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Cablegate: Eu Weighs Its Counter-Narcotics Efforts in Bolivia

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C O N F I D E N T I A L LA PAZ 001541

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/10/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL SNAR EU BO
SUBJECT: EU WEIGHS ITS COUNTER-NARCOTICS EFFORTS IN BOLIVIA

REF: LA PAZ 1494

Classified By: Charge John Creamer, reasons 1.4 b and d.

1. (C) Summary: Our exchanges with European Union
representatives and an EU working group paper underscore
growing European recognition of the need for intensified
cooperation on counter-narcotics in Bolivia. The Europeans
note increases in coca production, fear the introduction of
third country criminal organizations, and recognize the loss
in GOB capabilities with the expulsion of DEA last year.
Among proposals under consideration by the EU are increases
in technical assistance and alternative development,
development of EU member state law enforcement cooperation,
better internal coordination, and strengthening CN
cooperation with neighboring countries. EU officials are
also keen to reopen the UNODC office in La Paz, and seek U.S.
assistance in pressing the UN to do so quickly. Although EU
counter-narcotics efforts have so far been relatively modest
and focused on alternative development, EU officials
generally share our assessments and are considering stepping
up their engagement, including on law enforcement (by
individual member states) and by pushing GOB reductions in
coca cultivation. End summary.

2. (C) An internal policy paper prepared by the
recently-formed EU Drugs Working Group (made up of
representatives from local EU missions) highlights European
concerns about the worsening counter-narcotics situation in
Bolivia and the Europeans' interest in doing more. The EU
paper notes the growth of cocaine use in Europe -- the
ultimate destination for most Bolivian cocaine -- and the
troubling increase in coca production in Bolivia and other
Andean countries (the EU estimates 32-34,000 hectares under
production in Bolivia, slightly higher than the UNODC's
figure of 30,500). GOB efforts to control the legal coca
market are seriously flawed, the EU notes, while Bolivian
government interdiction remains hampered by the loss of DEA's
logistical and intelligence support (following DEA's
expulsion in November 2008). A major European concern --
also voiced by EU Ambassador Bell and others to the Charge --
is that Colombian and Mexican cartels will enter the Bolivian
market, expanding production and increasing
trafficking-related violence.

3. (C) Amid sustained domestic pressure for increases in
legal production, the EU has provided one million euros to
fund a GOB survey of legal coca demand and other related
studies (the "Comprehensive Study on the Coca Leaf in
Bolivia"). Ambassador Bell explained that the full results
of the legal demand survey will not be available before July
2010, although the GOB may attempt to revise its legislation
governing legal production (including an increase from the
current 12,000 hectares authorized) before then. Bell
suggested that any estimate of 20,000 hectares or less should
prove useful in pressing the GOB to cut coca cultivation.
Separately, UK Ambassador Baker voiced disappointment that
the study will not be ready until next summer, but stressed
that the international community should not wait until then
to press the Bolivians on this issue.

4. (C) EU officials acknowledge that their counter-narcotics
assistance is small scale compared to the aid the U.S. has
provided. According to their policy paper, most assistance
has gone toward alternative development (the European
Commission has provided nearly 50 million euros, Belgium and
Spain several million euros each), with lesser amounts in
equipment donations (the U.K. gave the GOB $500,000 in
forensics equipment this year; Germany and Italy have also
provided small amounts of in-kind aid). The UK, Spain,
Italy, the Netherlands and France have provided limited CN
training to Bolivian police in recent years. Ambassador Bell
maintains that the EU cannot be involved directly in
eradication, but allowed that some eradication-related aid
may be possible (e.g., covering ancillary costs).

5. (C) More critically, Ambassador Bell noted, the EU lacks
the capability to fill the law enforcement vacuum left by
DEA's expulsion, but EU members states can and should be
pressed to strengthen such cooperation, he said. The UK,
Spanish and visiting Swedish ambassadors have all
acknowledged privately that the EU's limited CN approach has
proven insufficient and needs to be expanded to include
direct support for law enforcement. Ambassador Baker
reported that the UK is currently undergoing an internal
review of its regional CN policy, to be completed by early
December, that will include consideration of new efforts in
this area. Additionally, the Europeans indicate that they
intend to step up consultation with neighboring states such
as Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, which are strengthening
their own cross-border counter-narcotics cooperation with the
GOB.

6. (C) The EU's paper proposes a number of CN measures for
the near term, including increased funding for technical
assistance (e.g., on money laundering and judicial support),
expansion of alternative development aid, and creation of
mechanisms to aid the GOB in evaluating both its CN successes
and shortcomings. The EU working group also identified as a
priority better CN coordination, both internally and with
other international partners. Ambassador Baker amplified
that point, maintaining that a coordinated, united stance
will be critical to overcoming Bolivian President Morales's
apparent resistance to reversing the growth in coca
cultivation. The Europeans also see the re-opening of the
UNODC office in La Paz (closed for budgetary reasons) as key
to strengthened coordination. Ambassador Bell reported that
the EU has contributed 500,000 euros for UNODC projects and
office funding and asked for U.S. help in pushing the UN to
open the office as soon as possible. (Note: We understand
from the UN that donor support will determine whether the
UNODC can return.)

7. (C) Comment: We see a welcome evolution in the EU's
approach toward counter-narcotics in Bolivia, as EU and EU
member state officials evince recognition of the need to move
beyond their relatively modest and narrowly-focused efforts
to date. The Europeans may be convinced that Morales does
not want Bolivia to be categorized as a narco-state, but they
are also clear-eyed about GOB shortcomings (in terms of
political will, capabilities and corruption), and understand
that the EU has to shoulder a greater share of the burden in
confronting these challenges. With policy limitations on
what the EU can do collectively, however, translating this
recognition into concrete action will take time, as well as
leadership from individual member states.
CREAMER

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