Bolivia turns to Brazil for drug war aid
Brazil agreed Jan. 15 to provide assistance to Bolivia to combat drug trafficking, taking up slack following the ouster of the US DEA from the Andean country last year. Meeting in the vast wetlands along the Bolivia-Brazil border, Brazil's President Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva said he would grant Bolivian leader Evo Morales' request for helicopters and other support to patrol the porous frontier that is a major cocaine-trafficking route from the Andes. "I want us to fight drugs together," said Morales.
The meeting also highlighted construction of a new highway that will link landlocked Bolivia with the Atlantic and Pacific oceans when the last stretch is finished later this year. At the meeting, the two presidents inaugurated about 240 kilometers of newly paved highway between the border town of Arroyo Concepción and Roboré in Bolivia's Santa Cruz department. The $170 million project was financed by the Andean Development Corporation. When the last 80 kilometers are completed later this year, the road will link Brazil's port of Santos on the Atlantic coast with the Pacific port of Arequipa, Peru, and Iquique, Chile.
The meeting was something of a public relations coup for Brazil, which is eager to reward Bolivia for maintaining the supply of natural gas—and to showcase its development aid, as other South American countries like Ecuador and Paraguay consider renegotiating debt with Brazil. Odebrecht, one of three Brazilian companies that built the new trans-oceanic road, was ousted from Ecuador last year over a contractual dispute. "We won't have lasting prosperity if all our South American brothers don't have prosperity as well," Lula said.
Lula also expressed support for Bolivia's pending new constitution at the meeting, where Morales' aides distributed miniature copies of the draft document he hopes will be approved in a Jan. 25 referendum. "Evo is giving an example of democracy that many of his predecessors didn't," said Lula, likening Morales to South Africa's Nelson Mandela for bringing a long-oppressed majority to power. (Reuters, Jan. 15)
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