Bolivia says no to cocaine, but yes to coca
As Latin America debates decriminalizing drugs, nowhere is the coca-cocaine tension more prevalent than in Bolivia, writes guest blogger Jackie Briski.
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In other words, it’s more cost effective for everyone to export what they can produce more efficiently than anyone else while importing what they can’t.Skip to next paragraph
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Unfortunately for the Bolivian-law-abiding coca growers, the Andean Region has a clear comparative advantage in coca production. A recent report on cocaine in Stratfor’s Criminal Commodities Series explains it this way:
Coca can be grown in a number of geographic locales, including Mexico, but only the South American geography is ideally suited to naturally cultivate the plant in large enough quantities for mass production.... According to the 2011 UN World Drug Report, three countries – Colombia, Peru and Bolivia – harvested all known coca in the world.
Under previous presidential administrations, the official policy was to promote alternative development. While this is still part of the Coca Sí, Cocaína No program, alternative development is more voluntary now.
It’s a great idea to train and equip farmers to grow coffee and chocolate instead of coca – an initiative that has found great success in some regions – but coca is still easier to cultivate than chocolate and less fickle than coffee.
The Legalization Debate
Given the historical context, it comes as little surprise that the Morales Administration was quick to clarify a statement by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.
Following the recent bilateral meetings between the two presidents, El País reported (in Spanish) that Santos explained a plan for a Colombian-Bolivian tag team during the upcoming Summit on the Americas:
Bolivia – with its knowledge and experience in the traditional use of the coca leaf and the processes of alternative development – and Colombia – with our experience in combating drug cartels – have a lot to contribute to this discussion, which should be open and without prejudice.
He went on to use the phrase “we” several times as he explained plans to propose a “comprehensive and wide” discussion about the results of “the so-called ‘War on Drugs’” and the “diverse strategies that we can take on together to end this scourge.”
According to the El País article, Morales was standing next to Santos when he made these remarks.
However, the next day, Los Tiempos reported (in Spanish) that the Bolivian government rejects the debate on regional drug legalization.