Blog: Bolivians Ask British Government to Respect Their Coca (Derek Wall/Alborada.net)

[Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca visited Britain on 20 January, as part of a tour of European Union countries, to lobby the British government to support Bolivia's amendment to the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.]

Bolivians Ask British Government to Respect Their Coca (Derek Wall/Alborada.net)

Thursday 27 January 2010, by Derek Wall - www.alborada.net

“It is said that the virgin Mary chewed on the coca as she lamented the loss of her son leaving her teeth marks on the back of the Coca…”

Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca visited Britain on 20 January, as part of a tour of European Union countries, to lobby the British ConDem government to support Bolivia's amendment to the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

At present, due to US government pressure, the use of coca leafs is illegal. Coca, as we all know, was used not just as the original ingredient of Coca Cola but is processed into cocaine. Cocaine is the main fuel of the armed gangs that are wrecking havoc in countries such as Mexico and El Salvador.

However coca has been grown and used for thousands of years without harm in countries like Bolivia and Peru. Indeed Bolivian President Evo Morales was a leader of the coca producers union.

His foreign minister argues, “We have been practicing the chewing of coca leaves for thousands of years… this means that it is a fundamental part of our culture. What we are asking the countries of the international community is that they let us, Bolivians, exercise, practice and strengthen our culture. We don’t understand why some countries would want to attack our culture.”

Coca chewing is an intrinsic part of indigenous culture, it is a means of dealing with altitude sickness in the mountainous regions and is part of the national identity in Bolivia.

Any one country can veto Bolivia's proposed amendment and the US will prevent the leaf from being legal, but the Bolivians are fast gaining support for their position. South American and Caribbean countries have signed up and the Bolivian's are keen that European Union countries don't just bow to US pressure.

A huge amount of coca leaves are needed to make cocaine and coca has a range of other uses including toothpaste. It even has religious significance for indigenous people. To my mind it’s like making potatoes illegal because they can be used to make high strength potcheen or banning wheat because it’s an ingredient for vodka.

The Bolivia Information Forum has urged the British government not to acquiesce with the US on this issue and British Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn has put down an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons. Please ask your MP to support it.

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