Bush adds Bolivia to drug blacklist

September 17th, 2008 - 8:59 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 17 (DPA) President George W. Bush Tuesday added Bolivia to a drugs blacklist after concluding that the South American country has failed to cooperate in stemming production and trafficking of illegal narcotics.Bolivia joins Venezuela and Myanmar - also known as Burma - as failing to meet international obligations to curb drug trafficking, Bush said in a statement released by the White House.

“I hereby designate Bolivia, Burma, and Venezuela as countries that have failed demonstrably during the previous 12 months to adhere to their obligations under international counter-narcotics agreements,” Bush said.

He left intact financial assistance to Bolivia, which could have been halted as a result of Tuesday’s designation. Bush said that the United States will continue to give financial support to organisations working to strengthen democratic institutions in Bolivia and Venezuela.

US relations with Bolivia and Venezuela are at their lowest in years. Last week, Bolivian President Evo Morales expelled the US ambassador, accusing him of fomenting political opposition.

The expulsion touched off a diplomatic row. Washington responded by ordering the Bolivian ambassador out of the United States.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, citing his support for his leftist ally in Bolivia, requested the departure of the US ambassador to Caracas. The United States did the same toward the Venezuelan envoy in Washington.

Tuesday, the US government announced that Peace Corps activities in Bolivia have been temporarily suspended because of the security environment in the country, which is mired in political turmoil. Peace Corps personnel have been moved out of the country to Peru.

“We believe that this was a prudent step, based on the situation on the ground in Bolivia,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Tuesday.

McCormack said that the Peace Corps suspension was over security concerns.

“We’re going to reserve the right to take a look at our relationship with Bolivia and, where we feel appropriate, to take steps that reflect the current state of that relationship,” McCormack said.

The Peace Corps is a US government volunteer agency established in 1961 to help underdeveloped countries improve their agriculture, business, environment, health, youth outreach and technological sectors. The Peace Corps has worked in Bolivia since 1962.

Meanwhile, the State Department said it was arranging to fly US citizens out of Bolivia due to clashes between Morales’ government and some provincial governors opposed to his socialist policies.

The State Department advised US citizens to avoid travel to Bolivia and has authorized the departure of non-essential personnel at the US embassy in La Paz.

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