The EU has announced $67 million in new anti-drug funding for Bolivia, as the government continues to look to fill the funding gap left by the breakdown of relations with the United States in one of the region’s critical drug trafficking and production hubs.
Representatives of the European Union (EU) signed an agreement with Bolivian President Evo Morales on June 10 that pledged over $100 million in development assistance, two thirds of which will go to anti-drug programs. The measures outlined in the agreement will include technical assistance from European police departments and funds dedicated to reducing illegal coca cultivation.
This funding is the latest in a series of such packages that have made Bolivia the largest recipient of EU assistance in the Americas, and follow on from $33 million pledged in 2013, and $313 million delivered between 2007 and 2013 — around a third of which was dedicated to anti-drugs efforts.
Aid from Europe has come in the wake of diminishing US influence in Bolivia. Morales expelled the US Drug Enforcement Administration from Bolivia in 2008 and then in 2013 expelled the US Agency for International Development (USAID) shortly before the last US anti-narcotics office in Bolivia, operated by the US Treasury, was shuttered.
According to aggregate foreign assistance figures for all US government agencies, the US spent just $1.02 million on counter narcotics funding in Bolivia in 2013 down from an annual high of $17.5 million in 2010. According to official figures, no US funds were spent on anti-narcotics efforts in 2014.
InSight Crime Analysis
Bolivia has recorded mixed results in combating the drug trade since it began to sever ties to the United States. The government’s engagement with rather than criminalization of coca growers has seen coca cultivation fall, while eradication has risen. However, the lack of outside funding and technical assistance has allowed the trafficking side of the business to flourish as the state has lacked the resources to carry out interdiction operations and dismantle organized crime structures.
SEE ALSO: Evo’s Challenge: Bolivia the Drugs Hub
The substantial aid Bolivia is now receiving from the EU will help fill the funding vacuum left by the United States. However, to truly tackle drug trafficking and organized crime in the country, it will have to be directed not only towards the issue of coca cultivation, but also towards other areas such as boosting intelligence gathering capabilities and access to technology, and fighting corruption within the security forces.