Morales: Relations with US awful

AP News
Posted: Oct 12, 2012 3:47 PM
Morales: Relations with US awful

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Evo Morales has never been interested in currying favor with Washington.

Quite the contrary.

On Friday, Bolivia's first indigenous president marked the 520th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' arrival in the New World with a characteristic jab at the United States.

During a ceremony marking "Decolonization Day," he said relations with the U.S. Embassy in La Paz have become awful — "like a turd."

He recalled that previous Bolivian governments would seek Washington's blessing on key appointments, including interior minister and police and armed forces chiefs.

That all changed after Morales, a longtime coca growers' union leader, took office in 2006. Two years later, he kicked out U.S. drug agents and Washington's ambassador, accusing them of inciting the opposition.

U.S. counterdrug cooperation has since been radically reduced to Bolivia, which along with Peru and Colombia is a major cocaine-producing nation.

Bolivia and the United States signed an agreement 11 months ago under which they agreed to seek to restore relations the ambassadorial level.

But that day has yet to arrive, and Morales is upset that the United States last month declared for a fourth time that Bolivia has been insufficiently cooperative in the war on drugs.

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The United Nations and the United States both agree that Bolivia's coca crop, the raw material of cocaine, was smaller last year than in 2010, and credit increased government eradication.

But U.S. officials say Bolivia has at the same time become a haven for drug traffickers. They say it has actually boosted cocaine production, including by transporting coca paste from neighboring Peru for final processing in Bolivia.