During a UN narcotics control meeting, Bolivian President Evo Morales spoke urgently on the issue of legalizing the coca leaf for local traditional use. He also pushed for developed nations to help halt the illegal cultivation of coca and the manufacturing of cocaine.
Morales, a former coca growers’ union leader, is very eager in contesting that the coca leaf is not a narcotic when used in its natural form. It is described as a mild stimulant and is very much a part of Andean culture. The Bolivian government wants to rejoin the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime only if other member nations accept the amendment to remove obliged signatories to prohibit the chewing of coca leaves. The UNODC Chief Yuri Fedotov implied that giving the exemption to Bolivia would cause “a domino effect” on drug control.
Leaders from Latin America and Europe met in Santiago, Chile for the CELAC-EU summit to discuss trade relations between the two continents. Europe, already the largest direct investor in Latin America, is for looking “legal certainty” in companies’ investments. Venezuela, Bolivia and Argentina have nationalized several foreign companies to provide cheaper utilities for their citizens. Europe is looking for guarantees from Latin American governments to end “these takeovers and other protectionist measure” such as “currency controls and new taxes to constantly changing import and export rules.” While European investors are looking for policy and actions that will improve confidence to invest, Latin American leaders are expressing that they are acting in the best interests for their own countries and not the interests of Europe. Bolivian President, Evo Morales, took the stance that now is the time for European interests taking advantage of Latin America to end. Argentine President, Cristina Fernandez, similarly stated a refusal to any trade agreements that are unequal. Both sides have expressed hopes that the results of the summit will have positive effects for mutual trade.
Latin American leaders have the right to want more equal and beneficial trade agreements with Europe. Are the actions of Latin America, nationalizing foreign companies and implementing protectionist policy, the optimal route to equalizing the power of the economies? Europe has proven with its leading role as investor in Latin America and attending the CELAC-EU summit that trade between the two is important. Whether the two regions can come to agreement on how to foster more confidence with each other will be interesting as Latin America is pointing towards past relations and Europe is looking to improve its economy.
Headline: U.N Ruling Heartens Bolivian Coca Growers
Since the arrival of the Spanish onto Quechuan and Aymaran lands, the indigenous peoples of Bolivia have found some relief in the consumption of the coca leaf. The chewing of this “sacred leaf” has been ingrained in ancient custom for hundreds, if not thousands, of years and it remains a very prevalent practice throughout the Andean region. Today, the coca leaf is found in Bolivian gastronomy, medicine and culture and the indigenous peoples of region still consume it as an energy booster. The coca leaf, in its raw form, is nothing more than a mild stimulant but this plant is also the raw material needed to produce cocaine- a dangerous drug that is the cause of violence, addiction and crime throughout the world. An uncompromising global policy that promotes the “war on drugs” and growing concern that this leaf might get into the wrong hands have led the U.N., as well as other international governing bodies, to criminalize the coca leaf. The 1961 U.N. Convention on Narcotics banned “coca” and demanded its complete eradication. This led Bolivian President Evo Morales, the country’s first indigenous president and the leader of Bolivia’s largest coca union, to withdraw from the U.N. Convention last year stating, ” There cannot be zero coca, but nor can there be unregulated cultivation of coca.” Now, after much “coca diplomacy” by Morales, the U.N. Convention voted to reverse the decision, effectively decriminalizing local coca leaf cultivation and consumption.
While the move by the U.N. has angered many in the international community (most notably, the US), thousands of coca producers took to the streets of La Paz and Cochabamba to celebrate the decision. However, in order to better manage the production of this “ancient crop” Bolivian officials have implemented stringent policies and regulations to closely and carefully monitor the growers. The Bolivian government has also asked coca growers to strengthen ties amongst themselves in order to prevent any criminal activity from Mexican and Colombian drug gangs and one Bolivian official stressed that, “social control among coca growers has been key.” The results of decriminalization have, so far, been largely inconclusive with current data by the Bolivian government showing that acreage used for cultivation has gone down 12% since last year while seizures of processed cocaine are on the rise. The data suggests that more of the coca is getting into the wrong hands and is being used to process cocaine. Which raises the question: How can modern-day governing bodies properly manage criminal drug activity while still maintaining an ancient social custom that is so intertwined in indigenous culture?
