“Is Coca an Issue?” wonders Boz in a recent entry referencing a Miami Herald article, which states that coca eradication policies could re-emerge during this election season. Attention could certainly be given to the contrasting differences in Tuto Quiroga and Evo Morales’ positions and histories on the topic. Quiroga has already governed during a period where these policies were in full effect with accompanying questionable results. No one really seems to know where Morales stands on the issue, all we know is that he is against it. These days the leaf escapes the headlines in a way that natural gas, Constituent Assembly or tax revenues does not.
Outside the Chapare and Yungas regions of Bolivia, coca eradication directly affects the daily lives of very few Bolivians. Yet, indirectly it affects the entire nation as millions of dollars from narcotrafficking has been removed from the circulating economy over the past two decades.
But what could convert this issue into a national topic could be based on the manner in which these policies are established. The disastrous Ley 1008, which seems to go after the “little guy” like those trying to squeak out a living selling coca to some middle-man or those caught transporting raw materials, was basically written by U.S. advisors. That has set a disastrous precedent. Some might say that it is highly feasible that the U.S. or other outside interests could do the same with the controversial Hydrocarbons Law. National sovereignty is the issue, not necessarily the innocent coca leaf. National sovereignty, as the name suggests, is a national issue.
Many who stand against any form of coca eradication say that cocaine production is not Bolivia’s problem. Demand from abroad fuels the supply. Eliminating coca eradication would be dangerous. There’s no question that fundamental changes need to be made in the manner which these policies are developed. Other accompanying changes need to be made so that farmers growing alternative agricultural products have a fair shot at just trade (i.e. the elimination of farm subsidies). Sadly, coca production must be regulated or else Bolivia could fall victim to another form of capitalism. (Why doesn’t Evo speak out against the exploitation of coca farmers by cocaine manufacturers who profit manifold from the cocaleros?)
Reason would call for an objective study to determine how much coca is needed to supply the national consumption and traditional use. But as article reports:
Where the coca goes after the markets, however, is a question growers don’t have answers for.
”We are just following the legal procedures,” Chipana said. “Maybe some of the coca is going to drug production, but that’s out of our control.”
Like it or not, any military presence in the Chapare reduces the chance that coca production is not allowed to grow out of control, benefiting the real criminals. If Evo wins the Presidency, there could be the temptation to boot the U.S. out of the Chapare. What could result is a lawless region where narcotrafficking rules, perhaps introducing violence and weapons to the mix. That would then, affect the lives of more innocent Bolivians caught up in that circus.