A Fundamentally Flawed Strategy
A Fundamentally Flawed Strategy
Over the last decade, US-Bolivian relations have been dominated by drug diplomacy. US support for antinarcotics programs in Bolivia has steadily increased - as have tensions over the nature of the "drug war" in Bolivia. The "militarization" of US international drug policy, which was institutionalized under the "Andean Strategy" announced in September 1989, has strained diplomatic relations between the two countries and has generated significant controversy in Bolivia.
The Bolivian state is not seriously threatened at the present time by either guerrilla insurgencies or powerful drug traffickers, although both operate in the country. The country does, however, have a legacy of military rule and drug-related corruption within the armed forces, particularly the army. Given this history, the Bolivian government of President Jaime Paz Zamora has been reluctant to involve the army in antinarcotics operations, which has been a central goal of US policy.
That goal was finally achieved last March, despite opposition from across the political spectrum, when the Bolivian government announced that US Special Forces would begin training Bolivian army personnel. The negative consequences of that decision are already being felt. It has heightened anti-American feeling, to the point where last July Bolivian armed forces officials called for the expulsion of DEA agents allegedly involved in the arrest of a Bolivian navy lieutenant. Both the decision to bring in the army and the role of the United States in planning and overseeing counternarcotics operations have sparked widespread protests, which sometimes end in violence. As the Bolivian army is again thrust into domestic politics and internal order, greater violence is possible.
US drug policy in Bolivia is fundamentally flawed. Although policymakers in Washington may think the potential gains outweigh the risks involved, there is no evidence to date that the policy will have its desired outcome: a reduction in cocaine available on US streets. In fact, DEA officials reported a 28 percent increase in South American cocaine production in 1990. Even when antinarcotics efforts are successful in a particular locale, production simply spreads to other areas and countries. Known as the "balloon effect," this dispersion has already occurred in the Andes. As a result of the Colombian government's crack-down on the Medellin cartel, drug trafficking operations have expanded in other countries, including Bolivia. Hence, the threat that the traffickers pose to Bolivia has increased significantly since the Andean Strategy was initiated in 1989 - while cocaine production continues to go up. From a Bolivian point of view, the medicine prescribed by the US government to combat drug trafficking may be worse than the disease.
After a spirited debate culminating in Bolivia's opposition parties abandoning the floor of the Congress in protest, on April 4 of this year the ruling Movimiento de la Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR) and Accion Democratica Nacionalista (ADN) parties provided congressional approval for the entry of over 100 US military troops to initiate training activities with the Bolivian army. The Bolivian government's approval of the training operation appeared to put the US "Andean Initiative" back on track. It had been derailed for nearly a year as the implementation of "Annex III" - an agreement signed in May 1990 that lays out the military component of US antinarcotics assistance - was delayed due to overwhelming public opposition to what is commonly referred to in Bolivia as the "militarization" of antinarcotics activities. It looked in April as if US government officials had achieved their goal of assuring a prominent role for the Bolivian army in the fight against drug trafficking. (1)
Recent developments, however, have thrown new obstacles in the way of the USantinarcotics strategy for Bolivia. Events surrounding the high profile raid on June 28, 1991 on the town of Santa Ana by Bolivian antinarcotics police supported by national Air Force and Navy troops and US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents led high-ranking Bolivian armed forces officials to call for the expulsion of the DEA agents involved. Accusations that the operation was planned and controlled by US personnel heightened anti-American (2) feeling and fueled the debate over the way in which the US government has waged its war on drugs in Bolivia. The US government adamantly denies these allegations, but the backlash from the Santa Ana raid vividly illustrates the fragile state of US drug policy in Bolivia.
In a separate development, the capture last June of two suspects in the killing of three scientists who stumbled upon a cocaine laboratory in the Huanchaca area in September 1986 revived controversy over alleged DEA involvement in drug trafficking, embroiling the US Embassy in another heated debate. Statements made by then-US Ambassador to Bolivia, Robert Gelbard, that directly contradicted official US Embassy statements made in October 1986 served to confuse matters even further, as did the US Embassy's attempts to discredit a former Bolivian congressman involved in the 1986 investigation of the Huanchaca killings.
The months of May and June 1991 also witnessed widespread protests in the Chapare coca growing region of Bolivia in opposition to the army's involvement in antinarcotics operations and the government's failure to implement effective alternative development programs. Police and military troops were called out to dismantle roadblocks and disperse matches, resulting in hundreds arrested, scores wounded and one dead. The confrontations in the Chapare vividly illustrate the social and political tensions generated by the "war on drugs." By bringing in the army, the government appears to have sparked terrorist violence as well: following the April decision, bombs were reportedly found in several government buildings, the US Embassy, the American Airlines office and in the La Paz airport. (3)
Although these recent controversies and confrontations have cooled down, the issues behind the debate on the antinarcotics strategy are far from resolved. As Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT), noted in the July 1991 nomination hearing for Charles Bowers to replace Gelbard as US Ambassador to Bolivia, many analysts fear that the military component of US drug policy may be doing more harm than good in that country. (4) Senator Alan Cranston pointed out that: His (Bowers) appearance before the Committee comes at a time of increasing strains in the US-Bolivian relationship. It also comes at a time that those of us who have warned about the potential dangers of the Administration's antinarcotics strategy are, sadly, being proven right by developments in Bolivia. (5)
Resentment over what is viewed as a US-driven policy has generated distrust and suspicion of the US government by Bolivians across the political spectrum. As a result, debate revolves around issues of national sovereignty and US interventionism, rather than the negative impact of drug trafficking on Bolivian society and the dire poverty that draws Bolivians into coca production. The US government's insistence on involving the Bolivian army in antinarcotics operations frustrates and concerns Bolivians who remember well the rampant corruption and brutal human rights violations under the military "narco-dictatorship" of army general Luis Garcia Meza (1980-81). Bolivian analysts and politicians point out that a bigger threat to the country's civilian elected government may not be violent drug traffickers, but rather an antinarcotics policy that pushes the armed forces back into civilian affairs. While policymakers in Washington may think the potential gains outweigh the risks involved, the fundamental flaws in the policy assure failure. In fact, DEA officials reported a 28 percent increase in South American cocaine production in 1990. (6)
Bolivian analysts and politicians point out that a bigger threat to the country's civilian elected government may not be violent drug traffickers, but rather antinarcotics policy that pushes the armed forces back into civilian affairs.
