Report: Morales blocks US anti-drug flights
October 2, 2008 - Associated Press


LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Bolivian President Evo Morales has rejected a request from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to fly anti-narcotics missions over the South American nation's territory, state media reported Thursday.

The Bolivian Information Agency said Morales instructed his government to deny a written request from U.S. officials for a surveillance flight.

"Two days ago I received a letter from the U.S. DEA asking a government institution for permission to fly over national territory," the agency quoted Morales as saying.

"I want to say publicly to our authorities: They are not authorized to give permission so that the DEA can fly over Bolivian territory."

A Morales spokesman said he could not immediately confirm the no-flight order. Nobody was available at the U.S. Embassy to comment Thursday evening.

Washington recently placed Bolivia on an anti-narcotics blacklist, accusing Morales' administration of not cooperating sufficiently in fighting drug trafficking.

Morales, a former coca farmer, rose to power leading protests against U.S. drug policy. Coca farmers loyal to the leftist president recently expelled U.S. alternative development programs from one of the country's key coca-growing regions, calling the efforts ineffective.

Morales expelled the U.S. ambassador earlier this month, accusing him of supporting deadly protests organized by his conservative opposition. The former ambassador denies the allegations.

Bolivia is the world's third largest producer of coca, the base ingredient in cocaine.