In 1998, President Hugo Banzer initiated "Plan Dignidad", described in the report as an "all-out, no-holds-barred approach to eradication" that was so successful U.S. officials cited the country as a model for the rest of the Andean region. But that success came at a substantial cost, according to the report.
The Plan included dispatching hundreds of security forces into Chapare to manually destroy the coca plants in continuous operations and a permanent military presence in Chapare, all paid for by the U.S. embassy. And while the Plan was supposed to be supplemented by an alternative development programme for peasants whose coca crops were uprooted, the latter simply failed to keep up.
The speed with which eradication efforts swept through Chapare "created gaps between eradication and alternative development assistance that can leave peasant farmers without livelihoods," said a recent report by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO).
Chapare was already one of the poorest parts of Bolivia, but the loss of the coca crop without any alternatives for farmers plunged most of the region into deprivation.
"This notable lag (in providing alternative development) has greatly exacerbated the extreme poverty in the region and led to soaring malnutrition, heightening tensions in the region and provoking conflict, the WOLA report says.
See also Is the War on Drugs Bringing "Dignity" to Bolivia? by George Ann Potter.