In Latin America, leftist leaders evict US drug warriors
Bolivia, Ecuador, and Venezuela push back on US operations.
(Page 2 of 3)
The DEA presence in Venezuela has also been dramatically reduced in the past 18 months, according to State Department officials who characterize the reduction as evidence of Venezuela's weak support for international antinarcotics effort.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
And Ecuador announced it will not renew the 10-year lease at the Manta airbase, one of the US's most significant operation zones in the region since 1999. President Rafael Correa, who promised in his campaign to close the base, calls it a matter of reciprocity. During a visit to Italy last year, he joked that if the US wanted its base, it would have to allow an Ecuadorian base in Miami.
The closure of Manta "will leave a serious gap in our abilities to monitor antinarcotics operations in the eastern Pacific," says one administration official who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on the record.
Today, an average of 150 US military and civilians are stationed in Manta, and in 2007, some 1,100 counternarcotics missions were launched, says Jose Ruiz, a spokesperson at US Southern Command (Southcom) in Miami. The Manta base missions are responsible for 60 percent of interdictions in the eastern Pacific.
While the closure may be a blow, the US still has a good working relationship with Ecuador, says Ruiz. US officials say cooperation in the rest of the region is also strong, and in some cases, such as Mexico and Central America, stronger than in the past. But relations with Venezuela and Bolivia have deteriorated to new lows.
During civil strife in Bolivia early this fall, Bolivia expelled US Ambassador Philip Goldberg, claiming he supported opposition leaders. Mr. Chavez followed suit by expelling Patrick Duddy, the US ambassador to Venezuela. Both countries were then singled out by President Bush for failure to cooperate in international antinarcotics efforts, and the US announced it would revoke trade benefits for Bolivia under the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA).