Sunday, October 08, 2006

Morales beat down by White House for sensible coca approach

In case you were wondering how the US browbeats other countries into undertaking dunderheaded anti-drug programs, Boliva is a case on point. Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first Indigenous president and a former coca grower himself, has a perfectly sensible approach that allows a certain amount of coca to be grown for traditional uses that date back thousands of years among the population.

The nutrient rich coca leaf has provided essential sustenance in a country that suffers from great poverty and in used in everything from flour to toothpaste. He has honored his agreement with the US to eradicate a certain amount of acreage in order to contain the crops and has done so without the use of force and maintained the good will of his people in the process.

But the Bush administration is unhappy with his contention that the plant coca is not the same as cocaine and his failure to order wholesale herbicide spraying on his land. They now threaten to "decertify the country" unless he complies with their programs that have been failing for years, rather than employ his own, which has been showing positive results.
If Washington “decertifies” Bolivia in retaliation over the coca crop issue, it would cut off the $150 million the United States grants the Andean country each year. It would also mean a vote against Bolivia on the boards of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), institutions that the country relies on heavily for foreign aid.

Each year, the country receives from these institutions an estimated $400 million in loans and donations to finance social programs and build roads, schools and hospitals.
So what's a president to do? So far Morales is sticking to his promises to his people. Good for him for not caving to US intimidation. One can only hope he can stick it out and continue to provide a successful model for sensible drug policy.


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