Andean Information Network

Although the Morales administration has insisted for the past two years that a new bilateral framework agreement precede any other accord with the United States, some sectors of the government aggressively advocated, this trilateral document.  The joint actions proposed in this draft agreement are already being carried out efficiently in Bolivia by state institutions (Digprococa-Udestro and Udesy), European Union cooperative programs (Coca Social Control Support Project and the UNODC (F-57). [i] Information exchange and transparency agreements consolidate fluid collaboration among these organizations. [ii] This high level of coordination and verification of coca cultivation represents the best-organized system and methodology [iii] among all Andean countries. [iv] Although broadening drug control cooperation beyond the traditional top-down bilateral focus is often viable and preferable, ironically, the current trilateral draft agreement overlooks existing successful multilateral collaboration and could provoke and deepen divisions.

1) Support for coca cultivation monitoring and the related methodology would be better served and more cost efficient by participating in the pre-existing programs financially, with satellitedata, or additional equipment and infrastructure.  For example, the U.S. already supports the UNODC F-57 project, and Brazil recently announced it would offer the UNODC $100,000 for its current operations.

2) Within the context of consistently shrinking external funding for Bolivian drug control, especially from the U.S., [v] it is inadvisable to duplicate already-funded programs. The reproduction of organisms and bureaucracy to complete exactly the same functions would be an inefficient use of funds, time and effort for all three nations poised to sign the proposed agreement. Their collaboration would be used to better advantage if they combined forces to promote projects such as border control or harm reduction development programs.

3) The proposed agreement would create parallel structures that duplicate existing, ongoing programs. This initiative could be interpreted as a replication USAID’s mistaken decision to form alternative development producer associations during the period of forced eradication, instead of working with existing coca producers’ unions in the Cochabamba tropics, despite their high level of organization and efficiency. Thispractice influenced the decision of the Chapare coca growers unions tostop working with USAID.  The creation of a parallel monitoring system could easily aggravate existing tensions between the U.S. government and the MAS administration, impeding the ability to effectively implement a trilateral agreement.

4)  After the expulsion of the DEA, and in consideration of all past Bolivian government concerns surrounding vigilance and interference, there remains an aura of distrust in U.S.-Bolivian relations. To what extent will U.S. government access to satellite surveillance of Bolivian territory, especially with U.S. equipment, create an opening for renewed GOB accusations and friction over what they perceive as inappropriate political meddling? It is possible that this agreement could further complicate already strained bilateral relations and pull Brazil unwittingly into this prolonged conflict.

5) The draft agreement outlines the need for a “coca cultivation reduction system pilot project” and “the creation of a technical team,” adding “it is necessary that the Plurinational State of Bolivia carry out technical and scientific monitoring of coca cultivation zones.”  This wording gives the false impression that Bolivia does not already maintain reliable systems for coca monitoring and control.  In Washington and Brasilia, Bolivia’s ratification of the agreement could be misinterpreted as an admission that the GOB has not used a technicality advanced monitoring system during the last 5 years – an erroneous assumption.

6) The draft agreement calls for “the use of high precision measurement equipment (GPS and laser distance meters), satellite images and digital processing software to analyze geo-referenced data,”[vi] although the existing system already employs these techniques. For example, Digprococa[vii] and the Joint (Eradication) Task Force have used GPS systems to measure reduced and remaining coca crops since late 2004, and they regularly provide this information to the UNODC, the Coca Social Control Project, and the F-57 program. Furthermore, the methodology of the annual UNODC coca survey provides a detailed description of how satellite images are combined to create specific references:

In 2009, the project calculated coca cultivation using 1m resolution Ikonos satellite images. The detection of any changes was made by comparing [the data] with the 4m resolution Ikonos images utilized theprevious year. In-situ verification vigorously supported processing and interpretation of theimages, in addition to the help of advanced technology, such as georeferential videos and field photos, as well as GPS reference points. [viii]

7) The agreement also stipulates the development of a methodology to use these techniques and training for personnel. [ix]  Yet, the UNODC already provides training to employ these techniques.  For example, in 2010: the training of counterparts' personnel has been a key activity ofthe project during the reported period. The agreement signed with the project of Support to the Social Control of Coca Production includes training for personnel of this project and for other Government instances. In that sense, during the reported period, the project conducted a training course for Government officials in Villa Tunari. 25 technicians from different Government institutions related with coca issues attended the course. The training was focused mainly in practical issues of thetechnologies implemented by the project like remote sensing, geographical information systems and global position system (GPS) usage. The evaluation of participants was highly favourable, and they requested more training in specific topics. Under the frame of the agreement with social control project, the project has scheduled two additional training courses this year on technologies implemented by the project.[x]

8)  There are two existing coca cultivation-monitoring systems in Bolivia.  Coca cultivation statistics almost never agree and the Bolivian state continually refutes the USG estimates:

A.    Official figures verified by the Bolivian Digprococa, the EU Social Control program, and the UNODC F-57 program, are all collected using sophisticated georeferential, satellite, and aerial photograph technology to confirm the location, measurement, and registration of every coca producer’s cato.  In addition, these studies verify each cato’s precise location and provide land ownership information. [xi] Social Control officials and the biometric coca producers’ registry [xii] help corroborate this information. These figures are also available to the international community and analysts.

