Bolivia cuts coca cultivation: What about cocaine?
The United Nations released a report on coca cultivation in Bolivia today showing it has decreased for the first time since 2005. But estimates of cocaine production raise questions.
La Paz, Bolivia
Former coca farmer and Bolivian President Evo Morales often clashes with the United States over drug policy, and in 2008 ordered the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) out of Bolivia. At the center of the problem has been the coca leaf: It has long held religious and cultural significance for indigenous Andean peoples, but it is also the raw material used to produce cocaine.Skip to next paragraph
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Now, as Bolivia tries to balance respect for coca's traditional uses with the need to limit cultivation and cocaine production, two reports show significant decreases in coca crops between 2010 and 2011.
Cultivation of the coca leaf in Bolivia fell roughly 12 percent – from just under 120 square miles to 105 square miles – between 2010 and 2011, according to an annual report released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today. That's the first reduction Bolivia has seen since 2005.
The UN report comes close on the heels of a US Presidential Memorandum on Bolivia published last week in which the US found that Bolivia “failed demonstrably during the previous 12 months to adhere to their obligations under international counternarcotics agreements."
Because of that perceived failure, Bolivia was "decertified" by the US for the fifth consecutive year. Decertification can affect the flow of some kinds of US assistance, with the exception of anti-narcotic and humanitarian aid, but Bolivia received a waiver that allows aid from the US to continue, as did Myanmar and Venezuela, the two other countries decertified this year.
According to the memorandum, Bolivia's ability to combat drug trafficking declined markedly when it expelled the DEA, and the country should maintain better control of legal coca markets and execute a national drug control strategy. However, US data does report a decline in coca production, from 133 square miles in 2010 to 116 in 2011.