Bolivia turns to Russia for drug-eradication help
Februrary 14, 2009 - PR Inside (AP)

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) -- President Evo Morales will seek Russia's help in fighting drugs in Bolivia, saying the United States has stopped supporting efforts to eradicate illegal coca plants.Morales told reporters on Friday that he will discuss the immediate purchase of helicopters and loans of other aircraft to fight coca production when he visits Russia on Sunday.

Bolivia is the third-largest producer of illegal coca, the main ingredient for cocaine, after Colombia and Peru. Coca leaves also have traditional and religious uses in Bolivia.

The Bolivian president accused Washington of violating international conventions on the "shared responsibility" in the drug war and blamed the Narcotics Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy for a delay in the eradication of coca crops.

Not a single coca plant has been destroyed so far this year, Morales said, compared to the 1,483 acres (600 hectares) of coca that had been destroyed by this same time last year.

But Kris Urs, the U.S. embassy's charge d'affaires, told reporters Friday that normal eradication efforts will begin Saturday with the same amount of support from previous years.

"We have not ceased to cooperate," Urs said. "We're in talks with the government about how we can make the eradicators work more effective while minimizing costs.

In 2007-2008, Washington spent $25 million to eradicate coca and fight drug trafficking in Bolivia. But no figures were available Friday for the current year.

Morales expelled the U.S. ambassador last September, accusing him of interfering in internal affairs, and in November suspended operations of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which he accused of spying.
Bolivian law requires the eradication of a minimum of 12,355 acres (5,000 hectares) of coca annually.