<!--:es-->Washington wants talks with Bolivia’s Morales: US official<!--:-->

Washington wants talks with Bolivia’s Morales: US official

Thomas Channon made the statement during his first visit to Brasil

BRASILIA – Washington wants to talk with Evo Morales, Bolivia’s leftist president-elect, in order to maintain the «extremely positive» ties the two countries have enjoyed, the top US official on Latin American issues said on a visit here.

Assistant US Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon made the statement during his first visit to Brazil since he took over the job in October.

«We want an opportunity to enter in dialogue with the president-elect and with the government to better understand how we can go forward with the … extremely positive … relationship that we have historically had,» Shannon told reporters gathered at the Brazilian foreign ministry, in speaking in Portuguese.

Bolivia’s first indigenous president, elected late December and to be inaugurated January 22, arrived in South Africa on Tuesday for a two-day visit.

Morales is scheduled to travel to Brazil after the South African leg of his tour. He has already made trips to China, Cuba, Venezuela, Spain, the Netherlands and France.

Shannon emphasized how important it is for Washington to continue the US-funded anti-drug programs and coca plant eradication programs in Bolivia.

«Bolivia has historically fought in an important way against the production of cocaine, and the eradication process has been an important part of that program,» Shannon said.

«Therefore, we are going to talk with the new government to understand well how we can continue with that process.»

Coca is the raw material from which cocaine is processed, but it has also been used in traditional medicine in Bolivia.

Morales wants to end the US-sponsored coca eradication program that he says has failed to curb drug trafficking in Bolivia.

Morales, a former coca farmer organizer, made it clear in an early January meeting with US ambassador to Bolivia David Greenlee that he will fight drug traffickers but will not eradicate coca cultivation.

Shannon said he believed that US officials would be able to speak with Morales after he takes office.

Meanwhile in Caracas, President Hugo Chavez, a Morales supporter, said Tuesday that he was certain that officials at the US embassy in La Paz had «already started the conspiracy against Evo Morales.

«I’m sure that the American military in Bolivia is talking, searching for coup plotters» against Morales, he said.