Minister of Rural Development Cesar Cocarico invited all producers of the coca leaf to debate the legislation recently introduced in congress, saying that right-wing opposition arguments need to be debunked and rejected.
However, producers' representatives in the Adepcoca union declined the invitation.
He stated that the coca leaf was part of the cultural heritage of the Andean country, and therefore the bill legalized the cultivation of the coca leaf on about 20,000 hectares of Bolivia's ancestral lands — 13,000 in La Paz province, and 7,000 in El Chapare, Cochabamba province. The location and surface were determined after consulting producers and running investigative projects, he added.
However, producers disagree with the location and the surface, arguing that only Los Yungas should be dedicated to the cultivation of the coca leaf.
“Ignoring the history of El Chapare as a native producer of the coca leaf is unacceptable,” said the minister, condemning the position of some Adepcoca leaders who are running as right-wing opposition candidates for the upcoming elections.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has praised the steady decrease of coca growing in the Andean country.
President Evo Morales' policy contrasted with the militarized approach of eradication imposed by the U.S. via aerial fumigations for instance.
Instead, his government developed cooperation with coca-growing communities, recognizing the traditional use of the coca leaf in the Andean culture, allowing farmers to grow a measured plot of land with the ancestral plant, from 1,600 to 2,500 square meters, while finding sustainable alternatives to cocoa cultivation. Local coca growers’ unions also have actively cooperated with government officials to ensure compliance with the ratio agreement.
As a result, coca cultivation in Bolivia has dropped 34 percent from 2010 to 2014 for the fourth consecutive year, recognized the UNODC in a 2015 report.