The U.S. “War on Coca” In Bolivia
The coca leaf has been used in ceremonies, consumed as a medicine, and traded as a valuable commodity by Andean civilizations for over 4,000 years. But the leaf is also the raw ingredient to manufacture cocaine, a drug that plagues communities and feeds violence on the streets of Brazil, Europe and the U.S.
The U.S. “War on Coca’ in Bolivia has left a stark trail of human rights abuses – from violent forced eradication efforts to the jailings of thousands of innocent people, courtesy of special anti-drug police and prosecutors paid by the U.S. government. Bolivians have demanded a new approach to the coca issue – one that allows them to continue to grow the leaf for traditional use and that would open up markets for alternative coca products such as the popular herbal coca tea served and recommended by the U.S. Embassy itself for U.S. visitors.
Coca: A BBC Report
This was the last radio piece recorded by a wonderful Democracy Center colleague, BBC reporter Lola Almudevar. We post it here in her memory. November 25, 2007.
To raise awareness about the coca issue, The Democracy Center submitted a video question from Bolivia, offered by two Bolivian members of our team, to the Republican YouTube Presidential debate.
For more background on coca, including historical information, and solid information on the science of coca and cocaine, pay a visit to the Web site of The Coca Museum (Museo del la Coca) in La Paz, Bolivia. Or, if you are in La Paz, pay an actual visit.
As background information, here is an excerpt on the coca issue from the Democracy Center’s book, Dignity and Defiance: Stories from Bolivia’s Challenge to Globalization (University of California Press). The excerpt comes from a chapter dedicated to the coca issue. This particular piece was written by Coletta A. Youngers, a Senior Fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America and one of the U.S.’ foremost experts on the ‘War on Drugs’.