In September 1989, the Bush Administration launched the "Andean Strategy," a five-year program designed to reduce cocaine supply in the United States by 60 percent by 1999. The strategy does include significant amounts of economic assistance, primarily in the form of balance of payments support, for Andean countries that are deemed to be carrying out effective antinarcotics activities. The Andean governments themselves have emphasized the need for overall economic support. The US strategy also institutionalizes the military component of US international drug policy: it calls for the involvement of Andean militaries in antinarcotics operations; includes a dramatic increase in military and police assistance to Bolivia, Colombia and Peru; and prescribes a training and planning role for US Special Forces. (7)
It is the latter - the part assigned to the Bolivian armed forces, particularly the army, and the role of the United States in planning and overseeing antinarcotics operations - that are the most controversial aspects of US drug policy in Bolivia. The US government claims that Bolivian army involvement is necessary to confront the Colombian drug traffickers that have displaced operations to Bolivia as a result of the "success" of antinarcotics efforts by the Colombian government. (The irony of defining "success" in this way for a multinational enterprise is not lost on Bolivians.) Indeed, drug trafficking operations have expanded in Bolivia and other countries as a result of the Colombian government's efforts to dismantle the Medellin cartel, posing a greater threat to the Bolivian government than before.
US officials also note that they are responding to Bolivian military concerns that the antinarcotics police, the Mobile Rural Patrol Unit (UMOPAR), has become the best armed and trained force in the country. The US government argues that aid to the military must be provided to balance the strength now possessed by the UMOPAR, which was set up in 1983 with funding provided by the US government. The "Leopards," as the UMOPAR was originally called, staged an unsuccessful coup attempt in 1984.
According to the strategy laid out by US officials, the Bolivian army is to provide the "logistical support" necessary for the UMOPAR to carry out its work more effectively. The term "logistical" appears to be loosely interpreted. Last year Ambassador Gelbard stated: US-trained Bolivian army battalions would engage in special operations with or without police units. The procedure would be to secure the town or area (probably by the army) and to have house to house searches (probably by the police). Such a plan would likely entail military occupation of a town or region. (8)
More recent statements describe the army's role as backing up police forces in large-scale antinarcotics operations and providing transportation and communications support when needed. To facilitate the army's involvement in antinarcotics operations, the US government is providing military aid and training to Bolivian troops. The details of this assistance are laid out in "Annex III," signed in May 1990 to supplement previous US-Bolivian antinarcotics agreements. Annex III includes the supply of helicopter and airplane parts, six new UH-IH helicopters, maintenance and repairs for the entire air fleet of the Bolivian air force, and eight river patrol boats for the navy. Both the air force and navy had received previous US support. But, for the first time, the annex outlined antinarcotics aid for the Bolivian army, including training and equipment for two infantry battalions to conduct antinarcotics operations. The annex also calls for aid and training for two engineering battalions to conduct civic action programs, and for a transportation battalion and a supply and service unit.
Although the bulk of the aid has yet to be delivered, Bolivia is slated to receive $47.5 million in military aid allocated for Fiscal Year (FY) 1990 and another $35.9 million allocated for FY1991, in addition to approximately $30 million in antinarcotics police assistance for the two-year period. Since Bolivia's total defense budget is approximately US$112 million, US aid represents about a 32 percent increase in military resources. (9)
US Special Forces have been training UMOPAR police troops as part of "Operation Snowcap," the DEA's ongoing program in the Andes which was initiated in 1987; however, training of the Bolivian army is just now getting off the ground with "Operation White Spear." An estimated 1,000 Bolivian army troops are participating in two 10-week sessions, in April and September of this year. Fifty-six US Special Forces troops are involved in each round of training. According to British journalist James Painter, "The idea is to train the Bolivian troops in high-mobility ground operations, such as patrolling and ambushes, but nothing specific to the anti-drug war." He quotes the US major in charge of the training operation as noting, "It's the same basic instruction as a US light infantry battalion would receive - only in a shorter time." (10)
The US may also assist in the construction of a base for Bolivian security forces engaged in antinarcotics operations. In a November 1989 interview, Ambassador Gelbard stated that the United States would finance the construction of a base on land owned by the Bolivian government, along the lines of the Santa Lucia base in Peru's Upper Huallaga Valley. (11) Based on an interview with Ambassador Gelbard in September of that year, Jaime Malamud-Goti, an Argentine academic who was Senior Presidential Adviser on Human Rights and Drug Policy to the Alfonsin government, describes the base as "a new intelligence center in the Beni region of the Amazon," which would enhance the intelligence gathering capabilities of the Bolivian security forces to facilitate actions against large cocaine laboratories and airfields. (12)
Although US officials deny that the United States has the upper hand in planning and overseeing antinarcotics activities, they argue that widespread corruption in the Bolivian government makes secrecy necessary in antinarcotics operations.
The US government's drug plan calls for the US military to provide much of the intelligence and strategic planning for the antinarcotics operations carried out by UMOPAR with the support of the Bolivian armed forces. (13) Although their current "rules of engagement" technically bar US Special Forces from accompanying Bolivian troops on antinarcotics operations, US DEA agents directly participate in UMOPAR actions. Their role, however, appears to be prescribed by their US military counterparts. A DEA agent based in Bolivia complained that US military personnel plan all antinarcotics operations out of the US Embassy in La Paz, with little if no input from the DEA. (14)
The predominance of the US role in gathering and analyzing intelligence and in planning operations and its insistence that the Bolivian army play a role in antinarcotics operations has provoked concern among Bolivian officials and has generated a nationalist backlash among the local population. Although US officials deny that the United States has the upper hand in planning and overseeing antinarcotics activities, they argue that widespread corruption in the Bolivian government makes secrecy necessary in antinarcotics operations. Bolivian government officials have complained (off-the-record) of not being informed of antinarcotics operations until after they take place. Some officials also point out that instead of developing the Bolivian government's capacity to carry out effective antinarcotics programs, the United States centralizes information and control in its own hands, thereby creating a dependency on US involvement.
Opposition to US drug policy spans the political spectrum. In the April 4, 1991 vote regarding the authorization to allow US military trainers into the country, left-leaning political forces were joined by the Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR), the leading conservative opposition party. Despite its image as the party most closely aligned with the US government and its faithful implementation of US drug policy when it last held the presidency (1985-89), the MNR joined other representatives in walking out of the Congress in protest of "militarization." According to MNR Congressman Raul Lema Patino, his party opposes the use of the Bolivian army in antinarcotics operations because it will lead to violence. (15)
Despite its image as the party most closely aligned with the US government and its faithful implementation of US drug policy when it last held the presidency (1985-89), the MNR joined other representatives in walking out of the Congress in protest of "militarization."
