ANTWERP – March 12 2012
The cultural association “Friends of the Coca Leaf” welcomes the proposal made today by President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, at a UN meeting in Vienna, to lift the international ban on the coca leaf. The association, composed of citizens living in different European countries met on the occasion of the Day of Coca Chewing that takes place in Bolivia today.
The members of the association “Friends of the Coca Leaf” practice the chewing of coca leaves, some for many years already, and have found that it is not harmful. On the contrary, we are aware of a lot of scientific studies proving that the consumption of coca leaf in its natural state has many benefits for physical health. At the same time, there exists not one scientific study that indicates any damage resulting from the consumption of coca leaves.
Since 1988, the traditional consumption of coca leaf is legal in Bolivia and Peru, with the permission of the United Nations. The sale of the coca leaf is freely accessible to all. Tourists can purchase and consume coca in these countries, but due to the fact that it has been added to the list of controlled substances attached to the UN Convention, taking leaves outside these countries is illegal.
Western governments have tried for decades to eradicate the coca leaf. They have spent billions of euro in military and police operations that have led to violent confrontations with Andean farmers who survive by growing coca. These operations have not had any results in decreasing the production of illegal cocaine or the poverty levels of the rural population in the Andean region. Therefore, producers of coca leaf are still forced to sell much of their crop to the illegal market.
The members of the association ‘Friends of the Coca Leaf’ wish to contribute to repair an injustice to the indigenous population of the Andes. We want to help increase the legal market for coca leaves, and facilitate a system of buying a small amount of coca leaves for the personal use of our members. Using legal means and respecting the rules of fair trade, we intend to work with peasant producers in Peru, Colombia and Bolivia who are willing to comply with environmental and health standards currently in force.
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