The US and Bolivian governments announced Monday that they were restoring diplomatic relations after three years, but Bolivian President Evo Morales Tuesday made it clear that DEA agents would not be welcome back in his country.
That anti-drug cooperation will not include DEA agents in Bolivia, Morales told reporters at a regional conference in Bogota. It was a matter of national "dignity and sovereignty," he said, adding that he was "personally a victim" because Bolivian anti-drug police worked closely with the DEA. Those same police had clashed with coca growers and once beat him unconscious, he has said. Morales was a coca grower union leader before he was elected president.
"They repressed us in Bolivia. That has ended," Morales said. "For the first time since Bolivia was founded, the United States will now respect Bolivia's rules" and laws under the new diplomatic agreement, he added.
Coca has been grown for centuries, if not millennia, in Bolivia. The country is currently the world's third largest coca producer, behind Peru and Colombia. While much of the crop is destined for traditional or industrial uses, some is diverted to the illicit cocaine market.
US officials have said they believe cocaine trafficking is on the increase since Bolivia expelled the DEA, but that is not reflected in an expansion of the coca fields. According to the United Nations, the amount of land under coca cultivation increased only 0.3% last year.