Just prior to the Congressional debate, former President and head of the MNR, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, referred to the debate over US antinarcotics training for the military as "a moment of immense dependency and even embarrassment for the country." (16) The generally conservative Bolivian press was highly critical of the Bolivian government's acceptance of the US trainers. Siglo 21 editorialized: "The US Embassy's pressures on the Bolivian government have left a feeling of bitterness, of weakness, of dependency that has been reflected in the press and in public opinion." (17)
The Catholic Church expressed similar concerns and has been critical of moves toward militarization in general. Following a five-day meeting in Cochabamba last May, the Bolivian Episcopal Conference released a document warning against the use of military force to suppress drug trafficking because of the spiral of violence that it could engender.
Peasant and labor unions and progressive political parties, such as the Movimiento Bolivia Libre (MBL), are outspoken critics of US policy and what is viewed as US intervention in Bolivian affairs. For example, in a widely reported speech last June, Filemon Escobar, a well-known labor leader and United Left Congressman, denounced the US government's imposition of unpopular policies, including militarization of the drug fight. (18)
The Bolivian Workers' Central (COB) - the country's main worker's federation - has repeatedly denounced militarization and the US role. COB leader Carlos Camargo stated, "The (US) Embassy, through its pressure and increasingly notorious intervention in the internal affairs and decisions of our country, is destabilizing the government." (19)
Many Bolivians feel that their government has capitulated under pressure to US demands. The Jaime Paz Zamora government resisted signing Annex III, the 1990 military aid agreement with the United States, but backed down when the US government threatened to withhold all economic assistance. (20) The Bush administration has effectively utilized US legislation which conditions US economic assistance and support in international financial institutions on "cooperation" with antinarcotics programs to gain Bolivian military participation in the drug war. However, "cooperation" is loosely defined in the US law, which does not specify military collaboration. Caught between a rock and a hard place, Paz Zamora was not willing to jeopardize his free-market economic program - which is dependent on both US foreign aid and US support in the international financial community. But just before signing Annex III in May 1990, Paz Zamora was quoted in the Bolivian press as stating that there was no need to involve the military in the drug war because the police were doing a good job, and that involvement of the armed forces would only cause unnecessary violence. Once the agreement was signed, Bolivian navy and air force participation in antinarcotics activities was expanded. However, Paz Zamora continued to resist US pressure to involve the Bolivian army directly, at one point claiming that US military assistance would be used to form "environmental brigades." In September 1990, Christopher Marquis of The Miami Herald reported: "Under the plan approved by Paz, the US aid would pay for the deployment of lightly armed troops in remote, ecologically sensitive regions to enforce laws against deforestation and river pollution, Bolivian officials said." (21)
According to official sources, in January 1991 the Bolivian government finally made a verbal agreement with US officials to initiate army involvement in antinarcotics activities. In late March the Bolivian government publicly admitted that US training activities with the Bolivian army were about to get underway and asked for congressional approval for the presence of the US military trainers. (22) Despite the fact that Congress is controlled by the coalition in control of the executive branch, the legislature's assent was presumably sought to increase the perceived legitimacy of the training operation.
Although Bolivians are well aware of the US pressure exerted on President Paz Zamora, he has been widely criticized for misinforming the public about negotiations and agreements with the US government and for not incorporating broader sectors of Bolivian society into the policy making process.
According to Bolivian journalist and politician Roger Cortez, President Paz Zamora finally agreed to move ahead with the implementation of Annex III as a result of pressure exerted by the US government. The United States gained leverage in the negotiations as a result of a substantial amount of evidence that it reportedly accumulated implicating high-level Bolivian government officials in drug trafficking. (23) US accusations of corruption ultimately led to the resignations of the Interior Minister, Guillermo Capobianco, and police commander Felipe Carvajal in mid-March 1991. Both maintained their innocence, claiming that they were forced to resign to protect the "image of the nation." (24) Another factor weighing on the government may have been pressure from certain sectors of the Bolivian army for additional resources. As noted previously, the army was until recently the only ! institution among the nation's security forces not receiving US antinarcotics assistance.
The Bolivian government's reluctance to bring the army into antinarcotics activities is well-founded. The army's involvement in the country's internal political affairs is long-standing: Bolivia has had 188 military governments in 166 years of independence.
The US government has also been pressing the Bolivian government to sign an extradition treaty, which would expand existing agreements and ostensibly further cooperation in antinarcotics activities. The Bolivian government claims that a treaty is not needed, as it has signed the Vienna Convention, which incorporates extradition. Bolivian officials also note that an agreement signed in 1900 to allow the extradition of the outlaw Butch Cassidy, who was hiding out in Bolivia, is still applicable. Opposition to a new extradition treaty has been clearly articulated in the Bolivian Congress and in the local press.
On July 29, 1991 the Bolivian government announced a Colombia-style policy by which any trafficker who turned himself in and confessed within the following four months could not be extradited to the United States. The terms of the arrangement, however, are tougher than those posed by Colombia: those who surrender must acknowledge their crimes, provide a list of accomplices and turn over all personal assets derived from the illicit drug trade. Nonetheless, US officials have shown little enthusiasm for the measure, expressing doubts as to the ability of the Bolivian judiciary to prosecute and sentence drug traffickers. (25) The Bolivian army, on the other hand, has reacted favorably, perhaps taking advantage of an opportunity to bow out of the drug war gracefully. According to press reports, the commander of the Bolivian army, General Guido Sandoval, stated that if drug traffickers turn themselves in "there is no reason for the army to participate in the fight against drug trafficking." (26) To date, four traffickers have taken advantage of the government's offer: Erwin Guzman Gonzales, Winston Rodriguez, Antonio Naciff and Hugo Rivero Villavicencio, all of whom are wanted in the United States on drug charges.
Although Bolivians are well aware of the US pressure exerted on President Paz Zamora, he has been widely criticized for misinforming the public about negotiations and agreements with the US government and for not incorporating broader sectors of Bolivian society into the policy making process. Just after signing the military aid agreement with the US government in May 1990, for example, Paz Zamora stated, "Under no circumstances will we permit a militarization of the struggle against drug trafficking." (27) The Bolivian government did not admit to having signed the military aid agreement with the United States until MBL leader Antonio Aranibar Quiroga returned from Washington with a copy of it, which was released to the press. In March 1991, the Paz Zamora government denied that plans were underway to begin US training of Bolivian army troops, although this information had been publicly stated by US officials.
