Coca Leaf: The Heritage of the Andes

April 9, 2008

A short film on the struggle of the Bolivian people for legal coca

In its annual report, released in March, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) called the governments of Peru and Bolivia "to initiate action without delay with a view to eliminating uses of coca leaf that are contrary to the 1961 Convention", emphasizing the role coca leaf "plays in the progression of drug dependence" and claiming that growers are supplying the international narcotic trade.  The governments of Peru and Bolivia rejected these controversial statements, saying that coca leaf is a sacred symbol for indigenous people, which should be protected as a cultural heritage of the Andes. According to a suppressed WHO report the traditional use of coca leaf has no significant health risks but it has many nutritional and medicinal benefits. The government of Bolivia calls for the revision of the status of coca, which is listed among narcotic substances like cocaine and heroin. We interviewed a representative of the Bolivian government at the 51st Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna on their position on coca leaf and its possible future regulation. Mr. Felipe L. Cáceres, the Vice Minister of Social Defence of Bolivia explained that in the view of the current government coca chewing is a cultural tradition rather than drug use, therefore it supports the legalization of coca but implements a policy of zero-cocaine. Well, even if we consider coca a drug, and don't think we should legalize coca leaf at the cost of demonizing cocaine users, we support the struggle of Bolivian people to stop the war on coca and reclaim respect for the heritage of their ancestors.





Further readings on coca leaf and coca policies from the Transnational Institute:

Coca yes, cocaine, no! Legal Options
for the Coca Leaf

Coca or Death? Cocalero
Movements in Bolivia and Peru


Posted by Peter Sarosi