG fundada por extranjeros en Bolivia, que promueve los derechos humanos y la justicia social.
Según Ledebur, quienes convirtieron a la elección de jueces en un asunto político fueron los representantes de la oposición.”Ellos politizaron el voto al pedir a la ciudadanía que use esta elección como un referendo del mandato de Morales”, señaló.
No obstante, para Ledebur, la veda a las campañas privadas tiene un fin justo, que es “crear igualdad de oportunidades”, evitando que quien tenga mayores recursos tenga también mayor exposición.
“Todos los candidatos tuvieron espacios iguales en televisión, radio y la prensa para promocionarse”, aseguró Ledebur a BBC Mundo.
“No es un sistema perfecto, pero es el mejor que hay”, resumió la analista.
BBC News, Oct 10/2011: Kathryn Ledebur, of the Andean Information Network, a think tank that analyses drug policy and promotes socio-economic justice in Bolivia, agrees that the initiative should be applauded.
The Guardian, Sept 27/2011: Kathryn Ledebur of the Andean Information Network, a thinktank, said Brazil was slowly replacing the role traditionally played in Bolivia by the US. “Brazil is rapidly replacing US influence and economic might, but in its own unique, Latin American way,” she said. Ledebur said there were positive aspects to Brazil’s growing role in Bolivia, pointing to increased co-operation in anti-drug trafficking efforts.
“Unlike the contentious history of impositions and the conditioning relationship with the United States, there is a greater degree of trust and collaboration [between Brazil and Bolivia],” she said.
Indian Country Today, Sept 23/2011: Kathryn Ledebur of the Andean Information Network, an NGO that follows Bolivian politics, says the government stance on the road may be inflexible not only because changing the route will increase costs but also because the government is under pressure from many parts of Bolivian society to meet a dizzying array of demands. “With social demands increasing from dozens of sectors, backing down on the march would intensify pressure on all sides,” Ledebur said. “It could be perceived as a sign of weakness.”
The Guardian, March 30/2011: Kathryn Ledebur, director of the Andean Information Network, a Bolivian NGO,says that though the coca compost campaign is laudable it will have little impact on Bolivia’s anti-drugs effort, the success of which relies far more on demand in the west than on supply at home.
Indian Country Today, Feb 16/2011: The modern history of coca in Bolivia is a complex story. During the 1990s, successive U.S. administrations tried to eradicate coca totally in the Chapare region, but accepted growth of almost 30,000 acres in other areas, according to information from the Andean Information Network. Forced eradication in the Chapare proved a move that pitted U.S. policy against local organizations and created animosity that is still alive today.
National Public Radio, Feb 4/2011: Ms. KATHRYN LEDEBUR (Coca Analyst): “One of the things you would have to do to address that problem significantly is address international demand for cocaine, and that is something that’s completely out of Bolivia’s hands.”
Associated Press, Jan 30/2011:“Si la administración de Obama está interesada sinceramente en la integridad de la Convención, debería apoyar la enmienda propuesta por Bolivia”, dijo Kathryn Ledebur, directora de AIN, según el comunicado.
Associated Press, Jan 28/2011: Some regional interest groups, including the Washington Office on Latin America and the Andean Information Network, wrote U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton this week asking the Obama administration to drop its objection to lifting the ban before it’s too late.
NACLA, May 21/2010: [...] More fundamentally, the April vote can be viewed as demonstrating the persistent independence and political diversity of the Bolivian electorate, especially at the local level. As Kathryn Ledebur of the Andean Information Network told NACLA, “Bolivian voters build in their own checks and balances by electing leaders from different parties at different levels of government.” The same voter may have different priorities in national and local elections.
In the past, Ledebur says, this vote-splitting practice has frequently led to stalemates and blocked governmental initiatives. In the major cities and departmental capitals, where close April races have resulted in divided representation on municipal councils, third-place candidates will now have crucial “swing votes” and effective veto power. Whether these new configurations will lead to compromise or paralysis, she notes, remains to be seen.
Ledebur cautions against viewing the diversity of voters’ regional and local preferences as a rejection of the MAS government. While Bolivians are not inclined to give MAS or Evo Morales a “blank check,” they have repeatedly ratified the advance of the government’s political and economic project, including in the most recent election. This is not inconsistent with the vote for MSM, which largely supports the MAS program.
House Committee on Foreign Affairs, “Seizing the Moment: The Need to Rebuild U.S.-Bolivian Relations” Mar 3/2009: AIN Director, Kathryn Ledebur’s testimony.
Associated Press, April 18/2009: “Nobody in Washington is paying any attention,” said Kathryn Ledebur of the Andean Information Network, a Bolivia-based drug policy think tank.
Reuters, April 8/2009: “I don’t think 14 seats give you control of Congress,” said Kathryn Ledebur, head of the Andean Information Network think tank. “Nor is it a forgone conclusion that indigenous representation will eternally support (Morales’ party).”
She said the opposition is weaker than before Morales took office in January 2006 partly because “their own sloppy heavy-handed tactics” of “blocking and impeding.”
BBC News, Nov 8/2007: If Mr Morales is to quell anxieties over diesel and natural gas in the long term, his challenge, according to Kathryn Ledebur from the Andean Information Network, is to “effectively implement spending plans to use the additional revenue, which has increased ninefold, to better the lives of the Bolivian people.
“If he can use investment to develop the industry, he could generate sustained economic stability in Bolivia for many years to come.
Time, April 13/2007: “If the U.S. hadn’t imposed its ‘war on drugs’ in Bolivia, Morales might have been just another coca farmer,” says Kathryn Ledebur, Director of the Andean Information Network, a Bolivia-based NGO that advocates a change in U.S. anti-drug policy. “He rose to national prominence resisting U.S.-supervised military drug control operations.”