Passport

Do Bolivia's roaming cocaine bars mean Evo Morales is a drug lord?

In the Guardian, Jonathan Franklin provides a first-hand look at "cocaine tourism" in Bolivia:

"Tonight we have two types of cocaine; normal for 100 Bolivianos a gram, and strong cocaine for 150 [Bolivianos] a gram." The waiter has just finished taking our drink order of two rum-and-Cokes here in La Paz, Bolivia, and as everybody in this bar knows, he is now offering the main course. The bottled water is on the house.

The waiter arrives at the table, lowers the tray and places an empty black CD case in the middle of the table. Next to the CD case are two straws and two little black packets. He is so casual he might as well be delivering a sandwich and fries. And he has seen it all. "We had some Australians; they stayed here for four days. They would take turns sleeping and the only time they left was to go to the ATM," says Roberto, who has worked at Route 36 (in its various locations) for the last six months.

Franklin reports that in addition to the low prices a number of reasons conspire to make Bolivia the perfect location:

This new trend of 'cocaine tourism' can be put down to a combination of Bolivia's notoriously corrupt public officials, the chaotic "anything goes" attitude of La Paz, and the national example of President Evo Morales, himself a coca grower.

While the rest of the article is great, I'm not sure about the "national example" factor of Morales. I'm pretty sure the president is not selling his crops for processed cocaine. Morales did want to destigmatize coca crops when he won the presidency, but it was to restore the leaf's role in Bolivia's cultural heritage, not to give the thumbs up to full scale cocaine production. 

Obviously more coca crops make more cocaine much easier, but I wouldn't quite say Morales is explicilty in approval. 

AIZAR RALDES/AFP/Getty Images

Passport

Colombia's Uribe pulls a Chavez (not yet a Zelaya)

Colombian president Alvaro Uribe won an election in Colombia's Senate to move forward with a public referendum allowing him to run for a third term. He still has to pass it in the House, and of course the referendum itself would have to pass with the public. 

This is almost twilight zone territory. Consider the Washington Post's Juan Forero's description of Uribe's status in the U.S.:

Uribe's supporters, including Republicans in the U.S. Congress, also see him as a stalwart U.S. ally and a bulwark against Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who, along with the presidents of Ecuador and Bolivia, is a vehement opponent of U.S. policies. Uribe's government is negotiating a pact with the Obama administration that would deploy U.S. servicemen and aircraft to Colombian military bases.

That same pact restarted a sporadic feud between Uribe and Chavez, who has called Uribe an American pawn and temporarily withdrew Venezuela's ambassdor to Colombia over the base issue.

Now correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Chavez's willingness to manipulate the constituion to stay in power one of the reasons for tensions with the United States for nearly a decade? Isn't doing something similar why Manuel Zelaya got kicked out of Honduras in his pajamas? 

To be fair, Zelaya only got ejected after trying to continue with a referendum to lift term limits after the Honduran Supreme Court ruled against it. It looks like in Colombia, as in Venezuela, the other branches of government might not interfere.

Obviously, Uribe's move puts the Obama adminsitration and all the Uribe fans in Congress in a tough spot. Just on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton met with Colombia's Foreign Minister and thanked Colombia for its help moving toward "restoring the democratic and constitutional order in Honduras."

So now what? Support Uribe as long as he has domestic support for his amendment, or encourage him to respect the current constitution and risk a new Colombian president who might be less U.S. friendly? 

If this goes through, I predict Hugo Chavez will have a field day on his unedited video diary  candid television show Alo Presidente.

JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images