This work examines a fascinating, but troubling dynamic in Bolivia’s recent history: the impact of cocaine production on society. Beyond an outline of that impact, Narcotráfico y política II is a product of the problem it exposes. In a detailed report on the cocaine industry’s debilitating sway over the nation, the book condemns both that continuing influence and the Bolivian government’s inability to fight cocaine production. Given the climate of lawlessness that presently surrounds the cocaine industry, the author(s) has (have), perhaps wisely, maintained a cautious anonymity. Also uncertain is the relatedness of Narcotráfico y política II to an earlier volume addressing similar issues, but concentrating on the period 1979-82 (Narcotráfico y política: Militarismo y mafia en Bolivia, Madrid: Instituto de Estudios Políticos para América Latina y África, 1982).
This hook argues that not only was the administration of President Hernán Siles Zuazo unable to combat cocaine traffickers, but that government policy showed a national obsequiousness toward the United States. The work is based primarily on articles in the popular presses of the United States and Bolivia, as well as on a presentation of recent edicts in Bolivian law and United States-Bolivian accords directed against the cocaine traffic. It focuses on a series of secret agreements against the drug trade reached by the two governments in August 1983, and then it summarizes Bolivian government efforts to destroy the cocaine traffic since 1982. Democracy, the reader is repeatedly reminded, has not ended the tremendous power exercised by the leading narcotraffickers. More devastating still for Bolivia was that the Siles government’s war on cocaine was directed not against wealthy producers of the drug, but at the small grower of the coca leaf. In 1983 and 1984, through United States-financed military actions, thousands of peasant producers of coca were driven from their lands and livelihoods.
Narcotráfico y política II is an excellent assembly of material in the public domain and a valuable analysis of Bolivia’s recent past. Despite this, the work does not address important aspects of the drug traffic-politics linkage. The role of the United States in the Bolivian government’s war on drugs remains unclear. It is argued here that President Siles sought to limit the cocaine traffic in response to United States threats to withdraw financial aid. No evidence, however, ties United States diplomacy to the Siles government’s decisions nor is it demonstrated how heavy-handed United States diplomacy brought about Bolivian obsequiousness. More significantly, the book does not explain the politics of cocaine at regional and local levels. It makes only passing reference to protests against the national government’s war on cocaine by rural syndicates, regional politicians, and labor unions. No commentary ties these vital facets of Bolivian politics to more far-reaching national and international developments.