In response to Bolivia’s repeated failures to cooperate in regional anti-drug efforts, the Bush Administration announced this week that it would suspend trade preferences for Bolivia. The move will increase tariffs on Bolivian goods entering the U.S. effective October 31, 2008.
“Unfortunately, Bolivia has failed to cooperate with the United States on important efforts to fight drug trafficking. So, sadly, I have proposed to suspend Bolivia’s trade preferences until it fulfills it obligations,” Bush said.
Goods imported from Colombia, Peru, and surprisingly Ecuador, albeit on a more limited basis, will continue to receive preferential tariff treatment. Details on the Ecuador extension were not immediately available, however, it is difficult to see how it could still qualify for trade preferences. Ecuador is no longer an ally of the U.S. in the war against drugs. Quite the opposite.
The pro-Cuba/Venezuela President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, has kept true to a campaign promise and will not renew a lease with the U.S. for anti-drug cooperation programs run from the Manta facility in Ecuador. This airport facility cost American taxpayers more than $70 million to improve and, next year, will fall under foreign control either from Venezuela or China. China already controls the nearby deep water port.
More importantly with regards to Ecuador is its support of drug runners and terrorists. The base law, the Andean Trade Preference Drug Enforcement Act (ATPDEA), includes the following review criteria as to whether a country should be granted trade preferences:
“(viii) The extent to which a country has taken steps to support the efforts of the United States to combat terrorism.”
Ecuador has been supporting the leading terrorist group in South America, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC for some time. The FARC has been at war with out ally Colombia for decades and it uses narco dollars to fund its efforts. At a minimum, we know that Correa has allowed the FARC to operate with impunity along the Ecuador-Colombian border. There is other evidence found in seized laptop computers earlier this year that shows closer links with Ecuadorean officials.
In addition, according to U.S. law, the ATPA “constitutes a tangible commitment by the United States to the promotion of prosperity, stability, and democracy in the beneficiary countries.” Along these lines, preferences, even if limited, should not have been extended to Ecuador. Ecuador is not an ally of the U.S. It is using democratic processes and extreme propaganda to impose a de facto dictatorship in that country. It supports terrorists and does not support us in the war against illegal drugs.
Both Bolivia and Ecuador are destroying democracy and contributing to a more unstable South America. In Bolivia, the opposition is under constant attack by the ruling party. While in Ecuador, the opposition forces are struggling to maintain cohesion in light of a leftist Constitutional process that destroys legal and political rights. Both countries are working with Cuba and Venezuela to extend and consolidate an anti-American axis of powers in South America.
South America needs a stable Andean region. Our staunchest ally in the region, Colombia, needs our support and the U.S. Congress should approve the long stalled U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. The U.S. should also reach out and support the opposition leaders in these two countries, the people who support democracy and rule of law. To this end, with regards to Ecuador, the decision to extend even limited trade preferences should be revisited.