Bolivian president rules out US drug agency

November 18, 2008 00:51

Bolivian President Evo Morales said Monday he wants improved relations with US President-elect Barack Obama but will never allow the US anti-drug agency to return to his country, accusing it of "political aggression." Morales told a news conference the US Drug Enforcement Administration - whose operations he suspended on Nov. 1 - is not the solution to combatting drug trafficking in Bolivia, which is a major coca producer. The government is setting up a new intelligence operation involving the armed forces and police to fight trafficking, he said. Morales also announced his government is going to launch a campaign to remove the coca leaf from the UN list of prohibited drugs. Coca is the raw material for cocaine, but Bolivians use the small green leaf in its less-potent natural form as a traditional tea or for chewing. Bolivia-US relations have deteriorated in recent months as Morales' government limited US drug enforcement agency activities and expelled US Ambassador Philip Goldberg, accusing him of spying and involvement in anti-government protests in the eastern lowlands. Morales accused the drug agency of espionage and funding "criminal groups" trying to undermine his government.

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