The State Department announced yesterday that it is terminating all antinarcotics programs in Bolivia and is reducing the size of its embassy staff there even further.
In announcing the move, State Department spokesman David Passage would not confirm or deny allegations that members of the military junta that took control of the country last month are involved in the international narcotics trade.
"We have examined the allegations very carefully and reached the conclusion that we have no basis to expect the kind of cooperation from the Bolivian authorities that makes it worthwhile to continue the [drug enforcement] program," he said.
Both the State Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration have programs to fight narcotics traffic in Bolivia.
Officials in State's Bureau for International Narcotics Matters said their programs' budget this fiscal year was $2.6 million, but that only $250,000 had been spent because Congress had not appropriated foreign assistance funds this year.
Officials said that four Americans and two Bolivians were directly involved in the programs, and that the Americans would be returning to the United States "very soon."
Officials at the DEA -- which is part of the Justice Department -- said their programs involved about $140,000, not including salaries and administrative expenses.
They said that five Americans were working in the programs, and that they would be leaving Bolivia "within a week."
State Department officials said additional U.S. Embassy personnel will be withdrawn during the next several weeks. The embassy staff was reduced from 120 persons to 80 shortly after the coup. Officials were unsure yesterday how many additional persons will be called back.
Meanwhile, Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.) has asked the chairman of the foreign operations subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee to schedule hearings about the alleged ties between the military junta and international drug traffickers in Bolivia.
Reliable Senate sources said yesterday that U.S. narcotics officials have information that Army Gen. Luis Garcia Meza, the head of the junta, allegedly has received "millions of dollars" from Jose Abraham Baptista, who the sources alleged is "a major known drug trafficker" based in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
Sources said that two relatives of Baptista -- who allegedly are also known cocaine dealers -- reportedly have been given jobs in the Bolivian customs services.
The sources said that the junta's interior minister, Luis Arce Gomez -- former head of the Bolivian military intelligence -- allegedly has longstanding connections with major traffickers.
The sources added that the country's education minister, Col. Ariel Coca, was alledgely involved in a drug transaction that ended when 220 pounds of cocaine were seized in Panama in 1979.
Garcia Meza has denied that he or any of his officials are involved in the international narcotics trade. In an interview Tuesday with The New York Times, he said:
"I would like to remind you that the drug problem in the world is masterminded and financed as a multibillion dollar operation in the Northern Hemisphere. We deny emphatically any involvement with this drug mafia."
But sources in the Senate said there is "unimpeachable evidence" that a number of high-level Bolivian officials are involved.
The State Department would not confirm these reports. A spokesman said yesterday that the administration had decided not to present the results of investigation into the involvement of the new military rulers in the drug traffic because of concern for the safety of American personnel still in Bolivia.
The State Department's programs had included assisting the Bolivian customs service in trying to reduce the smuggling of coca leaves -- from which cocaine is made -- according to officials in State's Bureau for International Narcotics Matters.
Officials said the department had also assisted the Bolivian government in trying to establish a board to regulate the production and sale of coca to be used legally such as for medical purposes.
Officials at the DEA said their programs involved exchanging information on international drug traffickers, and training and assisting local police with drug-related investigations.