Malia Obama visited Bolivia last month. Although unknown to the public until recently, the trip was apparently organized with the approval of Bolivian President Evo Morales.
“In spite of significant political differences with the Obama administration, he accepted the visit, understood the significance of the learning experience and respected Malia’s privacy…It’s really an important precedent,” said AIN’s Kathryn Ledebur in a New York Times editorial.
The “Where there be Dragons” program provides U.S. students the opportunity to learn about political, social, and environmental issues in Bolivia. The program offers talks on the water war, globalization, coca control and drug policy.
Recently declassified CIA documents on Bolivia demonstrate how Cold War power dynamics motivated U.S. engagement in Bolivian internal affairs. In a number of documents, U.S. government officials frame counter-narcotics aid, military training, economic investment and political support as effective strategies for securing U.S. influence in Bolivia, while eliminating potential insurgent threats. Although leftist insurgencies were fairly minimal in Bolivia compared to neighboring countries, U.S. officials heavily considered the potential impacts that economic or political action would have on these groups. For example, in the 1984 declassified document ‘Bolivia: Bleak Economic Prospects for a Threatened Democracy,’ U.S. officials express concern for how Bolivia’s economic crisis will strengthen insurgencies: “the greatest potential long term threat to US interests in Bolivia is the growing capability of the various radical leftist and communist groups to exploit economic deterioration and social and political instability.”
The Inter-American Dialogue’s daily publication, the Latin America Advisor, features Kathryn Ledebur’s comments in its Q&A section: “Will Morales Try for a Fourth Term as Bolivia’s President?”
Read her commentary below, or to read the entire publication, visit the Inter-American Dialogue website here .
Q: Despite losing a referendum nearly a year ago that would have allowed him to run for a fourth consecutive term, Bolivian President Evo Morales said last month that he may seek another term anyway. Morales made the statement after his Movement to Socialism party named him as its candidate for the 2019 election. Why is Morales floating the idea even though voters rejected amending the Constitution to allow him another term? What factors will determine whether Morales runs for and wins election to a fourth term? Will Bolivia’s problems, such as a severe drought, social unrest and an economic slowdown, erode Morales’ popularity? Is the opposition strong enough to mount a successful presidential campaign against him?
“Hoja por Hoja: el control social de la coca en Bolivia” sigue la transición en el Tropico de Cochabamba (Chapare) del violento e ineficiente erradicación forzosa de la coca y el desarrollo
alternativo condicionado a éste hasta el control social y el desarrollo integral. A través de entrevistas con cultivadores de coca, líderes sindicales y expertos en políticas de coca, “Hoja por Hoja” explora cómo el control social de la coca ha reducido el conflicto y la pobreza, aumentado la diversificación económica, mejorado la infraestructura y acceso a servicios básicos, respetado los derechos humanos e incluso reducido el cultivo de coca en Bolivia. Esta estrategia única e innovadora ha cambiado las indicadores de éxito de la erradicación forzosa y detenciones por el del bienestar de las comunidades locales.
Created by AIN and Bolivian filmmaker Ismael Saavedra, with funding from Open Society Foundations, “Hoja por Hoja: Community Coca Control in Bolivia” traces the transition in the Chapare region from violent, ineffectual forced eradication and conditioned alternative development to collaborative community coca control and integral development. Through interviews with coca grower union leaders and policy experts, “Hoja por Hoja” explores how community coca control has reduced conflict and poverty, increased economic diversification, improved local infrastructure and basic services, respects human rights, and even decreased coca cultivation itself in Bolivia. This unique, innovative strategy shifts the yardstick for progress from eradication and arrest indicators to the wellbeing of local communities.
AIN’s Kathryn Ledebur participates in Featured Q&A. Excerpt from the Inter-American Dialogue’s newsletter, the Latin America Advisor for December 12, 2016. For the full version, please see the Inter-American Dialogue’s website.
Q: Bolivia’s government has declared a national emergency amid a drought that has severely limited the country’s water supply, 16 years after the so-called Water Wars in Cochabamba led to widespread conflict and sparked an international debate over privatizing water and sanitation services. The water crisis is expected to extend into 2018. How should Bolivia go about managing its limited resources as it struggles to adapt to what is likely to be the “new normal” with regard to water scarcity? Should Bolivia attempt to privatize water again, or is there another way to manage access and infrastructure? What will the drought mean for its agriculture sector? What will water scarcity mean for the country’s political and civil stability?