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Venezuela Rivals U.S. in Aid to Bolivia

To understand Venezuela’s growing influence here, consider that more than two dozen ambassadors are in this capital city, including those of Bolivia’s leading trading partners like Brazil, the United States and Argentina. Yet none enjoy the direct conduit that the Venezuelan ambassador, Julio Montes, has established with President Evo Morales.

Mr. Montes often accompanies Mr. Morales on domestic and international trips on executive jets provided by Venezuela’s national oil company, say officials who have seen them traveling together. On many days Mr. Montes, who arrived in La Paz a year ago, can be found at the presidential palace huddled in meetings with Mr. Morales or the president’s top aides.

Since Mr. Morales became president little more than a year ago, Venezuela has quickly come to rival the United States as Bolivia’s main patron. It has provided assistance for the army, cattle ranches, soybean cultivation, microfinance projects, urban sanitation companies and the oil industry.

Perhaps most important to Washington, despite its opposition, Venezuelan financial assistance has helped Bolivia push ahead with plans to increase exports of its industrial production of coca, the main ingredient in cocaine.

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