Surprise, surprise

LA PAZ, Bolivia (Reuters)A Bolivian senator, a close ally of President Evo Morales known for her raucous chanting of “Long live coca, Death to the Yankees!,” said on Wednesday the United States had canceled her entry visa.

Leonilda Zurita, who is seen as one of the leftist president’s closest confidantes, told local media U.S. consular officials had told her she was considered a terrorist, something she dubbed “an offense against Bolivian women.”

Zurita, from the region of Chapare — the focus of U.S.-funded coca eradication programs — was a prominent figure in the December election that returned Morales, who took power promising to develop his country’s coca crop.

Zurita said she realized the visa had been canceled when she tried to travel to Miami to take part in a meeting organized by a Florida university. No one from the U.S. Embassy in La Paz could immediately be reached for comment.

The congresswoman is one of the most prominent advocates of expanding coca production, which has alarmed Washington as it struggles to control flow of its derivative cocaine into the United States.

She said recently: “We need, and we can, develop markets for our coca … China is particularly important. The Chinese like herbs and they’ll like our coca tea.”

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