U.S. Cites Bolivia's Declining Cooperation in War on Drugs

The Bush administration on Monday noted disturbing trends in Bolivia's cooperation with efforts to combat illicit drugs.

Concerns about contributions to the illegal drug trade by the South American nation came as the White House released the U.S. government's annual list of major drug-transit or drug-producing countries.

The list remained unchanged from a year ago, with a total of 20 nations cited: Afghanistan, The Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Venezuela.

President Bush sent a report to Congress which also noted that Myanmar and Venezuela, for the second year in a row, were determined to have "failed demonstrably" to meet their obligations under international counternarcotics requirements.

But the report singled out Bolivia, the world's third-largest producer of cocaine, for particular emphasis.

"Despite increased drug interdiction, Bolivia has undertaken policies that have allowed the expansion of coca cultivation and have significantly curtailed eradication," White House press secretary Tony Snow said in a statement.

The Bolivian government has focused almost solely on interdiction, without a focus on eradication and the development of alternative crops, the report said.

Snow said that the government will establish benchmarks by which to further judge Bolivia, such as eradicating coca crops in certain areas, making changes to Bolivian law and tightly controlling the legitimate sale of the coca leaf for traditional use. An interim assessment of any progress will come in March, he said.

Bush waived provisions of U.S. law that could have subjected Venezuela to a cutoff of U.S. assistance because of the designation. The president said he would maintain U.S. programs that aid Venezuela's democratic institutions, establish select community development projects, and strengthen Venezuela's political party system.

The administration also decided not to cut these programs last year because they promote democracy in Venezuela, a key U.S. goal in a country where, officials say, the commitment to democratic norms has been eroding under the populist president, Hugo Chavez.