Parliamentary question by Marco Cappato (NI) to the Commission and answer given by Mr Patten on behalf of the Commission

Parliamentary questions
by Marco Cappato (NI) to the Commission
(14 February 2002)

Subject: The case of a member of the Bolivian Congress, Evo Morales Ayma

Over the last few years the policy designed to eradicate coca growing in Bolivia has provoked violent incidents which have resulted in the deaths of over 40 people, including women and children - although no member of the forces of law and order has ever been tried in connection with such incidents.

Following the violent demonstrations on 17 and 18 January 2002 near the Bolivian city of Cochabamba, a member of the Bolivian Congress, Evo Morales Ayma, was stripped of his parliamentary immunity, since he was deemed to be the "moral author" of the violent acts committed by the coca growers.

Mr Morales Ayma, the coordinator of the "Six Federations of coca-growing peasants" organisation, immediately began a hunger strike, calling for the government decree banning the sale of coca leaves (even for licit purposes) to be revoked.

Has the Commission formally asked Bolivia's ambassador for clarification regarding the situation? If not, why not? If so, what reply has it received?

Does the Commission not think that, as a matter of the utmost urgency, full consideration should given to the effect which the violence triggered by the eradication programmes has on the local people?

Does the Commission not think that it should carry out an analysis of its alternative-development programmes applicable to Bolivia in order to assess the effectiveness and the soundness thereof, with a possible view to suspending them?

Answer given by Mr Patten
on behalf of the Commission
(22 March 2002)

On 22 January 2002, a meeting took place between the Heads of diplomatic missions accredited to Bolivia and the Bolivian Minister for Foreign Affairs who presented the position of his Government on the events that resulted in the death of three "cocaleros" farmers and four soldiers in Sacaba near the provincial capital of Cochabamba, i.e. not in the coca-growing region of Chapare. As far as Mr. Morales is concerned, legislative and judicial institutions are dealing with the withdrawal of his parliamentary status and immunity in the framework of relevant Bolivian law.

The Commission's methodological approach to the issue of coca in Bolivia is based on promoting an alternative development in order to define the measures aimed at mitigating the socio-economic impact of coca eradication. The Community programmes are compatible with the policy of the Government, but the Community is not involved in the eradication campaign, and has not conditioned its assistance to a specific calendar in terms of coca eradication. The Commission aims to improve conditions for the people of the coca-growing zones and the migration zones, and to support the sustainable socio-economic development of these areas. For this reason the Commission does not feel it would be appropriate to consider suspending its alternative development programmes, which are to the benefit of the population in the coca growing areas.

The Commission has a two-pronged approach: alternative development, and prevention of migration from zones facing economic problems to coca-production regions.

The following programmes are being implemented:- Praedac (Programa de Apoyo a la Estrategia de Desarrollo Alternativo en el Chapare), alternative development in the main coca production zone of Chapare (Cochabamba Department), EUR 19 million; - economic development in the poor mountain valleys in order to avoid migration towards the coca-growing regions, EUR 11 million. Regular evaluations of the Community programmes are carried out. The mid-term review of the Community "Praedac" programme is currently under way.