Events

Límites y Desafíos de la Agenda de Seguridad Hemisférica

June 19, 2008 // 9:00am5:00pm

Through its project on Creating Community in the Americas, the Latin American Program co-sponsored with Bolivia's Observatorio de Democracia y Seguridad a June 19-20 conference on "Límites y Desafíos de la Agenda de Seguridad Hemisférica" (Limits and Challenges of the Hemispheric Security Agenda). Discussing security and foreign policy in the Andean region, Arlene Tickner of the Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, and Pablo Celi of the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, Ecuador, decried the "community of insecurity" in the region, in which neighboring countries view each other with suspicion and as threats. They noted the close relationship between tensions in the security arena and the fragility and weakness of political systems; in the absence of a sub-regional system of prevention, consultation, and cooperation, the security and political priorities of the United States prevail. Tickner called the anti-narcotics struggle in Colombia a failure, pointing out the increase and dispersion of coca cultivation throughout Colombia between 1995 and 2006.

Minister of the Presidency Juan Ramón Quintana noted that Bolivia's per capita military expenditure was one of the lowest in the region, given the government's other budget priorities. He acknowledged the concern elsewhere in South America for instability in Bolivia, calling the lack of a state or of state institutions the most serious security problem. The government of President Evo Morales was working intensively to establish authority throughout the national territory and to dismantle para-state structures, he said. Bolivian foreign policy was oriented toward the defense of natural resources and sovereignty over resources, adding that Bolivia's neighbors needed greater certainty regarding the supply of Bolivian gas. The government was endeavoring to dismantle U.S. interference in Bolivia, Quintana said, insisting that because there was no one path in Latin America, the United States should adopt a more pluralistic view of developments on the region.

In a discussion of drug trafficking and foreign policy, opposition Deputy Ernesto Justiniano of PODEMOS was harshly critical of the Morales government's anti-narcotics strategy. Coca eradication has gone down and cultivation has increased since Morales took office, beyond the limits set for legal cultivation of coca. Justiniano called Bolivia a "paradise" for Peruvian and Colombian traffickers, pointing to the new zones of coca cultivation in Bolivia as well as increased cocaine production. Eighty percent of Bolivian production went to Brazil, he said, citing statistics from both Bolivian and Brazilian police. Kathryn Ledebur of the Red Andina de Información, meanwhile, noted that the policy to compensate campesinos for the eradication of coca had not worked, and that U.S.-supported eradication policies—opposed by the Morales as well as previous governments--had generated high levels of conflict that radiated to the rest of the country. Finally, a representative of the government's office of Social Defense noted that the success of counter-drug policies should not only be measured in terms of cultivation and production figures. Coca cultivation in the Chapare region, for example, had risen by 19 percent, but the cultivation of bananas, citrus fruits, and oil palms had increased by a much larger margin.

Other participants in the conference included Deborah Norden (United States), Carlos Gutiérrez (Chile), Claudio Fuentes (Chile), Raúl Benítez Manaut (Mexico), Héctor Saint Pierre (Brazil), Rut Diamint (Argentina), Cristina Eguizábal (United States), Adam Isacson (United States), and Cynthia Arnson (United States). A publication based on the conference, edited by Loreta Tellería of the Observatorio de Democracia y Seguridad, will be available in November 2008.

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