With the help of Europeans and without abandoning coca, Bolivia has managed to get a large part of the population out of poverty
Bolivia is the country in Latin America that receives the most money from the European Union after Haiti. Apparently, Bolivians have managed to effectively use the help given by Europe, so they got a new cooperation agreement for 575 million euros (687 million dollars). According to the European Union, this cooperation strategy seeks to improve the lives of Bolivians by focusing on eight priority areas: culture and tourism, rural development and food security, integral development with coca and the fight against drug trafficking, education, governance, environment and change climate change, health, economic development and employment.
The EU has been supporting Bolivia economically for years. Some of the achievements that have resulted from this cooperation have to do with drug trafficking and coca cultivation. According to official data, the area with coca crops has been reduced by 26% since 2010. Although these are legal in the Andean country, there is a limit of 22,000 hectares destined for coca production (which is equivalent to almost half of the area of the city of La Paz). In this sense, the government focuses on the eradication of excess coca, not the total elimination of it, while encouraging the production of other crops to diversify the economy.
In addition, according to EU figures, poverty has also decreased in coca growing areas. 7% of people have come out of extreme poverty while the number of people who declare their basic needs satisfied, in terms of water, health and education, has increased by 8%. There are still about a third of the country living in poverty, but the rates have improved considerably, as in 2005, more than half of the population lived in that condition, that is, with less than two dollars a day.
The new aid plan arose from the decision of several European countries to coordinate their intervention programs in Bolivia. France, Spain, the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, Germany, and Switzerland have decided to align their efforts to enhance the impact of their support to the Latin American country. From the list, the first four countries are among the nations with the highest percentages of cocaine users worldwide, so it is not surprising that they invest resources in the fight against drug trafficking. However, unlike the United States, European countries use an aid model that is not focused exclusively on the interests of the donor.
Regarding this point, President Evo Morales wrote through Twitter: "We are grateful and we highlight the signing of this agreement for the good of all Bolivians and without any conditioning. Before, Bolivia received cooperation from the US, but was totally conditioned to the privatization of our companies, the coca zero plan and the repression".
According to the Bolivian newspaper Cambio, the cooperation areas identified by the European countries for the new agreement were defined based on Bolivia's development agenda. The Bolivian government's 2016-2020 Development Plan includes issues such as food sovereignty, health, education, environmental sovereignty, eradication of extreme poverty, and universalization of basic services, among others. At least on paper, it is possible to see the relationship between the strategies of the Bolivian government and the plan they have announced in cooperation with the European Union.
Latin American Post | Paula Bautista
Translated from “Bolivia recibirá 575 millones de euros para mejorar la vida de sus ciudadanos, cortesía de la UE”