Information which is public in Washington is often kept from the public in Bolivia. A widely-respected Bolivian analyst, Dr. Eduardo Gamarra, notes that in interviews carried out between 1988 and 1990, Bolivian government officials denied the existence of the DEA's Operation Snowcap at the same time that "the US Congress was holding public hearings on the effectiveness of the operation." (28) Gamarra concludes that to a large degree, "the Andean Strategy has been negotiated and implemented only with the knowledge of a few members of the ruling parties." (29)
The Bolivian government's reluctance to bring the army into antinarcotics activities is well-founded. The army's involvement in the country's internal political affairs is long-standing: Bolivia has had 188 military governments in 166 years of independence. Although the country will celebrate its ninth anniversary of civilian rule in October 1991, there is a delicate balance between civilian and military power which could be easily upset by antinarcotics operations that reassert military predominance in maintaining domestic order. The tenuous foothold of the civilian government is evident in its inability to assert its constitutional authority to administer justice. Efforts to bring Gen. Garcia Meza to trial for crimes committed during his 1980-81 rule have foundered, and he reportedly moves about freely in Bolivia and continues to receive his military pension. (30) According to Bolivian analyst Raul Barrios, "Increasing the military's potential in Bolivia is a serious matter. By augmenting its autonomy, the United States may very well be breaking down the military's subordination to civilian powers." (31) The cocaine trade became firmly established in Bolivia during the rule of General Hugo Banzer Suarez (1971-78), and flourished during General Garcia Meza's "narco-dictatorship" of 1980-81. Under Garcia Meza's rule, drug trafficking was consolidated under military officials in high-ranking government posts. The dictator established a tightly-controlled, hierarchical operation that, like the Colombian drug cartels, integrated the cocaine production process from buying coca leaves to transporting cocaine to the United States and Europe. Cocaine laboratories proliferated, and the drug trade boomed. In response the US government cut off aid to the Bolivian dictatorship. Aid was resumed with the return to civilian rule - but the legacy of extensive military corruption and the use of state power to protect and expand drug trafficking operations and profits remains alive in Bolivia.
A development worker from Cochabamba noted on a recent trip to Washington that "to bring in the army would be the best way to promote drug trafficking in Bolivia."
In fact, many prominent members of the de facto Garcia Meza government have worked their way back into positions of power. The notorious Minister of the Interior, Colonel Luis Arce Gomez, is behind bars in the United States, sentenced to thirty years in jail on drug trafficking charges. But Bolivia's newly appointed Minister of Defense, Rear Admiral Alberto Saenz Klinsky, was also a minister during Garcia Meza's rule. Some high-level military officials protested President Paz Zamora's August appointment of Saenz Klinsky, and army commander General Jorge Moreira resigned - in both cases not because of the Garcia Meza connection, but because of the "subordinate" rank of the new defense minister. (32) As a result of the Bolivian military's history of involvement in the cocaine trade, many Bolivians are astounded by US insistence that the armed forces be integrated into antinarcotics programs. A development worker from Cochabamba noted on a recent trip to Washington that "to bring in the army would be the best way to promote drug trafficking in Bolivia." (33) In response to these criticisms, US officials claim that with the proper training and support from the US government, corruption can be significantly reduced. However, the history of US antinarcotics programs in Bolivia - as elsewhere - illustrates the difficulty of significantly reducing corruption. As a result, the forces trained by the United States are continually lost to collusion with traffickers. Although the UMOPAR won high praise from the US Embassy in La Paz for its antinarcotics operations conducted this year, it was necessary as recently as last May to reassign or dismiss dozens of top officials for suspected corruption. Bolivian army officials maintain that fear of corruption is behind its reluctance to get involved in antinarcotics operations. (34) The prevalence of police and armed forces collaboration with drug traffickers has been widely documented by the national and international press.
"Bolivia's weak democratic traditions may not survive a US policy which rebuilds the military, pushes for militarized zones, and thrusts the armed forces of the region into conflicts with peasants and other groups opposed to counternarcotics operations," according to Eduardo Gamarra.
Bolivians also express concern that army involvement in antinarcotics activities unnecessarily provokes the local population and is likely to lead to widespread abuses and violence. As described below, violent confrontations between the UMOPAR and Bolivians living in the Chapare are already common, and raids on towns in the Beni region, where many cocaine laboratories are located, inevitably result in accusations of mistreatment by UMOPAR and DEA agents. Bringing in the military, which has a history of violent conflict with labor and peasant groups, is only likely to exacerbate such tensions and could initiate a vicious spiral of violence that until now has not existed in Bolivia, as it has in neighboring Peru and Colombia. "Bolivia's weak democratic traditions may not survive a US policy which rebuilds the military, pushes for militarized zones, and thrusts the armed forces of the region into conflicts with peasants and other groups opposed to counternarcotics operations," according to Eduardo Gamarra. (35) From a Bolivian point of view, the medicine prescribed by the US government may be worse than the disease.
Perhaps the greatest potential for confrontations between the military and civil society can be found in the Chapare region, where coca leaves are grown. Over the last decade, thousands of Bolivians have migrated to the Chapare seeking employment. Attempting to eke out a living in South America's poorest country, coca growers have become an important social and political force in Bolivia and are represented in well-organized federations. The Bolivian government is faced with the difficult challenge of responding to the economic reality which drives the poor into coca production, while at the same time combating the cocaine industry, which utilizes the bulk of the Bolivian coca crop. The coca leaf, which is mixed with chemicals to make cocaine, is a traditional Andean crop. The world demand for cocaine has transformed coca into Bolivia's number one export crop. In addition to its religious and cultural significance for Andean peasants, chewing the coca leaf wards off hunger and fatigue, thereby making extreme poverty and the harsh climatic conditions of the highlands more bearable. The coca leaf, which has been legally grown in the Andes for centuries, should not be confused with cocaine, a chemically processed derivative.
"In reality, coca is the only alternative for me," claimed one producer. "I cannot get bananas to the market, even if I could get a better price for them. How else can I feed my family?"
