Bolivian President Evo Morales announced yesterday that he will engage in another battle for the legalization of international trade in coca leaves, having achieved in 2013 the recognition of the UN of the chewing the plant by peasants and indigenous Bolivians as a lawful habit.
“It is the second battle that must be waged. We are prepared”, he said in a speech to a group of coca leaf distibutors in Yacuiba, a town on the border with Argentina.
The president said the goal is to “decriminalize internationally,” the circulation of the coca leaf.
In Bolivia, the coca plant is recognized and protected by the Constitution due to its industrial and cultural uses, but coca is also used as a raw material for producing cocaine.
On March 12, 2013, the UN accepted the readhesion of Bolivia to the 1961 Convention on Narcotic Drugs with a reservation on the ban on the practice of chewing coca leaves (called “akulliku”), which is mentioned in this document.
The UN maintains a ban on international trade because the plant contains alkaloids that can be used to manufacture cocaine.
Morales said that in his recent trips to Europe in some countries he was offered liqueurs made with coca leaves and that, in his view, were probably produced in privacy.
“Despite the criminalization of the coca leaf people are currently still carrying coca to Europe,” the Bolivian president said.
Argentina is one of the countries neighboring Bolivia where large quantities of coca leaves are marketed for chewing and for use in tea, especially in border areas, although it is not legally permitted.
During the ceremony in Yacuiba, Morales confirmed that the fight against drug trafficking will continue with a policy that has had results without the help of the US Drug Enforcement Administration, DEA, which was expelled in 2008 accused of being linked to a political conspiracy.
Bolivia’s anti-drug forces, according to recent reports, in 2015 seized around 20.6 tons of cocaine, 83 tons of cannabis and destroyed 11,025 hectares of illegal coca crops.