Boliva's Morales and the coca leaf
I'm digging through the in-box to see what we missed over the last week. Here's a really good article on the newly elected president of Boliva, Evo Morales. I'm not the only one who's waiting to see how the US, with its addled-brained war on drugs mentality, is going to deal with a new world leader who vows to legalize and in fact promote the growing of the coca plant in his country. The piece is well worth a full read, but here's a couple of excerpts to get you going.
Mr. Morales had also been a coca farmer himself and leader of the coca growers association. He knows very well that coca leaves are themselves not harmful or dangerous to health. It is the extracts, namely cocaine, free base and crack that are dangerous and harmfully powerful.The author goes on to point out that cocaine in fact does have medical uses in a clinical setting and it's only the abuse of the alkaloid that causes harm. Meanwhile the plant itself has been used as a non-toxic "folk medicine" for thousands of years by the indigineous Bolivians.
Every restaurant offers mate de coca tea, which functions as stimulant similar to coffee and also combats altitude sickness. Legions of poor Bolivians chew the leaf, "which dulls hunger, cold and fatigue."
Mr. Morales had predicted that his victory would be a "nightmare for the United States." His prediction could come true with his determination to encourage the growing of coca and his promise to make the rapacious oil and gas companies pay what he says should be a fairer share of profits to Bolivians.Morales has already stated he's against the illegal production of cocaine and the US of course fails to mention its interest in the oil and gas reserves of the region, for which the drug war -- via their eradication raids on the coca plant -- has long served as a cover for their attempt to take control over those industries through privitization and "free trade." A fact well evidenced by the preponderence of coca raids that are staged in the same areas of the oil and gas pipelines and our permanent military bases also located strategically nearby to the same.
The United States has stated that it expects that the new and subsequent Bolivian governments to honour previous commitments to fight the production of illegal drugs.
Morales has taken their cover away with his promise to legalize the leaf. If they no longer can conduct flyover raids against dirt poor coca farmers, they lose their best excuse to keep a military presence in the country. And with Chavez, Lula and Castro forming a loose alliance of sorts in order to bring a stronger presence in trade negotiations, I see trouble down the line.
The rhetoric out of the White House has long been vilifying Chavez for his "leftist" government and implying he somehow stole an election where 80% of his people put him into office despite the best clandestine efforts of the US to prop up his opponents in the oligarchy. You don't see much in the western press about this, but the Latino Americas wait with great interest to see how far the Bush White House will go to bully them into submission to US policies. The longer the three leaders stand up to the west, the more likely other countries will join them in this power bloc.
We wait with them and can only hope that the over-extension of our troops in the Middle East will prevent Bush from launching another insane and ill-advised invasion in order to gain control of the region's resources.