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Legalization of Coca Production In Bolivia - Essay Example

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Juan Evo Morales Ayma (commonly known as Evo Morales) is the President of Bolivia, and the country's first indigenous head of state since the Spanish Conquest (Brea; Evo). He is the leader of Bolivia's effort to legalize the use of coca leaves and stop the eradication of the crops…
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Legalization of Coca Production In Bolivia
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Download file to see previous pages Morales has made discrimination and oppression experienced by Bolivia's indigenous groups a top priority in his presidency (Brea).
Since the early 1990s, the United States of America has put pressure on the Bolivian government to reduce the amount of coca leaves produced for refinement by the international drug trade. Cocaine is one of the many ingredients in the coca leaves. In 1995 the livelihood of one out of eight Bolivians was dependent on coca, with Bolivia the world's largest grower of coca after Peru and Columbia. Hugo Banzer, who was Bolivia's president at the time, developed a plan to eradicate the coca plant (Evo 9.3.3.1-2). Between 1997 and 2000, the production of coca fell from 45,800 hectares to 14,600 hectares. The eradication program has been funded by the United States with an average of $150 million a year (Evo 9.3.3). The focus on farmers rather than traffickers created worsening external economic conditions for peasants who had depended on coca production for their livelihood.
Evo Morales began a campaign to oppose the eradication of the coca leaf crops. He was elected to the Bolivian Congress but was expelled in 2002 because of his association with anti-eradication factions. However, in 2005 he was supported by coca farmers and became president of Bolivia. His position was "zero cocaine and zero drug trafficking, but not zero coca or zero cocaleros (coca growers)" (Evo, 9.9.3.4).
The Culture of Coca
In determining whether Evo Morales should be encouraged or discouraged in his efforts to end the eradication of coca, the reasons for his efforts need a background in the use of the coca leaf itself. Coca has long played an important role in the culture of the Andeans, mainly as a chewable health supplement. The coca leaf contains many essential nutrients in addition to its well-known mood-altering substance, cocaine. It is rich in proteins and vitamins and grows in regions where other food sources are scarce. The energy boost from the cocaine in the leaf is very functional in areas where oxygen is scarce and extensive walking is necessary. Chewing coca leaves continues to be common in the high-altitude mountains of Bolivia (Coca 2.2; Oomen par. 11). It is further used as a spiritual substance by Andeans.
It is the contention of the United States that the eradication of coca throughout the world is an important step in the effort to eradicate the production of cocaine and the illegal trafficking of cocaine. The policy of the international community-most often represented by the UN drug control agency, the United States Ambassador and to a lesser degree, the European Union representatives-has been more harmful in the Andean countries than in Europe, with violence, human rights violations and corruption. In Europe, the effort to close down the coca production is not so strictly advocated as in the United States. One representative of the European NGO Council on Drugs (ENCOD) offered awareness in 2003 of the effect of "fumigating 260,000 hectares of coca and opium to such an extent that farmers will be unable to grow anything in these fields for the next 15 to 20 years" (Oomen, par. 2). In the 1980s, the coca farmers in the Chapare (Bolivia) witnessed how US forces were organizing cocaine transportation instead of fighting coca cultivation. It was Oomen's concern that the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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