USA vs Morales – Bolivia and America continue to disagree on matters of foreign relations and coca growth

1 Dec

I’ve been meaning to write about this ever since the press conference happenened in Santa Cruz in Bolivia last week. Essentially, on the 23rd November Evo Morales, President of Bolivia, spoke out against the US, blaming them for recent coup attempts in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, as well as asking them to stay out of their foreign affairs. This was documented in BBC News:

Mr Morales said US policies to combat drugs and terrorism were pretexts for “intervention” in the region. He was addressing a meeting of regional defence ministers, including US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz. Mr Gates listened but made no public response to the accusations. The US embassy later expressed disappointment at Mr Morales’s remarks. In an hour-long speech, Mr Morales accused the US of backing failed coup attempts in Venezuela in 2002, in Bolivia in 2008, and in Ecuador this year. He also accused it of involvement in the ousting of Honduran president Manuel Zelaya in 2009.

Instead of getting into the nitty-gritty of the background behind his statements I first wanted to get into the actual reporting of the incident, as this was one of the things I found most interesting about this story.

Now I’m well aware I’m not going to get a balanced argument from Fox News but I wasn’t quite ready for the poor quality of the journalism involved. Mike Gonzalez, who was arguing that all aid to Bolivia should be cut, started with the following:

Especially after that former union leader, President Evo Morales, spent an hour berating our Secretary of Defense Robert Gates at a regional defense conference on how Bolivia’s democracy is superior to America’s and how Bolivia has the right to team up with Iran on nuclear projects. Gates, speaking earlier, had warned about the wisdom of tying up with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran.

He then carries on:

Gates probably should count himself lucky that Morales did not behave toward him as he did last week to a player on a soccer pitch last month. Suffice to say that Morales’ opponent doubled over in pain and fell to the ground after the el lider applied his knee to a part of the other man’s body. Just search YouTube for “Morales and soccer” to see the president’s thuggish behavior toward opponents.

You always have to question when a journalist uses a tackle in a football game as to why the US shouldn’t give aid to one of the poorest countries in South America, one with 60% of people in poverty.

Gonzalez continues to demean Morales and Bolivia throughout the article, which makes a lot more sense when you get to the bottom and find out the he is a former journalist and current vice president of The Heritage Fund, an organisation “whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.” You should always be slightly skeptical when you see the phrase “traditional American values” in there. Ultimately, Morales has got his abuse for questioning the power of America and stating that he has no obligation to do as he is told. Obviously this could be taken two ways, as either a President asking for freedom, or as one who is out-of-control. As Morales has consistently tried to improve working conditions for Bolivians and become allies with other South American countries, it seems rich to imply that they could be a threat to a country like the USA.

The backdrop to all of this is the struggle of the new socialist regimes of South America to break away from the stranglehold the USA has on Latin America. Morales has been at the fore-front of this through his constant resistance to pander to the US’s policies, with his love of coca one of the main points of controversy. As a former coca-grower, Morales believes in its positive uses, and has encouraged growth of coca since he began his presidency, seeing it as a way of poor farmers to increase their income. Obviously, the US has differed in this view, asking for the country to desist its growth due to its potential to be turned into cocaine. This article was detailed well in the Washington Post here. Due to its coca growth Bolivia has been ear-marked as a major threat to the US, despite the fact that Colombia and Peru are capable of producing far more cocaine and have more resources to deal with the problem. The fact that both of these have agreed to aid the US’s counternarcotics campaign have meant that they have not been listed as a threat. Go figure!

So, it’s obviously a deep-rooted problem, which needs much discussion, discussion which Fox News or the Heritage Foundation are not interested in indulging. They prefer to label a President as a thug and then neglect their country. Proving however that it is possible to have non-biased opinions on the matter in the US press is the article by the LA Times, which opts for taking a fair view of things, and seems like a place for me to finish this article.

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