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The Minister For Social Defence: Another Follow-Up

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.

Published in researchmaterial


  1. What’s wrong with cocaine?

  2. Tim Tim

    Phil that is like asking, “What was wrong with Hitler?”

  3. Jasper Jasper

    See, this is why you should just leave the comments off. People can do this political point and counterpoint “no my facts are facts – no mine are” bullshit all night, but the fact remains that your original post, Warren, was pretty funny.

    Humour’s usually at SOMEONE’S expense. Even if it’s mine, I think it’s worth a laugh, no matter the right or wrong of it.

    And Tim, Hitler was just born too early, he would’ve made a great frontman for an 80s metal band. As it was, he turned out rather badly, yeah.

  4. What’s wrong with Cocaine, is that it is illegal in the United States.

  5. Pablo Pablo

    Call me a hardliner, but I think that ANY legalization of ANY drug is beneficial. And the, why not start at the root of the production chain? Understand me well, I am not claiming that legalization is the solution to all problems, yet an essential step forward if you would like to oversee and control production and distribution.
    To make a comparison between Bush’s apointments and the Bolivians seems logical, yet is unfair. We’ll just have to see what their agenda is and then base our judgements on that. If you’ had a ministry of cooking, you’d want a chef presiding it, wouldn’t you.
    I think Hitler, Mussolini and Franco would have made a kick-ass boyband. Smothering the New Kids On The Block before they could utter a sound.

  6. God, what a load of reactionary neo-con bullshit. Farmers have never been able to support themselves on these crop substitution programs.

    Anyway, a good read is at Wikipedia “Crop Eradication”.

  7. Sebastian Sebastian

    I’d like to know how many of you have been actually IN Bolivia. Anyone?
    I have. Coca leaves are as common as tea in Bolivia, and you HAVE to chew coca if you have any intentions to breath. The height is so overwelming you can’t even walk a block if you don’t chew coca.
    I know the most profitable use for coca is cocaine, and it is widely sold for cocaine production, but coca is very important to the local culture. You can’t erradicate coca platations without seriously afecting the locals.
    Besides, if you know how you can get high with practicably anything. I have know people getting high with the spices in their kitchen. Smoking oregano will make you sorry you even thought about it.
    By that way of thinking you couldn’t even farm cinnamon.

  8. Letícia, a proud anti-american south-american Letícia, a proud anti-american south-american

    Bravo, Sebastian. Non-south-americans hardly know the damned height that country is on (wich is why I’ve never set foot there, and never will. I was born and raised on a quite under-the-sea-level bit of Brazil).

    And I have smoked oregano. Blame cachaça for that one. Don’t ever do that, kids. Not sure about cinnamon, though.
    What I do know is that legalizing drugs would make some very small countries very powerfull very quick. Think about that.

    Oh, yeah, and “Damn you americans! *shakes fist* You’ll never dominate us!!one!eleven!”.

  9. Linda Linda

    Sorry, it wasn’t my desire to mislead. I did speak imprecisely, yes, and coca production is not the area of my specialization, so of course you must take my commentary as an invitation to do more research, rather than as the final word. Nonetheless, I will continue to disparage policies that destroy third world peasant livelihoods which are not frequently connected with the imperialist eradication policies that determine them, and I will continue to be suspicious of simple cause-and-effect declarations in sociopolitical contexts. There is no labaratory in which all human factors may be controlled.

    Drug production is not the main thread of my research; to tell the truth, I am much more interested in the legitimate and domestic aspects of coca growing, and I am more familiar with Peru’s case than Bolivia’s. I am intrigued by Mr. Pasnak’s commentary and will be sure to keep my eye on issues of legality, coca production, and cocaine production in Bolivia–however, it was my understanding that coca growing is currently legal in Bolivia and that a blanket assumption that coca equals cocaine is at the root of the media overreaction to this appointment.

    At any rate– I did not speak to misguide, and I do not have a passionate agenda– I simply wanted Mr. Ellis’ readers to be aware that the issues of coca and cocaine production are far messier on the ground than they may look in media representation and that legitimate coca use bears no resemblance to the proliferation of cocaine and crack in major first world cities. Having lived both in major first world cities and in a small third world one for substantial chunks of time, I am unusually sensitive to this contrast.

    It is true that I am more skeptical of the appointment of Exxon and Enron excutives to work out U.S. energy policies, of course! But it can hardly be said that these situations are identical; the first and third worlds, though converging, are to be confused with one another only at the peril of the public, where policy guidance is concerned.


  10. Jasper Jasper

    See? Hot and cold running point and counterpoint bullshit, so thick it doesn’t really matter who’s right.

  11. and yet you choose to keep commenting. I, for one, am very interested in this thread and the points raised on both sides.

  12. Pat Pat

    “See? Hot and cold running point and counterpoint bullshit, so thick it doesn’t really matter who’s right.”

    Or… maybe they’re having one of those “online conversations” all the kids are talking about these days.

    Personally, I’d hate to live in a universe where person A says one thing and then person B is required to:

    1. agree or disagree categorically.
    2. Start a new line of conversation.


    A: “I think we should investigate campaign donations to the Democratic party.”
    B1: “Absolutely not.”
    B2: “I have a goiter.”

    Aside from the occasional goiter reference, it would be a mirthless boring suckfest of a universe.

    If you feel that strongly about the point/counterpoint bullshit thing, though, you ought to work on banning the trial format in the justice system. All those damned rebuttals and closing statements! Just a bunch of hot and cold running point and counterpoint bullshit! It doesn’t matter who’s right, so let’s…. ??? Let’s what, Jasper? :)

  13. Les Pasnak Les Pasnak

    Jasper, as Pat pointed out, it’s a conversation. The point is not to ‘win’ or to prove who’s right, but to present our views on the subject at hand. Linda presented her viewpoint and I presented mine. Neither one of us declared that we had the only viewpoint that mattered. If Mr. Ellis did not want people to discuss the issue he would not have reposted our comments.

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