The Minister For Social Defence: Another Follow-Up

January 30th, 2006 | researchmaterial

Les Pasnak, from the comments section of the previous post:

I find Linda’s post to be very misleading. There are legitimate uses for the coca leaf which is why the previous government allowed farmers to sell the coca plants to legitimate buyers. The amounts were regulated because selling to a drug trafficker is still the most profitable reason to farm coca. Bolivia is one of the poorest nations in the Americas, where 64% of the population lives under their poverty line. The idea that there is greater profit in selling teas and soda to people that cannot afford them, rather than selling the coca to make cocaine, is pretty naive.

There are some inaccuracies in Linda’s statement that the DEA is ‘carpet-bombing the mixed fields in which food and coca are grown for peasant domestic production.’ I am going to assume she is referring to spraying the crops as opposed to actual carpet-bombing, but the statement is still false. All illicit coca crop eradication in Bolivia must be done manually, the US is not allowed to spray any coca crops. And the people that mix in coca plants with domestic crops are doing so to hide the coca plants. Legitimate farmers do not mix crops.

Linda then states that there is no cocaine production in Bolivia, but Bolivia still produces an estimated 60 metric tons of cocaine a year. This is down from the 1992 estimate when Bolivia produced 192 metric tons of cocaine. The reason? The very same ‘misguided’ policies of the US that she disparages in her post. The US and the UN have had success in helping farmers to grow other crops than coca. While it is easy to cast aspersions on the intent of US foreign policy are we now to believe that the UN has ulterior motives as well?

The statement that ‘it is very sensible to engage someone who knows the difference between coca and cocaine as a minister for social defense’ is the same reasoning used by the White House when they appointed Enron, Exxon and others to work out the Bush energy policy. But I have a feeling that Linda, and other people that champion this decision by Morales, does not feel the same way about President Bush.

I am disappointed that people would allow their anti-American feelings to blind them to the danger of this decision. Not only will drug traffickers benefit from legalization of the coca plant, but increasing the amount of coca grown will do serious damage to the environment of Bolivia.

The Minister For Social Defence: Follow-Up

January 29th, 2006 | researchmaterial

From the comments section of the previous post, by Linda:

I think it’s hard for people who have not lived in the Andean cultural region to realize how normal a product coca is, as it is marketed in the region, anyway. It is used in religious and hospitality rituals, chewed in the highlands as a cure to fatigue and altitude sickness, and consumed as a legal, ubiquitously available tea– which can be purchased in mass produced teabags as well as in loose leaves. The leaves do not have a strong effect (weaker, in fact, than caffeine). What Mr. Morales and Mr. Caceres are suggesting is the renormalization and stimulation of industries surrounding an important agricultural product. Following on a history of United States DEA planes carpet-bombing the mixed fields in which food and coca are grown for peasant domestic consumption, in one of the most misguided enforcement efforts in history, it is very sensible to engage someone who knows the difference between coca and cocaine as a minister for social defense.

In general, cocaine production does not occur in poor countries like Bolivia; if growers are illicitly farming coca for the production of cocaine, generally the leaves are partially processed into “pasta cruda” and illegally exported via private transports to cocaine-producing countries. Cocaine must be addressed at the site of consumption, if drug enforcement officials are serious, rather than the diffuse sites of production. Or at least at the sites of production of the actual drug.

The Minister For Social Defence

January 29th, 2006 | researchmaterial

Bolivia’s new left-wing government has put a coca grower in charge of the fight against drug trafficking.

Felipe Caceres was appointed deputy minister for social defence by President Evo Morales – who was once a coca grower himself.

Mr Caceres is a former mayor of a town in the coca-growing region of Chapare, and owns a small coca farm there.

Coca is used to make cocaine, but also has widespread ceremonial and medical uses in Bolivia.

Mr Caceres told the BBC he opposes US-backed efforts to eradicate crops across the country. He said coca was an integral part of Bolivia’s indigenous culture and was the only means of survival for many people. Many people in rural areas use the leaves in tea, or chew them to ward off hunger and altitude sickness.

Mr Caceres said he was convinced he would help lead a successful fight within President Morales’ government to end drug-trafficking in Bolivia. “What we say is no to drugs, but yes to the coca leaf,” he said, adding he would not stop production on his own plantation.

President Morales, who was elected last month as the nation’s first indigenous leader, wants to increase the production of coca for use in medicines, toothpaste and soft drinks.

He has promised to fight corruption, introduce a new tax on the wealthy, and renationalise energy companies.