January 1, 2001

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 it into
                  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, Banzer has
                  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 his
                  five-year term ends.

                  Bolivians claim some $600 million has been bled from circulation in the country
                  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 $1 billion
                  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 from
                  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 in
                  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.