Russian Helicopters to Assist Coca Cartels


Evo Morales, Bolivia's leftist president, is a critic of the drug war—but not, alas, a completely consistent one. As other Latin American leaders turn against prohibition, the news from Bolivia looks like this:

Russia is set to supply helicopters to Bolivia to help in the fight against the illegal drugs trade, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said….

Late last year, Mr Morales halted US anti-narcotics operations in Bolivia amid tensions with Washington….

"We hope that very soon we will begin carrying out the first big contract to deliver Russian helicopters to Bolivia," President Medvedev said, describing drug trafficking as "a global threat that is a danger for the entire planet".

Since the day he took office, Morales' coca policies have been more complicated than they initially seemed. In effect, he has used the drug war to enforce a sort of farm policy that should be familiar to Norteamericanos:

First, in a nod to coca farmers, he nearly doubled the amount of land that growers can legally devote to growing coca, to about 49,400 acres. But then he tried to make them stick to another rule that prevents them from devoting more than a cato, or less than half an acre, to growing coca.

Taking a page from cartels like OPEC, organizers in the Chapare coca growers unions, where doctrinaire support of the president is prized, fanned out to convince growers that the limit would dampen supply and keep coca prices stable.

Faced with stiff penalties for disobeying, the pressure worked.

It's like someone put the DEA at the disposal of the dairy lobby.