By Kathryn Ledebur and Coletta A. Youngers

Following a landslide victory at the polls, Evo Morales became president of Bolivia in January 2005. Head of the coca-growers’ federation, Morales was a long-standing foe of U.S. drug policy, and many observers anticipated a complete break in U.S.-Bolivian relations and hence an end to drug policy cooperation. Instead, both Morales and the George W. Bush administration initially kept the rhetoric at bay and developed an amicable enough bilateral relationship—though one that at times has been fraught with tension.

Following Bolivia’s expulsion in 2008 of the U.S. Ambassador, Philip Goldberg, for allegedly meddling in the country’s internal affairs and encouraging civil unrest, and the subsequent expulsion of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the White House upped its criticism of the Bolivian government and for the past five years has issued a “determination” that Bolivia has “failed demonstrably during the previous 12 months to adhere to [its] obligations under international narcotics agreements.” U.S. economic assistance for Bolivian drug control programs has slowed to a trickle.

Nonetheless, in 2011 the two countries signed a new framework agreement to guide bilateral relations and are pending an exchange of ambassadors. Moreover, cooperation continues between the primary Bolivian drug control agency—the Ministry of Government’s Vice Ministry of Social Defense and Controlled Substances—and the Narcotics Affairs Section (NAS) of the U.S. Embassy.

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