Bolivia, U.S. negotiate to resume diplomatic relations
July 5, 2011 - AllHeadlineNews (AHN)

In October 2008, Morales expelled then-U.S. Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg after accusing him of conspiring against the Bolivian government.

The governments of Bolivia and the United States are making progress toward a new agreement on diplomatic relations, according to Bolivia’s Ministry of Communication.

A few details of the negotiations were revealed at a press conference this week in La Paz, the capital of Bolivia.

“There are important developments taking place between the foreign ministries of Bolivia and the United States for an agreement of cooperation in a framework of respect for the dignity, sovereignty and self-determination of peoples,” said Bolivian Minister of Communication Ivan Canelas.

U.S. State Department officials have said nothing about the negotiations.

Canelas said the negotiations are ongoing but could lead to resumed formal relations.

The negotiations are intended to smooth over a breakdown in relations caused by Bolivian President Evo Morales’ decision to expel the U.S. ambassador from his country.

In October 2008, Morales expelled then-U.S. Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg after accusing him of conspiring against the Bolivian government.

Less than a month later, Morales ordered agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to leave his country and halted their efforts to stop coca cultivation and export. Coca leaves are the key ingredient in cocaine.

The DEA had been operating in Bolivia for 35 years.

Morales accused the DEA of helping to finance his enemies who plotted to overthrow him.

He said that “personnel from the DEA supported activities of the unsuccessful coup d’etat in Bolivia.” The U.S. State Department denied the allegations.

Morales also told his own people that the DEA’s efforts to undermine him were an example of how the U.S. government interferes with the sovereignty of Bolivia and other Latin American countries.

The U.S. government responded by expelling Bolivian Ambassador Gustavo Guzman from Washington.

Guzman said as he was leaving that “The U.S. embassy is historically used to calling the shots in Bolivia, violating our sovereignty, treating us like a banana republic.”

Since then, diplomatic relations between the two countries have been carried out only when necessary at the level of a charge d’affaires.

Canelas said Bolivia is willing to resume diplomatic relations despite “the different views and political ideologies, as long as they show respect for sovereignty and self-determination.”

He also said that Morales wants any new diplomatic relations to be based on “equality and without impositions.”

The U.S. and Bolivian governments have tried previously to restore diplomatic relations but the negotiations failed. New wording in the agreement that is being written now has improved the chances for success, Canelas said.

Better diplomatic relations with the United States would represent a significant change in strategy for Morales.

He started his political career as a union leader among coca growers who were strongly opposed to U.S. efforts to stop their coca harvests.

He was elected president in 2006 partly because of his harsh rhetoric against U.S. foreign policy in Latin America.

Just over two years later, in September 2008, then-President George W. Bush placed Bolivia and Venezuela on a blacklist of countries that fail to prevent illegal drug trafficking. Bush said Bolivia “failed demonstrably” to meet commitments to combat production of illicit drugs, primarily cocaine.

Morales expelled U.S. Ambassador Goldberg a month later.

More recently, the Bolivian government announced it would expand legal coca production to 20,000 hectares, but added that it would be used only for commercial applications.

The U.S. government prefers that Bolivia allow no more than 6,000 hectares of legal coca production.