U.S., Bolivia give diplomacy another chance

Story highlights

  • Bolivia and the United States broke off diplomatic relations in 2008
  • Bolivia had accused the U.S. of meddling in its affairs
  • The new agreement provides for cooperation on many fronts
  • Fighting drug traffickers is included in accord, but the future of DEA in is Bolivia unknown
It's been more than three years since the United States and Bolivia expelled each other's ambassadors as diplomatic relations tumbled, but a framework agreement signed by the two countries this week aims to reverse that.
On Monday, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Maria Otero and Bolivian Vice Foreign Minister Juan Carlos Alurralde signed an agreement "to guide relations" between the two, according to a joint statement.
"The accord establishes a framework by which the two governments will pursue relations on the basis of mutual respect and shared responsibility," the statement says.
It is unclear how the agreement could transform recent relations between the United States and the government of Bolivian President Evo Morales.
The Morales government accuses the United States of trying to destabilize it, while the United States counters that Bolivia is dropping the ball in the fight against drugs.
Morales, a strong proponent of the cultivation of coca plants -- the source of cocaine -- expelled the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration a month after expelling the U.S. ambassador in 2008. He also delivered a strong verbal criticism of the U.S. government at the United Nations General Assembly that year.
Alurralde did not specifically mention the DEA, but told the state-run ABI news agency that the new cooperation will include a joint front against drug trafficking.
"Obviously we think the signing of the U.S.-Bolivia framework agreement is a positive step in our bilateral relationship and we hope that it can lead to full restoration of diplomatic relations -- including the returning of ambassadors. It envisions that," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Tuesday.
Alurralde confirmed that the agreement will lead to the normalization of diplomatic relations between Bolivia and the United States.
Among the issues included in the agreement are investment and respect of sovereignty, Alurralde told ABI.
"This means that the states have the obligation to abstain from meddling in the internal issues of the other state," he said.
Other issues included in the agreement include strategies for protecting the environment and measures to resolve past disagreements, and to develop friendly relations, Alurralde said.
According to the joint statement from the countries, a joint commission will be appointed to ensure the implementation of the accord.
"We look forward to the early return of ambassadors to both Washington and La Paz and to a more productive, collaborative relationship for the benefit of both our peoples," the statement said.