Coca production has spread from the Andean highlands to the Chapare region - located in the central lowlands - where it has expanded at a dramatic rate. By conservative estimates approximately 80,000 hectares of coca are cultivated in Bolivia, which is second only to Peru in world production. This boom is a direct response to international demand for cocaine. It is also a response to economic crisis and extreme poverty. The number of coca farmers tripled between 1980 and 1986 - when the Bolivian economy went through an extraordinary cycle of inflation and then deep recession. For thousands of Bolivians, growing coca is their only economic alternative. They face over 20 percent unemployment and steadily declining living standards in rural areas due to harsh economic austerity programs. (36)
An estimated 75,000 families - or 300,000 Bolivians - in the Chapare are involved in coca production, which in turn is estimated to have generated another 175,000 jobs. (37) If the coca boom ended in Bolivia, which has a total population of under 7 million, the ranks of the unemployed would swell dramatically. Coca production, however, allows only a subsistence level living. Price fluctuations make it a risky business, occasionally creating economic losses when the market price falls below the production cost. Most of the time, coca production lets a family eat - bananas, yuca and rice - and not much more. Although the coca crop of the Chapare provides an estimated $600 million in foreign exchange - equal in value to all other exports combined - the region lacks basic services and infrastructure. Health care is a rare commodity, as are running water, paved roads and electricity. The lack of infrastructure encourages coca production. Local residents have the option of transporting coca leaves on bicycles or on their backs to local markets where the product is sold to middlemen, or lugging pounds of bananas on their backs to markets which are often farther away. Despite price fluctuations, coca yields a much higher profit margin than other crops grown in the area and it produces four yearly harvests. "In reality, coca is the only alternative for me," claimed one producer. "I cannot get bananas to the market, even if I could get a better price for them. How else can I feed my family?" (38)
Coca growers in the Chapare adamantly defend their right to grow coca to survive and defend the coca leaf as an important religious, cultural and medicinal product. However, they are not opposed to substituting their coca fields for economically viable alternative crops. As noted above, overproduction and antinarcotics activities cause the price of the coca leaf to fluctuate, and a stable income is not assured. (39) Coca growers run the risk of having their crops destroyed and their personal property stolen or damaged during the frequent raids by UMOPAR troops. Illegal searches and seizures are frequent in the Chapare.
Yet to date no viable alternatives to coca exist for the region. The Bolivian government's efforts to promote alternative crops have been hampered by lack of funds, political conflicts within the bureaucracy, and difficulties in working with the organized federations in the area. The coca growers complain that the government rarely fulfills agreements on resource allocations and development programs for the region. Moreover, the government's macroeconomic policies and trade liberalization have created unfavorable conditions for agricultural production by small farmers, thereby generating even greater disincentives for crop substitution. According to the president of the Colonizers' Federation of the Tropical Carrasco, Valentin Gutierrez, "We've heard so many promises that have never been fulfilled. For us, coca eradication without development means hunger and misery. Many who have eradicated have returned to their places of origin, but they can't survive there either" (40)
The coca growers mediate their demands with the government through federations, which have steadily grown in size and influence. The five federations in the Chapare, which were founded in the 1960s as colonizers' unions, collect and present grievances to local and national governments. They have come to represent an important pressure group - both within the labor movement and at a broader political level - that cannot be ignored.
The coca growers mediate their demands with the government through federations, which have steadily grown in size and influence.
Because local governments are weak and ineffective, the federations have taken on some important local functions. Dr. Kevin Healy notes: "They have the authority, legitimacy, and power to establish private land boundaries for new colonists, to influence transport fares, and to manage and tax coca-leaf markets in the towns of the Chapare, with the funds so raised to be used for local, small-scale public works programs." (41) The federations collect "taxes" which are used to build local markets and to repair the roads blown up by the UMOPAR and the DEA. This is a common practice, which aims to disrupt the transportation of coca paste out of the Chapare, but which prevents other crops from being marketed as well.
As the voice of the local population, the federations have been outspoken critics of the government's eradication-oriented antinarcotics efforts and of the role of the Bolivian army and US trainers in those activities. To that end, the coca growers federations - often supported by the other major peasant and labor unions - have organized marches and road blocks to protest what they see as "repressive" antinarcotics activities and to demand attention to their economic plight. In the past, bloody confrontations have resulted from police and military attempts to repress these forms of social protest. On May 27, 1987 five peasants were reportedly killed by UMOPAR troops in Parotani, Cochambamba. In a widely-reported incident on June 27, 1989, UMOPAR troops opened fire on a crowd protesting outside its headquarters in Villa Tunari. An estimated twelve persons were killed in the stampede away from the gunfire. Many others were injured and arrested.
Although government officials insist that there are no plans for the army to enter the Chapare, occasional statements by army officers of the need to "reestablish military control" in the area fuel concerns.
The decision by the Bolivian government to allow the army to get involved in the antinarcotics programs sparked further protest, as local residents fear that this will provide the military with an excuse to establish a permanent presence in the Chapare. Although government officials insist that there are no plans for the army to enter the Chapare, occasional statements by army officers of the need to "reestablish military control" in the area fuel concerns. Moreover, US "drug czar" Robert Martinez reportedly spoke publicly of the need for the army to operate against drug traffickers in the Chapare during a recent visit to the zone. North American journalist Leslie Wirpsa points out:
The Bolivian government has promised that the troops will not pursue peasants who grow coca, nor will they rout out coca plants. They will only target 'drug traffickers,' the government says. Peasants, however, fear the lines will blur between big chiefs of the narcotics trade, peasants who make cocaine base or paste in jungle 'kitchens' and those who legally cultivate coca leaf. They fear renewed repression from an army known for its brutality during de facto military regimes of the 1970s. (42) In response, representatives at the First Annual Meeting of Andean Coca Growers, held in La Paz last March, pledged to form self-defense groups to protect themselves against potential aggression from the army and against on-going aggression by the UMOPAR. (43) Political tensions are high, creating the conditions from which violence easily erupts. Anti-American sentiment is high as well. During a protest march through the streets of Cochabamba in mid-May, hundreds of members of coca growers associations shouted, "Life to coca! Death to the gringos!" (44) The marches were scheduled to resume in the middle of June, and on June 17, roadblocks were set up. Once again, the military was called in to stop the protest. According to Informe R, military and police troops impeded the roadblocks and other forms of protest. More than 200 local leaders were arrested and the government suspended talks with the coca growers federations that began in May. (45) The protests were supported by the two leading opposition political parties. MNR Congressman Guillermo Richter stated, "The MNR believes the government has committed an error in suspending the dialogue with the peasants and by using the armed forces and the police to control the roadblocks...it is not correct to use military force to resolve conflicts because this will generate confrontations..." Congressman Alfonso Alem also voiced support on behalf of the MBL, declaring that the protest was justified by the government's repeated failure to comply with agreements made with the coca growers and other political forces. (46)
A subsequent demonstration was declared for the anniversary of the Villa Tunari killings on June 27, in which 8,000 peasants were reported to have participated. A march for "Dignity and Sovereignty" was scheduled for June 30, but Bolivian troops again forced the protectors to disband. One person was killed, scores were wounded, and two key federation leaders - Evo Morales and Hilaridn Mamani - were temporarily detained.
