Bolivia urges foreign investment to help drug war
LA PAZ, Jan 1 (Reuters) -- President Hugo Banzer urged the international
community to start to bolster his efforts to eliminate Bolivia's cocaine trade by
adding investment to the praise it heaps on the Andean nation for drug
"We need much more than applause," Banzer said late on Sunday in his New
Year's address to the nation, which is the world's third-biggest cocaine producer
after Colombia and Peru.
"It's time the world took stock of the work we have done, and translates
investment to generate employment, and replace jobs and revenue that were
eliminated along with the coca," added Banzer, a military dictator from 1971 to
1978 who won a democratic election in 1997.
Coca leaves, which provide an income to many mountain peasants in Andean
nations, are chewed to combat hunger, high altitude and fatigue but are also the
raw material for cocaine.
In one of the region's most successful campaigns against illicit drugs,
sent security forces to eradicate coca under pressure from the United States,
which provides key financial aid to what is one of South America's poorest
Banzer aims to eliminate illegal cocoa altogether by August 2002, when
five-year term ends.
Bolivians claim some $600 million has been bled from circulation in the
through the war on cocaine and the contraband trade, which sparked massive
violent protests last year that paralyzed Bolivia for several days and left dozens
Foreign direct investment last year in Bolivia was expected to rise to
from $800 million in 1999 with most of it concentrated on export-oriented
industries that economists have said create few jobs. The IMF has said it expects
Bolivia's natural gas and mining exports to grow strongly in the next few years.
Last month, Bolivia announced it had almost totally eradicated coca plants
the Chapare jungle region, the country's main cultivation area of the leaf.
Bolivia destroyed some 7,400 hectares (3,000 acres) of illegal coca plantations
Chapare last year, leaving only about 5,200 acres (2,100 hectares), according to
U.S. satellite data.
When Banzer, now 72, took office in August 1997, about 120,000 acres (48,000
hectares) were planted with coca throughout Bolivia.
By law, peasant growers are allowed to plant up to 30,000 acres (12,000
hectares) for traditional uses.
Copyright 2001 Reuters.