Political Economy of Counterdrug Policy: The Case of Bolivia, 1997-2006   [open pdf - 317KB]

"Analysts have long argued that Latin American countries will not implement tough counterdrug policies because: (1) they view drugs as a demand-side (U.S.) problem; (2) drugs play a central role in their economies; (3) there are strong pressures from domestic interest groups not to; and (4) international pressure can only generate minimal compliance. Despite this, a variety of governments have implemented tough policies since the mid-1990s. The explanation: a president's 'grand strategy' mediates the influence of the four aforementioned factors. This thesis examines the case of Bolivia, in which President Hugo Banzer implemented a very successful eradication strategy (Plan Dignidad) because he believed a positive international image was necessary for his country's economic development. Subsequent presidents lacked grand strategies that justified tough counterdrug policies; therefore, they mostly focused on meeting minimal requirements to avoid decertification by the United States. The thesis also addresses the factors that influence the effectiveness and sustainability of counterdrug policies. It challenges the conventional wisdom that Plan Dignidad was not sustainable because it was based on forced eradication and the militarization of the Chapare. It shows instead that the Plan would have been sustainable if not for a premature push into the Yungas. It also demonstrates that 'forced' eradication depends on firm but fair negotiations with cocaleros, backed by a public relations campaign that strengthens the government's hand."

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