Related topics

Senators Urge Pressure on Bolivia to Reduce Cocaine Production

March 28, 1985

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Sen. Paula Hawkins said Thursday she’s introducing a bill that would cut off U.S. aid to Bolivia unless that country reduces its cocaine production by 10 percent annually.

Mrs. Hawkins, R-Fla., and four other senators said they were not only upset with Bolivia, but with the State Department for allowing that nation to flood the United States with cocaine.

″What we probably need is a drug desk at the State Department so they’ll understand what’s going on,″ Sen. Mack Mattingly, R-Ga., told a news conference on the bill.

Mrs. Hawkins said Bolivia is the source of more than 50 percent of the world’s cocaine and that production there continues to rise.

Her bill would bypass a law she initiated in 1983, which instructs the president to cut off aid to countries failing to take steps to eradicate drug crops. She said that law has been ignored while Bolivia has failed to eradicate a single coca crop.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, agreeing the previous legislation is not working, added, ″There’s been a reluctance among the striped-pants people in the State Department to really force the issue.″

He said the new legislation would be more effective because ″money talks.″

Mrs. Hawkins cited State Department figures showing that 49,200 metric tons of cocaine entered the United States from Bolivia in 1984.

Bolivia last year received grants and loans totaling $78.1 million and an additional $126.6 million from the U.S.-supported Inter-American Development Bank. For 1985, the nation is scheduled to receive $48 million in U.S. aid.

The legislation would specify that no assistance be provided Bolivia unless the president certified to Congress that Bolivian coca production during the prior fiscal year declined by 10 percent.

Also participating in the news conference were Sens. Dennis DeConcini, D- Ariz., and James Abdnor, R-S.D.

In response, Bolivian Ambassador Mariano Battista said his government ″shares the concern of the U.S. Congress″ on the dangers of cocaine use, but is unable to take immediate action to eradicate the crop.

″The problem is, we have 100,000 people that depend on the production of coca leaves. So we have a big social problem if we begin to eradicate it without giving them some other way of living. Otherwise, we condemn them to starvation.″

He said Bolivia is working to substitute other crops but needs more time.

Battista added, ″Our first priority is to preserve the democratic process,″ and noted that general elections are scheduled in three months. He said there is a danger of a coup if action is taken now against the coca crop.

Cocaine growing is illegal in Bolivia, except for small amounts produced for medical purposes.

The State Department, in response to the senators’ comments, cited testimony last week from Jon R. Thomas, assistant secretary in the department’s International Narcotics Bureau, who said he did not believe cutting off aid would succeed in reducing cocaine production.

″We could cause increased instability leading to very unwelcome developments,″ Thomas said. ″We could further depress already precarious economies. But would we inflict any pain on the trafficker?″

He said economic sanctions would be considered when the administration determines that the country would not cooperate further.

Update hourly