A majority of Americans do not know that for approximately sixteen years many products from Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia, have been allowed to enter the U.S. market under lower or no tariff rates. In exchange for the preferential trade treatment, these countries were supposed to cooperate extensively with the U.S. in various counternarcotics efforts throughout the region.
By generating more trade with the U.S., it is believed that less people in these countries would turn to the illegal drug trade. This, in turn, would lead to regional prosperity, stability, and democracy in the beneficiary countries. Increased exports from the region to the U.S. should have generated new markets, jobs, and attracted people away from illegal drug cultivation and trade. The general idea is a good one. But it is just one of many tools in the U.S. policy arsenal for combatting the illegal narcotics trade.
The underlying legal regime is the Andean Trade Promotion Drug Eradication Act, or ATPDEA. The ATPDEA has been amended and extended several times since it was first signed into law in 1992. The law is going to expire at the end of this year. Why should American taxpayers care one way or the other about ATPDEA extension? For starters, getting a political return on our investment would be a good thing.
In order for ATPDEA to be effective, cooperation is necessary. ATPDEA should have been a temporary program. The law has the express aim of working toward a completed negotiation of a Free Trade Area of the Americas by the year 2005. That deadline came and went. With the exceptions of Colombia and Peru, the ATPDEA appears to have outlived its long-term effectiveness. A new tool may be needed.
With regards to Ecuador and Bolivia, an ATPDEA extension should not be granted.
In Ecuador, Rafael Correa and his supporters are turning that country into a “democratic” police state. A new constitution, that among other things grants rights to inanimate objects such as trees, has created a new legal regime that legalizes illegal drugs. In direct contravention of the ATPDEA, Ecuador is serving as a terrorist haven for Colombian terrorists, the FARC, along the Colombian-Ecuador border region. As if this were not enough to call into question ATPDEA’s effectiveness, the new Ecuadorean Constitution puts to an end, forever, cooperation with U.S. counternarcotics efforts in the Andean region.
Ecuador has announced that the ten year lease for the U.S. counternarcotics facility in Manta, Ecuador will not be renewed next year; they want the U.S. inter-agency unit out. U.S. taxpayers have invested more than $70 million at Manta. These funds were used for, among other things, a brand new runway, air traffic control tower, and fire department. All of these resources are put to good use by the locals for commercial purposes. Once we leave, expect either the Chinese, who manage the nearby deep water port, or the Venezuelans, to take over facility.
Like Ecuador, Bolivia is currently led by an anti-American president, Evo Morales. Morales’s policies with regards to combating illegal drugs is abysmal. For example, he is increasing the amount of legal coca cultivation, not decreasing it. While there has been some wide-spread coca eradication efforts, it has been offset by Morales’s policy of “zero cocaine but not zero coca.” In other words, Morales is destroying just enough coca to keep U.S. taxpayer monies and assistance flowing.
Evo Morales has no interest in cooperating in regional counternarcotics efforts, quite the opposite. Like Ecuador, he has no interest in advancing regional integration through a Free Trade Areas of the Americas, quite the opposite. Both Ecuador and Bolivia seek regional integration through a Cuba-Venezuelan Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America and the Caribbean. Morales is destroying Bolivia’s democracy, crushing opposition through indiscriminate use of force, and pushing his country to the point of certain civil strife in the not too distant future.
Through their actions, both Ecuador and Bolivia have demonstrated they are not serious about the principles established in the ATPDEA and the counternarcotics provisions of the Foreign Assistance Act. They have violated the Interamerican Convention Against Corruption. In the case of Ecuador, it is supporting a terrorist organization, the FARC, that is seeking to destabilize our staunchest ally in the region, Colombia.
Depending on the outcome of the November elections, Congress may or may not return for a lame duck session. If it does, it should focus on finalizing the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. In the meantime, the Bush Administration should seriously consider designating Ecuador a terrorist haven for its assistance of the FARC and other terrorist groups. And ATPDEA should not be extended for either country. U.S. taxpayers should also demand a $70 million refund from Ecuador for breaking its commitment to the region to combat the illegal drug trade in the Andean region.