Bo­livia asks drug mon­i­tors to al­low coca-leaf chew­ing

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY GE­ORGE JAHN

VI­ENNA | Bo­li­vian Pres­i­dent Evo Morales urged a 53-na­tion U.N. nar­cotics con­trol meet­ing Mon­day to ac­cept his push for le­gal­iza­tion of co­caleaf chew­ing and grow­ing in his coun­try for tra­di­tional uses.

At the same time, he called on de­vel­oped na­tions to give him the tools to crack down on il­le­gal cul­ti­va­tion.

Bo­livia re­nounced the U.N.’S an­tidrug con­ven­tion last year be­cause it clas­si­fies coca leaf as an il­le­gal drug.

Bo­livia’s mil­i­tary gov­ern­ment rat­i­fied the con­ven­tion in 1961, com­mit­ting the coun­try to erad­i­cate coca within 25 years, but Mr. Morales, in com­ments to the U.N. Of­fice on Drugs and Crime meet­ing, de­scribed that move as a “his­tor­i­cal er­ror” that needs cor­rec­tion.

Bo­livia’s gov­ern­ment con­tends that coca leaf in its nat­u­ral form is not a nar­cotic and forms an age-old part of An­dean cul­ture.

It wants to re­join the con­ven­tion but only if other UNODC mem­ber na­tions ac­cept an amend­ment to the 1961 Sin­gle Con­ven­tion on Nar­cotic Drugs to re­move lan­guage that obliges sig­na­to­ries to pro­hibit the chew­ing of coca leaves.

Bran­dish­ing a coca leaf, as he of­ten does when push­ing his point, Mr. Morales, a for­mer coca grow­ers’ union leader, said the “ab­surd pro­hi­bi­tion of coca chew­ing . . . is sim­ply not ap­pli­ca­ble in the ter­ri­tory of Bo­livia.”

Mr. Morales said that in ar­eas of tra­di­tional coca cul­ti­va­tion, small plots are given to fam­i­lies “to cor­re­spond to the le­gal pro­duc­tion of coca leaf for chew­ing.”

“In Bo­livia, there is not free cul­ti­va­tion of coca but there can­not be no cul­ti­va­tion ei­ther,” he said. “It can­not be re­duced to zero.”

Mr. Morales said vast amounts of il­le­gal coca cul­ti­va­tion oc­cur in re­mote na­ture reser­va­tions with lit­tle ac­cess by road and he urged de­vel­op­ing na­tions to pro­vide his na­tion with the hard­ware to be crack down on pro­duc­tion out­side tra­di­tional use and meant for co­caine man­u­fac­ture.

“Give us the nec­es­sary tech­nol­ogy, the he­li­copters . . . with or with­out pi­lots,” he said. “We want to make our com­bat­ing of drug traf­fick­ing more ef­fec­tive by get­ting that kind of as­sis­tance.”

UNODC chief Yuri Fe­do­tov said his or­ga­ni­za­tion’s mem­ber states had un­til early next year to ap­prove or re­ject the Bo­li­vian push, but in an al­lu­sion to U.S. and other Western op­po­si­tion told re­porters “some coun­tries al­ready con­veyed to us their strong po­si­tion.”

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