• 20 June 2019

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    Category : Entrevista

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    “The main problem is drug transit and the economic activity it entails”

    The French Ambassador to Bolivia, Denis Gaillard, talks about the country and the project to fight drug trafficking and related crimes in Bolivia

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    Denis Gaillard, the French Ambassador to Bolivia

    The project, managed by FIIAPP and financed by the European Union, AECID and FIIAPP, includes the participation of Spanish and French specialists from the Civil Guard, the National Police, judges, prosecutors and institutions managed by CIVIPOL, such as the Gendarmerie.

     

    What is the strategic importance of Bolivia to France and the European Union?

    All of Latin America is important for France because there is a strong cultural and intellectual relationship between us, and we are all Latin countries, so we have much in common. In Latin America as a whole, Bolivia has a very specific role because it is a country where France has a major presence.

    There is a close relationship between the two countries, and we are very happy to be able to help this country which is in a very difficult economic and social situation, being the poorest country in Latin America.

    So, it is a country with problems, but it is trying to face them. We are happy to help them.

     

    What would you highlight about French and European cooperation in Bolivia?

    It is very important that European cooperation takes into account what each country does. There is very good cooperation and close coordination among the European Union and the actions of Member States.

     

    What is special about Bolivia?

    In relation to the economy, it is one of the poorest countries in Latin America, but it also has the highest growth, so there is hope that things will change. Last year there was a lot of progress in education, health and infrastructure, where there were many very positive changes. It is never enough, but there were some major developments.

     

    Regarding politics, general elections for the presidency and parliament are scheduled for October; this will be an important moment for dialogue and democratic participation. So we are anxiously waiting for that moment.

     

    Do you think that Bolivia is a unique country in Latin America?

    That’s right. Bolivia and Paraguay are the only countries that are landlocked. They have no access to the sea, and this puts them in a peculiar situation.

     

    And it is also pluri-national – it comprises several communities, mostly of indigenous people – making it very special. In addition, its policies are adapted to this situation and taken into account, which is very positive and important.

     

    What do you think the project contributes to the country?

    Drug trafficking is important for the entire region, not just this country. So it is vital for the country to address this problem very seriously and with a lot of dedication. We are pleased to be able to participate and be partners in a project to fight drug trafficking and related crimes in Bolivia. This project enables us to fight drug trafficking effectively, by applying joint strategies drawing on many services from the Bolivian institutions that are also involved in the project. It is also important to have a communication network for these services. I believe that this project has helped to promote dialogue and collaboration, to ensure that they work together effectively.

     

    What is the strategic importance of Bolivia to France and the European Union?

    All of Latin America is important for France because there is a strong cultural and intellectual relationship between us, and we are all Latin countries, so we have much in common. In Latin America as a whole Bolivia has a very specific role because it is a country where France has a major presence.

     

    There is a close relationship between the two countries, and we are very happy to be able to help this country which is in a very difficult economic and social situation, being the poorest country in Latin America. It was the poorest country in Latin America, so it is a country that has problems, but it is trying to face them. We are happy to help them.

     

    What importance do you think French and European cooperation have in Bolivia?

    It is very important that European cooperation takes into account what each country does. There is very good cooperation and close coordination among the European Union and the actions of Member States.

     

    What do you think of the efforts being made by Bolivian institutions to reduce drug trafficking and related crimes?

    I think there is real dedication. Bolivia is in a somewhat unusual situation due to the traditional use of coca. But, taking this issue into account, the country is strongly committed to fighting against drug trafficking, which is a tragedy for people doomed to rely on this as their only means of survival. So there is a real effort, but it is never enough. The borders are difficult to control and the traffickers are quick to react – when they cannot get through one way, they look for a different route.

     

    A constant and comprehensive strategy is essential. And that is why the European Union’s help is necessary, and what this project is about.

     

    What achievements would you highlight from the project?

    The dialogue is the most obvious result of the first phase, which will be completed this year, 2019. There has been a lot of collaboration, and not only among the Bolivian services responsible for fighting drug trafficking. Contacts have also been established with other countries in the region to share information. Drug trafficking is not just a domestic problem, it is also a regional problem for Latin America and an international problem for Europe and Spain, which is the port of entry for drugs into our continent.

     

    We are also very pleased that this programme is being related to other activities that already exist, such as everything that the United Nations is doing on alternative crops to drugs.

     

    Do you believe that a second phase of the project will be necessary?

    I think so, firstly because the first phase always starts a little slowly. You have get to know one another, understand how you all work, who is in charge of what … We have reached the end of the first phase and it would be a shame to leave things half finished. So it is very important that we have a second phase and that this second phase starts soon, so that there isn’t even a momentary breakdown. It is important that we keep the same dynamic; this means that we would be able to start immediately with a very effective group.

     

    How do you think the results will contribute to improving the quality of life for the public?

     

    We have to achieve a change in the lives of the people involved in the drugs trade. They have to have another way to work and survive. Bolivia is more a country of transit than of consumption, so this has a direct impact on the local population.

    There are other countries in the region – such as Chile or Argentina – where consumption is developing a lot, so those countries have a different problem of helping people who are involved in drug use.

    Here, the main problem is the drug transit and the economic activity surrounding it. We have to see see how we can change the economic situation and give the people other options.

    The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the sole responsibility of its author.