Following months of violent confrontations and stalled negotiations, an agreement between the government and the coca growers was finally signed in early July. In it, the coca growers agree to cooperate with antinarcotics activities; the government agreed that the armed forces will not be involved in operations against coca growers and again promised to implement effective alternative development programs. The agreement also calls for the formation of a commission composed of government officials, church leaders, journalists and coca growers to investigate and respond to cases of UMOPAR abuses against coca growers. Whether both parties to the agreement will act to implement it, or whether it will remain on paper only - as has so often happened in the past - remains to be seen.
The Cochabamba branch of the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, one of Bolivia's leading human rights organizations, regularly denounces human rights violations committed by antinarcotics police in the Chapare, including torture and illegal detentions.
The abuses referred to in the agreement are widespread. In addition to short-term detentions and mistreatment and occasional killings as a result of social protest and the illegal searches and seizures documented above, local residents claim that arbitrary arrests and torture by the UMOPAR are a common occurrence. Although extensive documentation of such human rights violations is hard to come by given the remoteness of the Chapare, personal testimonies abound. The Catholic church and Bolivian human rights groups have collected individual testimonies and generally support the concerns of both the coca growers and residents of the Beni region. The Cochabamba branch of the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, one of Bolivia's leading human rights organizations, regularly denounces human rights violations committed by antinarcotics police in the Chapare, including torture and illegal detentions. As pointed out by local leader Valentin Gutierrez: We have suffered repeated abuses at the hands of the anti-drug police - stealing our things, breaking into our homes in the middle of the night, beating us up. We believe the military will only be worse. (47)
More often than not, local residents implicate the DEA in these abuses. Although no further evidence exists to verify these claims, the presence of DEA agents at raids when abuses occur tarnish the agency's image and create the impression that it condones such behavior. As long as the UMOPAR continues to mistreat Bolivian citizens while accompanied by DEA agents, local residents will point the finger at the DEA, accusing them of abuses as well.
Local resentment and hostility is also prevalent in the Beni, the jungle region where coca paste is processed into cocaine and where drug traffickers operate. Opposition has been particularly acute in the town of Santa Ana de Yacuma, which is considered to be the home of Bolivia's most notorious drug traffickers and hence has borne the brunt of several major antinarcotics operations. Local protest of antinarcotics operations exploded again in a massive police and military raid on Santa Ana de Yacuma on June 28, 1991. Approximately 630 UMOPAR troops supported by Bolivian military units and DEA agents stormed and took over the town. (48) According to Bolivian officials, the raid - part of a multi-phase antinarcotics operation code-named "Operation Safehaven" - represented one of the most intensive antinarcotics effort ever conducted in the country.
The Santa Ana operation and subsequent events provide useful insights into the inherent problems of such operations and their undesired consequences. Although the evidence is contradictory as to how successful the raid was in disrupting the cocaine supply, the negative consequences for US policymakers are easier to assess. The local population vocally protested the raid and denounced abuses by both UMOPAR troops and DEA agents. The Bolivian military also denounced the DEA for participating in the arrest by UMOPAR police of a navy official and called for the expulsion of some DEA agents from the country. Finally, the operation sparked a nationwide debate over the nature of antinarcotics operations and the role of the US government in carrying out those operations. What actually happened in Santa Ana and the results of the operation are difficult to piece together. News reports and official US and Bolivian government statements conflict on even basic points. All agree that the raid was significant in reestablishing a strong government presence in the town; from there, accounts differ. According to a statement issued by the Bolivian Ministry of the Interior, 21 planes were confiscated, 7 hangars and 10 residencies of traffickers were taken over, and one clandestine laboratory used to produce ether, a chemical used for refining cocaine, was destroyed. (49) The Bolivian government also admitted that, as has been the case with previous raids on Santa Ana, no major drug traffickers were captured in the operation.
The US government in Washington gave a very different version of events. In testimony presented before Congress on July 10, 1991, Charles J. Gutensohn, Chief of the DEA's Cocaine Investigations Section, stated: "As of July 1, 1991, Operation Safehaven caused the arrest of 54 traffickers, the destruction of 15 cocaine base and HCl laboratories, the seizure of 40 aircraft, 9 estates, $32,000 in U.S currency and 110 kilos of cocaine base." (50) At the same hearings, the Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics Matters, Melvyn Levitsky, noted the capture of 39 aircraft and the arrest of Renato Roca Suarez, accused drug trafficker and brother of Bolivian drug kingpin Jorge Roca Suarez. (51) His testimony did not include the arrests and dismantled labs detailed by Gutensohn.
The US Ambassador to Bolivia took a less optimistic view of events, lamenting that corruption prevented any major traffickers from being arrested. The Bolivian press reported that Ambassador Gelbard initially blamed the failure on a leak from the local prefect's office, which allowed the traffickers to escape. Such leaks are quite common and regularly impede counternarcotics operations. Bolivian officials, on the other hand, claim that the noise made by the helicopters approaching the town provided the warning signal. Despite the fact that no big traffickers were captured in the operation, Gelbard stated to the press that he considered the "reconquest" of Santa Ana a victory in the antinarcotics struggle. (52)
The local population presents a very different version of the events. A representative of a local cultural center, Sergio Iriarte Rodriguez, called the operation a "brutal action...in which the town was surrounded and taken over, as if it were an invasion of an enemy country in times of war." (53) Local residents complained of being roughed up by the troops and of significant property damage as a result of the raids on individual homes. The Cochabamba daily newspaper, Los Tiempos, reported that: "The parish priest of Santa Ana de Yacuma...asked authorities to call for the immediate cessation of the abuses being committed against the district's population, indicating that UMOPAR and DEA agents were acting with extreme violence, attacking even children, women and the elderly." Los Tiempos also reported that stores and properties were looted by UMOPAR and DEA agents. (54) Local residents claimed that DEA, not UMOPAR, agents led the attack.
