Bolivia and the cocaine market

Your recent article on Bolivia and cocaine was enlightening [``Bolivian economy hooked on cocaine,'' May 14]. The effort to reduce the supply of drugs is worthy, but one of the least effective aids. The Bolivians are responding to the demand of the marketplace. If the Bolivian connection were completely cut off, other sources would spring up to meet the gigantic demand. Alternatively, the demand would turn to other drugs.

The real criminal is the vast number of Americans who create the huge demand and are willing to pay outrageous prices for illegal drugs. The sad fact is that they do not think of themselves as criminal.

I am unaware that they are being prosecuted or penalized for using drugs. They bid up the prices when law enforcement temporarily slows the flow of drugs.

An awakening will come quickly to Bolivian drug growers when the demand for drugs is quenched. Ralph Duniway Palo Alto, Calif.

The article left readers unaware of the great difference between coca and cocaine. Coca leaves give mild stimulation. Chewing them is an ancient and essential part of the Andean Indians' way of life. You can drink coca tea (mat'e de coca) in any Bolivian or Peruvian restaurant.

Merely to destroy growing coca is an assault on human rights and is rightly resisted by the Bolivian people. What must be attacked is the industry that extracts from the leaves the highly concentrated cocaine. Guy Ottewell Greenville, S.C.

NRA The Monitor actually did have its facts right in the April 14 gun control editorial [``When Congress just sits there''], although Scot Douglas of the NRA writes [Letters, May 7] that he ``found amusing the implication that those who favor gun control are a majority.''

Public opinion polls, including Harris (1982), Gallup (1981), Washington Post/ABC (1981), and Associated Press/NBC News (1981), show a majority in fact does favor handgun control laws.

That Congress can so readily ignore a majority opinion is to the credit of the NRA's campaign financing ability. Deborah Wallace Seattle

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