Cambio Newspaper, March 27 and 28, 2013
Because of their hegemonic origin, the current U.S. foreign-aid programs still bear the mark of paternalism
Juan Carlos Zambrana Marchetti*
On March 3, 2013, the U.S. Department of State issued its annual report to the nation’s Congress on the efforts made by “key” countries in the fight against narcotics during 2012. The document includes reports on 92 countries considered “key”, among which is not found the United States of America, which redefines the meaning of the word “key.”
Concerning the origin of the report and of its credibility, the Department of State explains on its Web site that it makes the report in accordance with the Foreign Assistance Act. It would then be about a mechanism to justify that assistance, which would explain the exclusion of the country that distributes the money and assigns guilt unilaterally. In reality, the mentioned law that regulates this assistance is part of the foreign assistance and arms export of 1961.
With that law, the United States tried to camouflage its much-criticized mechanisms of “nation building,” with which they intervened politically and militarily in so many nations under cover of the program called Point IV, approved in 1950 by then-president Harry Truman as part of his global plan of geopolitical control. That means that, in 1961, the United States made the Point IV program disappear, due to its obvious interventionism, and separated military from civilian operations, for which purpose it created a more “humanitarian” agency named USAID.
It is due to that hegemonic origin that the current U.S. programs of foreign aid still bear the unmistakable mark of the paternalism that the nation exercised in the decade of the 50s, and which turn out to be anachronisms in the 21st Century.
In the chapter dedicated to Bolivia, for example, the report disqualifies the government of Evo Morales for having withdrawn Bolivia from the United Nations’ Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, of 1961, in order to rejoin it with the reservation of the right of its people to chew coca as they have done for more than 8,000 years.
The report explains that “The United States formally objected to the Bolivian reservation in July 2012, noting that it could lead to a greater supply of available coca, thereby fueling narcotics trafficking and related criminal activity.” Using market-economy terminology, it attempts to frighten by citing the offer of coca leaf in Boliva –which has been reduced–, while ignoring the effect of the enormous U.S. demand on world production of drugs.
Such cynicism is comparable only to that of the big arms manufacturers of the United States in blaming a lack of mental health for the constant massacres that are bleeding the country. It’s simply about using any argument, no matter how ridiculous, to justify an erroneous policy that they do not want to modify because of the huge economic and political interests that depend on it.
The report fails to mention that if the international community agreed with Bolivia in 2012 it was because science has shown how wrong was the phony study of 1950 that gave rise to the penalization of coca leaf, beginning with conclusions as unfounded and racist as the following: “The leaves of the coca plant contains cocaine. In the present state of knowledge, the indications are that the effects produced by chewing coca leaf are to be explained by the action of cocaine. It induces in individual undesirable changes of an intellectual and moral character. It certainly hinders the chewer’s chances to obtaining a higher social standard. It reduces the economic yield of productive work, and therefore maintains a low economic standard of life”.
It seems to me that the first postulate is as wrong as the conclusions are baseless. Coca leaf simply does not contain cocaine, as if it were only a matter of freeing the cocaine from its vegetal container. It requires several industrial processes, using powerful chemical precursors, to extract from the leaf the 4% of alkaloid with which cocaine is produced.
Based on such false conclusions, the “study” of 1950 “recommended” the promulgation and application of legal provisions to establish administrative and criminal sanctions against the violators of provisions related to the limitation of production and the control of the distribution of coca leaf.
The laws that made coca leaf illegal and criminalized the indigenous people were imposed on nations prostrated by hunger and impoverished by looting, countries absolutely subject to the will of Washington through dependence on its assistance programs. At that time, the United States governed de facto in those poor countries, but it is grotesque that it attempts to continue to act with the same paternalism well into the 21st Century, when it no longer has that influence.
Such stubbornness can be understood only by taking into account that the real reason why Washington outlawed the coca leaf was political, because it had the effect of criminalizing the indigenous people who grow and consume it: the social sector that historically had been the detonator of the revolutionary movements due to its legendary resistance to imperialism.
That brings us to other errors in the curious report of 2013. The lie that Bolivia is worse off without the DEA than with it, and the slanted mention of Evo Morales as the leader of the indigenous people who grow coca in the Chapare. What that hides is the fact that the DEA was expelled from Bolivia for its baneful history that includes having been used politically to repress the Bolivian small farmer under the command of the CIA, while at other times it covered up the narcotics trade of the extreme right that financed the dictatorships.
The report hides the relevant fact that the leadership of Evo Morales arose from his courageous peaceful resistance against the abuses of the DEA when the United States militarized the Chapare and turned it into a war zone. The report hides the reality that President Morales’ leadership is symbolic in character, but helps him to implement the programs of reduction and substitution of crops peacefully and with respect for human rights, an approach that has been shown to be more effective than criminalization, militarization, and repression.
But, above all, the report hides the three fundamental pieces that complete the puzzle of the apparent irrationality of the Unites States. The first of these is that the “assistance” of the United States is, in reality, one of the mechanisms of intervention designed to benefit from the power that it gained from its victory in World War II.
A second hidden piece is that Bolivia no longer depends on the United States as it did in the decades of the 50s and 60s. Bolivia no longer accepts abusive impositions, and, the DEA having been expelled, Washington has no need to justify assistance under the concept of troops, agents, military “advisers”, experts in counter-insurgency, war materiel, munitions, military infrastructure, covert operations, operations of repression, etc. Bolivia simply rejects that aid, and that is why the United States has to justify the withdrawal of its economic assistance based on its disqualification of Bolivia.
The third hidden piece explains the reasons why the United States prefers to always disqualify Bolivia, instead of assigning resources for a non-violent struggle against drugs. The inter-cultural organizations of the valley of Cochabamba are loyal to President Morales, and for that reason continue to be the secret political target of different programs of intervention, including military action. If the Department of State were to admit that Bolivia does better without the DEA, it would give up the possibility of financing plans that are being brewed ahead of time to intervene in Bolivia with the pretext of the narcotics trade.
The policy of the Department of State therefore remains by choice incoherent with science and with the international community, in order to be consistent with the plans of other agencies of the United States and their desperate plans for geopolitical control.
In general terms, the report reflects the inability of the United States to accept the decline of its hegemony. Now, in attempting to impose its abusive policies as it did during the 50s and 60s, it seems to act with the arrogance of an old dictator who seeks to impose what he no longer can, launch wars that he cannot win, and strut threateningly in a way that no longer frightens.
The U.S. “war” against drugs, invented by Richard Nixon for political purposes, has become simply such an all-round failure that it no longer works even to justify interventionism.
(*) Correspondent of Cambio newspaper in the United States