B.     In contrast, the USG unilaterally prepares the figures as part of its ‘certification’ process in all three Andean coca-producing countries, without explaining its methodology. These figures often vary widely from the statistics gathered by the EU and UN initiatives. For example, in 2009 the U.S. estimated a 9.4 % increase in coca cultivation, while the UN calculated only a 1% rise. The Morales administration routinely accuses the U.S. government of politically manipulating coca cultivation statistics.

The proposed trilateral agreement would generate a third set of coca cultivation data, which could create further confusion and contradiction, complicating the implementation and planning of rationalization and cultivation monitoring strategies.

9) The agreement could impede transparency:

A.    The draft agreement proposes that: “The information and exchanged documents under this MOU should not be used for other purposes than those of the project, nor should they be disseminated to third partieswithout the prior expressed consent of the Participants.”[xiii] The document names the UNODC as an invited participant, but would also permit one party to block transparency efforts in coca cultivation monitoring, contrasting sharply with existing programs.

B.     This stipulation is notable because in past bilateral agreements with Brazil, in which the U.S. did not participate, information sharing was mandatory.  For example, in 2009, the agreement states, “Results [obtained by the Brazilian Police] from confidential investigations must be shared in coordination with the Bolivian Police.”[xiv]


[i] The evaluation of the UNODC F-57 program for 2010 concludes that, “The project produced reliable information about coca cultivation and alternative cultivation, providing a complete series of data at national and regional level since 2002. This information allowed Bolivian Government (GOB) and international community to analyze and evaluate the trends in coca cultivation by region, and to take decisions about the implementation of different policies related with this issue. The GOB directly engaged in the coca survey, participating and promoting the participation of coca growers, in that sense, a national capacity for coca crops monitoring is being established, accomplishing high levels of accuracy and internationally accepted standards.” (Pgs. 1-2)
[ii] In August 2010, The Andean Information Network, Institute forPolicy Studies and Puente Investigación y Enlace participated in a joint fact-finding delegation to visit and observe Chapare-region cocacontrol projects and in La Paz. They carried out in-depth interviews on coca reduction (rationalization and eradication) and coca monitoring with UDESTRO (Digprococa), municipal authorities, coca growers, the Vice Ministry of Social Defense, the GOB-EU Coca Social Control Support Project, the U.S. embassy and others. This report reflects collaborative findings.
[iii] Refer to attached documents.
[iv] In Peru and Colombia, forced coca eradication and the presence of FARC and Shining Path in some coca-growing regions effectively impedesmost on-site verification of coca production, land titling efforts, biometric identification and registration of coca producers, or any functional consensus among producer organizations to reduce cultivation. (The GOB implemented these measures in most Bolivian coca-growing regions).
[v] For example, President Obama proposes only $10 million in antidrug assistance to Bolivia in FY2012; this number could still be reduced during congressional negotiations.
[vi] Proposed agreement, Section 1.2.
[vii] As well as its predecessor, DIRECO.
[viii] UNODC. Monitoreo de Cultivos de Coca, 2009, June 2010, pg. 56.
[ix] Proposed agreement, Section 2.1 b.
[x] UNODC.  Semi-annual 2010 - Project Progress Report for BOLF57. Bolivia, 2010. pp. 1 - 2.
[xi] Although before the election of Morales coca growers rejected land-titling initiatives, during the past five years government official shave legally registered the great majority of property in the Chapare coca-growing region including the Isiboro National Indigenous Territory (Tipnis), as well as the Caranavi region of the La Paz Yungas.  They are currently in the process of registering La Asunta, also located in the La Paz Yungas.
[xii] The coca producers’ registry uses the same biometric systems equipment as Bolivia’s electoral court, implemented during the 2009 presidential elections. This EU-funded strategy uses fingerprint, facial, and photographic profiling to identify current cato holders and prevent further expansion of coca cultivation by new settlers.
[xiii] Proposed agreement, Section 3.2.
[xiv]  “Bolivia-Brazil Police Cooperation Strategy 2009,” between the Brazilian Federal Police Department and the Bolivian Police. 18 February 2009. p.2

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