Brazil’s Influence In Bolivia’s Drug Fight Grows

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Brazil’s regional support in the fight against drugs grew further with the announcement it will donate four helicopters to Bolivia to help combat narco-trafficking.

Bolivia’s general director for the vice ministry of social defense and controlled substances, Milton Lozano, stated Brazil had pledged to provide four HN1 helicopters through the framework of a joint commission between the two countries. Brazil’s legislature is already determining how to fund the package.

Lozano added that the commitment made last year by Brazil to provide Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), or “drones,” to Bolivia was also moving forward. These aircraft will be utilized to gather detailed information on coca plantations throughout the country – of which there are an estimated 30,000 hectares, 12,000 being legal – and to monitor the movements of suspicious vessels up and down rivers.

The US is also said to have a stake in the anti-narcotics framework having been involved in the agreement between Bolivia and Brazil, according to La Razon.

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Since Bolivian President Evo Morales expelled officials from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in 2008, Bolivia has experienced a significant void in funding for its efforts in combatting drug trafficking. Brazil’s latest contribution, combined with the commitment for UAVs last year, shows that Latin America’s largest economy is taking tentative steps to fill the gap, while Bolivian-US relations make a slow recovery.

Not only does such a move represent Brazil’s desire to come to the fore in regional politics but more importantly highlights the problem facing Brazil in terms of domestic drug consumption. Since assuming office on January 1, 2011, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has initiated two major plans worth billions of dollars to curb drug trafficking and consumption in Brazil through securing its vast border with its drug trafficking neighbors and offering medical treatment for addicts.

The issue of sovereignty for Bolivia remains a thorny one and could hinder efforts by Brazil to have a leading role in the fight against drugs, as evidenced by the breakdown last year of a trilateral security pact between the two nations and the US. Brazil’s presence in the country on a unilateral basis will be far more welcome, however, than the US’s, who have had historically poor ties with the Morales government.

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