During the operation, 200 local residents staged a protest demonstration at the Santa Ana airport. Tear gas was used to quash the protest, dozens were arrested and at least two people were injured by tear gas canisters lobbed into the crowd to disband demonstrators. Many local and regional officials denounced the operation, as well as Congressman H. Fernando Iriarte, who was in Santa Ana at the time. Civic leaders throughout the Beni declared a "state of emergency," called for the Minister of Interior to account for the events surrounding the operation and created a special commission to intervene in Santa Ana. A region-wide strike was declared for July 4. (55)
Although US officials generally praised the conduct of the UMOPAR, they admit that some excesses by UMOPAR agents did occur. According to the Miami Herald, "Bolivian agents at other moments indulged in what an official who participated in the raid called 'gratuitous destruction,' rampaging through two homes seized from traffickers, smashing TVs and stereos, throwing houseplants and kicking out the headlights of a parked car." (56)
As noted above, the UMOPAR was not the only target of opposition; the DEA came under fire as well. An incident that took place during the raid provoked the wrath -primarily targeting the DEA - of the Bolivian armed forces and Bolivian government officials. Reportedly, DEA and UMOPAR agents arrested the commander of the naval garrison in Santa Ana, Lieutenant Carlos Revollo, accused by US government officials of corruption and involvement in drug trafficking. According to the US Embassy, marines in the garrison under Revollo's command opened fire on UMOPAR planes during a similar operation two years ago. To prevent a similar occurrence, the UMOPAR and DEA took over the naval base as the operation in Santa Ana got underway. The US Embassy claims that Revollo came out of a local brothel, drunk, and confronted the police. A struggle ensued, and police did what was necessary to bring him under control. (57)
Revollo recounts events differently. According to his family, upon his return home from a party, Revollo was detained, then beaten and tied up by the antinarcotics police with DEA agents present. Revollo claims that he was struck by members of the DEA. In response, the navy accused the North Americans of carrying out the arrest, and the commander of the Bolivian Navy, Rolando Herrera, stated that "the country's armed forces are also disturbed because during the operation North American DEA agents mistreated one of its officials, navy Lieutenant Carlos Revollo, accused by Gelbard of being 'corrupt'." (58) The US Embassy insists that Revollo was arrested by local forces and denies the alleged DEA abuses. Although the credibility of Revollo's claims is dubious, the incident becam the linchpin of the armed forces' questioning of the role of the DEA in antinarcotics operations.
An incident that took place just prior to the Santa Ana raid also sparked controversy. The Bolivian armed forces denounced that on June 17 the DEA had broken the security lock on an Air Force plane in Trinidad in order to perform a "narcotest," to check the plane for cocaine. Bolivian armed forces officials reprimanded the DEA for carrying out the test without authorization and with no Bolivian officials present. The US Embassy, again disagreeing with the armed forces' rendition of the incident, insists that a Bolivian police locksmith provided access to the plane in the presence of a Bolivian public prosecutor. No evidence of drugs was found on the plane.
Finally, fuel was added to the fire by Ambassador Gelbard's public accusations following the Santa Ana operation of high-level armed forces complicity in drug trafficking. In response, the Bolivian armed forces called for the expulsion of those DEA agents involved in the controversial incidents. In a public statement, then-commander of the Bolivian armed forces, General Jorge Moreira, proclaimed, "This is an affront against the armed forces...once those responsible for these aggressions are identified, we are going to ask that they be expelled." (59) According to the La Paz daily newspaper, La Razon, "The reaction of the Armed Forces...was immediately backed by all of the political parties represented in the Parliament, which came out in favor of expulsion." (60) Protests were also lodged against the US government by Bolivian government officials, including the Minister of Foreign Relations, who noted that allegations of corruption should be documented and shared with the appropriate Bolivian authorities before being given to the press.
The Bolivian government formed an investigative commission to look into the accusations against the DEA, but it has not produced any findings. President Jaime Paz Zamora was quick to urge caution in making accusations against the United States. Meanwhile, all non-permanent (Temporary Duty) (61) DEA agents present in Bolivia at the time of the Santa Ana operation have been moved out of the country through routine rotations.
The Santa Ana operation illustrates the volatility of Bolivian support for antinarcotics operations and the fierce nationalism and anti-American backlash that such operations can create. A senior aide to President Paz Zamora reportedly stated that "the DEA have not observed the legal limits to their role." (62) Radio commentaries by a widely respected station, Radio Fides, on July 1, 1991 noted that "The antinarcotics struggle in Bolivia is headed by the DEA. The special Bolivian force for the control of drug trafficking serves only US interests. The UMOPAR is not at the service of Bolivia, it is at the service of the United States." (63) The Christian Science Monitor reported that: "Gelbard's comments prompted Vice President Luis Ossio Ganjines to accuse him of 'meddling' in internal affairs." (64) Undoubtedly, much truth lies behind Gelbard's accusations of corruption. Yet the manner in which the US Embassy handled the failure of the Santa Ana operation appears to have done more harm than good.
Allegations that the DEA and other US officials bungled an operation targeting a major cocaine laboratory in Huanchaca were revived following the arrest in Argentina last June of two men implicated in the killing of three prominent scientists at the Huanchaca lab. In the Huanchaca debacle - which took place during Operation Blast Furnace (65) in 1986 -US and Bolivian troops "overlooked" one of the biggest cocaine laboratories thought to be operating at that time and botched efforts to capture those involved. The Huanchaca incident bears striking resemblance to the recent raid on Santa Anal Both cases clearly illustrate how even the best US intelligence and military support cannot guarantee effective antinarcotics operations. Despite the best intentions of the US government, its efforts led to heated allegations of DEA misconduct and corruption and sparked renewed opposition to the role of the United States in antinarcotics operations in Bolivia.
In the Huanchaca debacle - which took place during Operation Blast Furnace in 186 - US and Bolivian troops "overlooked" one of the biggest cocaine laboratories thought to be operating at that time and botched efforts to capture those involved.
In the summer of 1986, a team of scientists set up camp near a major cocaine laboratory in the Huanchaca region, near Bolivia's northern border with Brazil. The DEA and the UMOPAR were first informed of the lab's existence in June 1986. That August, the DEA and Bolivian police carried out reconnaissance missions over the Huanchaca lab, though they were never able to land their planes in the area, primarily due to bad weather. Although they knew of the scientific team's whereabouts, they never warned them of the lab's existence or that they could be in any danger. On September 5, 1986 some of the scientists, led by prominent Bolivian botanist Noel Kempff, unsuspectingly flew over the lab and landed on the airstrip next to it. Kempff, his guide and the pilot were gunned down by drug traffickers; a Spanish scientist was able to hide and survived the attack.
