Bolivian President Evo Morales delivered a speech at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs Thursday, where he called on the U.N. to develop a more humanistic approach to combating the production and use of illegal drugs.
During his speech, the Bolivian leader, who is a former coca farmer, criticized the militarized approach to drug eradication efforts, which he argued have proven to be “ineffective” and harmful in ensuring respect for human rights.
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Morales also accused the United States government of instrumentalizing the so-called "war on drugs" for geopolitical gain, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean. He denounced the U.S.-financed coca eradication programs of the 1990’s in Los Yungas and Chapare, Bolivia's two main coca growing regions.
The Bolivian leader pushed for international recognition of the benefits of the coca leaf, which is the primary ingredient in cocaine, but also a natural medicinal product and an ancestral rite.
Evo Morales supports a policy of “social control” to manage coca cultivation by enforcing a cap of 2,500 square meters per family. As a result of the newly introduced policies, coca cultivation in Bolivia fell 34 percent from 2010 to 2014.
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Drug policies of U.N. member states are required to fulfill prohibitionist policies banning narcotics use, a model promoted by the U.S., which many world leaders argue has proven to be “ineffective and counter-productive."
In a letter to the U.N. ahead of the UNGASS summit, more than 1,000 world leaders called on the U.N. to implement “a new global response to drugs, which is grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.”
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The Bolivian president echoed the sentiments of the statement Thursday, calling on the U.N. to move beyond the traditional approach of drug eradication policies, which focus overwhelmingly on the criminalization of narcotics.
Instead, President Morales advocated for the adoption of a more humanistic approach that “respects human rights and national sovereignty.”