Morales Says US Anti-Drug DEA Killed Bolivian Farmers
LA PAZ - Bolivian President Evo Morales accused the US Drug Enforcement Administration, which has been given three months to leave the country, of "shooting" and "killing" Bolivians during their anti-drug operations.
"The DEA killed, shot at the coca farmers' movement," said Morales, who as well as president still heads the country's cocalero movement, a loose federation of coca growers' unions.
Without mentioning specific incidents to back up his charges, Morales said the DEA "ordered the Armed Forces, commands the National Police" and "had political control of the government."
Morales, a political leftist staunch foe of the US government, announced Saturday he was suspending the work of the US DEA in Bolivia, accusing it of having encouraged political unrest that killed 19 people in September.
He accused DEA agents of "conducting political espionage activities to fund criminal groups" and of supporting a failed coup, referring to fighting in five of the country's nine departments in September that resulted in 19 deaths.
The DEA, which has been spearheading a joint program to erradicate coca -- the source plant for cocaine -- has denied Morales' accusations.
According to the US government, Bolivia has joined Myanmar and Venezuela as countries that "failed demonstrably" in anti-drugs cooperation.
Morales in September expelled US Ambassador Philip Goldberg from Bolivia, charging him with conspiring to overthrow his government.
In July, coca growers in central Chapare province forced USAID workers out of the region, triggering a diplomatic crisis with Washington.
Morales has headed the coca growers movement since the mid 1990s. He was elected president in 2005.