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News > Latin America

Evo Morales: Bolivia's Coca is Not a Threat to the US

  • Bolivian president Evo Morales has long defended the use and production of coca leaves.

    Bolivian president Evo Morales has long defended the use and production of coca leaves. | Photo: EFE

Published 6 November 2018

A recently-published report by the U.S. called coca cultivation in Bolivia and Peru a threat to the U.S. and called on Bolivia to combat production.   

President Evo Morales “repudiated” a White House report that claims Bolivian coca production is a “threat” to the United States, noting that a June U.S. Department of State study showed “that 90% of cocaine seized in the U.S. is from Colombia.” 

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During a speech in Potosi, Morales said Monday: "I reject, I condemn what the State Department said, that Bolivia's coca is a threat to the United States. Why does it not question Colombia?"

Morales was responding to a statement by the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) released on Nov. 2 regarding. The report tracks coca production in Peru and Bolivia from 2011 until 2017. The communique read: “The ongoing coca cultivation in both Peru and Bolivia pose a threat for us as a nation, and aggravates our domestic drug addiction crisis.”

Deputy Director of the ONDCP, Jim Carroll, went on to say in the statement: “In Bolivia, we would like to see real efforts against cultivation and production.”

Bolivians use Coca leaves to chew them raw or drink them in tea form. The ancestral plant has been historically used by Indigenous peoples for strength and energy. In 2009, the coca leaf was enshrined and protected in the Bolivian Constitution for its traditional, medicinal and cultural uses. However, a part of the country's production is diverted to manufacture cocaine.

President Morales responded in a tweet: "We repudiate and condemn the inconsistent White House report, which calls #Bolivia a threat … to its drug addiction crisis."

The U.S. is facing an overwhelming opioid crisis. In May president Donald Trump declared it a “national emergency.” In 2017 over 45,000 U.S. residents overdosed on opioids and its derivatives, compared to a 14,500 overdose rate of cocaine in the same year. The U.S. opioid crisis has its origins in over-prescribed pharmaceuticals in the U.S. but big pharma is not being targeted by the U.S. government.

The ONDCP report showed that Bolivia’s production went from 23,100 hectares in 2016 to 24,500 in 2017 when Bolivia legalized the production of up to 22,000 hectares of coca within the country.

Via Twitter, Morales went on to criticize the U.S. for pointing the finger at Bolivia and Peru for producing coca, “despite the fact that the State Department revealed that 90% of the drug entering #EEUU is (from) #Colombia." The State Department's study was released last June.

According to a September United Nations report, coca production increased by 13 percent over 2016 in Colombia with another 25,000 hectares tilled for crop expansions. Of Colombia’s 171,000 hectares of coca production, 31 percent of the produce is being grown for illicit use.

According to the ONDCP report, Peru cultivated 49,800 hectares of coca last year, the same amount it had in 2011.


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