A Bolivian congressional investigative committee looking into the scientists' death concluded that a rescue party organized by the Spanish survivor, some Bolivian military officials and the DEA did not get off the ground until 48 hours after the lab's existence became public information. When the rescue mission f1nally arrived, the traffickers had fled, leading to accusations of official US and Bolivian complicity in protecting the drug traffickers. This led some members of the investigative committee to conclude that US officials were involved in protecting the cocaine laboratory and the traffickers running it. Although those claims were never proven, there is evidence implicating high-level Bolivian government officials in attempting to "cover-up" the Huanchaca laboratory. Moreover, it does appear that US officials showed poor judgment in events leading up to the killings and badly bungled the rescue operation. (66)
On November 10, 1986 a prominent Bolivian congressman participating in the investigation was gunned down at his home after refusing to be bribed into suppressing additional information of official involvement. Journalists who were covering the story also received death threats. (67) Despite the extensively documented congressional investigation, the committee's report was never officially released. Calls by some Congress members for the expulsion of two DEA agents from the country went unheeded.
The debate over the events at Huanchaca was revived just as the controversy surrounding the Santa Ana operation and the role of the DEA in it was beginning to brew. The situation was aggravated even further by contradictory statements from the US Embassy in La Paz. In October 1986, the US Embassy issued a public statement admitting that it had known of the Huanchaca lab's existence since June of that year, but did not have information on its size or significance. On June 26, 1991 the US Embassy issued a statement that US and Bolivian officials knew of the Huanchaca lab "only hours before" the killings of the scientists. (68) In addition to giving conflicting official versions of the events, the Embassy attempted to discredit Roger Cortez, who had participated in the original investigative mission and covered the Huanchaca case in his television show, "Linea de Fuego" on March 18, 1991.
The debate touched off by the Santa Ana raid could have been predicted from the Huanchaca case in 1986. The US response to past antinarcotics failures - and incidents like Huanchaca - has been to up the ante: provide more money, more technical resources, and more military might. The effectiveness of those additional resources in stemming drug trafficking was not evident in the Santa Ana raid in June 1991; however, the negative consequences of militarization that Bolivians have been warning of were very evident. Despite five years that have witnessed a dramatic expansion of US assistance for antinarcotics activities in Bolivia, the results continue to be negative: slowly escalating violence, prevalent abuses against the civilian population, and no progress in stemming the flow of drugs out of Bolivia.
To date, the Andean Strategy has failed to reduce the cocaine traffic from the Andes. Washington officials claim that the one country where significant progress in curbing drug production has been made is Colombia. Yet, they also point out that this has resulted in a shift in cocaine processing and trafficking to Bolivia and other South American countries. In other words, there is not less cocaine being produced in the Andes - it's just coming from different places. Cocaine production in Bolivia appears to have actually increased significantly. As Representative Lee Hamilton (D-IN) pointed out in a recent op-ed: "This strategy has had few results. Coca production is thriving. Even by the most cautious official estimates, coca production rose by 5 percent between 1988 and 1990, with almost all of it coming from the remote regions of Bolivia and Peru." (69)
The US drug strategy for Bolivia may be doing more harm than good. A reexamination of present policy and the development of more constructive alternatives is needed to deal with the very real problems of drug abuse in the United States, on the one hand, and the erosion of civil institutions caused by drug trafficking in Bolivia, on the other. Moreover, to stem both drug production and consumption, underlying problems of poverty and underdevelopment must be taken into account. Effective policies to confront these problems which cross national boundaries must be seen as mutually beneficial and must be developed jointly, in cooperation and consultation by those most affected by the problems and potential solutions. Only then will viable solutions be found.
1. The Bolivian navy and air force have provided minimal support for antinarcotics operations for the past several years. The army, however, has not been directly involved in such operations until now.
The Incas held the coca plant in such high regard that they called it "K'oca," which means sacred, exalted, and unique. The elders and medicine men used its leaves to predict good fortune or disaster.
The story is told that during the reign of Atahualpa there lived on an island in Lake Titicaca a very wise and holy man, named Khana Chuyma. He was High Priest and guardian of the Sun God's treasures.
By that time, the Spanish conquerors had come to these lands, greedy for gold, and had subjugated the native people, sacked their temples, and blasphemed their gods.
Resolved to prevent the sacred gold of the Sun God from falling into the hands of the invader, Khana Chuyma secretly hid the gold on the shores of the lake. Every day, he climbed to the highest bluff and scanned the horizon, dreading the approach of Pizarro's soldiers. One day, he spied their columns of gleaming armor approaching from afar, and, without wasting a moment, he cast the Sun God's treasure into the depths of the lake.
Knowing that he had hidden the gold, the Spaniards took hold of Khana Chuyma, supposing that by brute force they could get him to divulge the secret of the treasure. But Khana Chuyma stoically withstood the cruelest of tortures without a word about the gold's whereabouts escaping his lips. Tired of torturing the holy man to no effect, the soldiers relented and left him for dead in a nearby field.
That night, amidst his agony, Khana Chuyma had a glorious vision: the Sun God appeared to him, a resplendent figure perched atop the highest of peaks, and said:
"My son, you deserve to be generously rewarded for your heroic sacrifice. Ask of me whatever you wish, and I will grant it."
"Oh my beloved God, what favor can I ask of you in this time of pain and defeat, but for the redemption of my people and the expulsion of the invaders?"
"That which you ask of me," said the Sun, "is now impossible. I am powerless against these intruders. Their god has defeated me, and I too must flee, to hide myself amidst the mysteries of time. But before I leave, I would like to bestow upon you something that is within my powers."
Khana Chuyma responded: "Since it is impossible to restore the freedom which my people once enjoyed, as you leave us I ask only for something to help us endure the slavery and hardships that await us - something which is not gold, so that our conquerors do not covet it. I ask you for a secret comfort which would allow my people to ease the yoke of slavery and humiliation which our oppressors will impose upon us."
"So be it," said the Sun. "Look in the field around you. Do see the plants whose green, oval leaves are budding as we speak? Tell your people that they should cultivate these plants with care and pick its leaves, taking care not to harm the stem. After the leaves have been dried, they should be chewed, for their juice will be a balsam to relieve the sufferings of your people. When your people chew the leaves, they will share brotherhood and solidarity. When they lie exhausted from the endless toil for which they are destined, these leaves will give your people new vitality. On their long journeys through the inclement highlands, coca will alleviate hunger and cold and make their way more tolerable. In the mines, where their new masters will force them to work, the fetidness, darkness and terror of the deep caves will be unbearable without the help of this plant.
"When they wish to gaze into the future," the deity continued, "a handful of these leaves tossed to the winds will reveal the mysteries of fate. But while these leaves will signify health, strength, and life for you and your people, they are accursed for your oppressors. When they attempt to exploit its virtues, the coca will destroy them. What for your people will be divine nourishment, will be for the invader a degrading vice, inevitably sowing discord among his kind.
"This sacred plant is the legacy that I leave you. Take care that it not be extinguished, and make good use of it."