The dynamic between modern institutions and laws and an ancient custom that is rooted in everyday life is ever-changing and it is one that has been cause for debate particularly in places with heavy indigenous concentrations, like Bolivia. This push to preserve culture in the face of an aggressive global policy serves as a microcosm for the conflicted relationship between the past and the present. To what extent should these local customs be preserved, even when they may (or may not) contribute to increased global criminal activity?
-Jorge A. Garcia
The Washington Post had an article on Thursday, January 17th describing the United Nation’s ruling on coca leaf cultivation and coca chewing in Bolivia. Coca, an oval-shaped green leaf, is cocaine’s raw material. This is an ancient crop and according to Honorata Diaz, a farmer from El Chapare, “Coca is our culture, our food, our medicine.” Ever since the War Against Drugs started many people such as Diaz have fought to keep the closely monitored cultivation of coca legal in certain parts of Bolivia for local use. Coca and coca chewing were declared illegal under the 1961 United Nations convention on narcotics. Last year, Evo Morales, the first indigenous president of Bolivia, withdrew from the United Nations convention stating that Bolivia would not rejoin until coca chewing was decriminalized. President Evo Morales was recently able to reenter the United Nations convention by persuading some member states to legalize coca. However, fifteen countries objected mostly because they believed that this would lead to an increase in cocaine production, trafficking, and other related crimes.
While we have not yet learned about the country of Bolivia, this article does deal with the topic of agriculture and economy. We discussed these two topics last week when we covered Latin America in 1830. After many countries gained their independence from Spain during this time, their countries were left devastated. There were few jobs available and one was agriculture. Since coca is an ancient crop used for local use and admittedly in drug trafficking, the production of it helped better the economy of Bolivia.
By Andres Schipani; Financial Times; Bogota, Colombia; January 17, 2013
Erikson, Daniel P. “Castro and Latin America: A Second Wind?” World Policy Journal 21, no. 1 (Spring 2004): 32-40. http://ezproxy.umw.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=14398974&site=ehost-live (accessed March 9, 2010).
Daniel Erikson argues in this 2004 article that due to the Bush administration’s focus on its war against terrorism, Castro has been able to improve Cuba’s relations with other Latin American countries. After the start of the U.S.-led war in Iraq in 2003, Bush became the most unpopular national leader in Latin America. Since prior to this development polls showed Castro to be unpopular in Latin America, Castro’s ability to take advantage of this new trend of anti-Americanism to become slightly popular is a notable change. However, despite Castro’s rise in popularity, many Latin American countries maintain amicable relationships with Cuba due to the island nation’s lack of foreign policy value. An exception to this pattern is Hugo Chavez and Venezuela. Chavez and Castro have forged a close relationship between Venezuela and Cuba that has improved both nations without their partnership becoming vital to either of their countries’ economic survival. Other nations such as Mexico, Venezuela, and Brazil have relationships with Cuba that are balancing acts between catering to US and catering t0 Cuban interests.
This article is useful to my research paper because it sheds more information on Venezuela and Cuba’s relationship. Moreover, it provides a geopolitical context for Venezuela and Cuba’s alliance. The various class discussions that we have had in class regarding the relationship between the United States and Latin America relate to this article because the many Latin American countries’ need to rely on and separate from the United States is a theme within the article and its exploration of Cuba’s ties with other Latin American nations.
Published: February 6, 2010
President Evo Morales, who is the country’s first indigenous leader, has already set a precedent for Bolivia’s indigenous majority. He is now hoping to continue these positive changes by promoting the idea of gender equality within the Bolivian government itself. Although gender parity is no longer a “novelty” in many Latin American countries, Bolivia has yet to experience such an occurrence. The article states that “the gender shift has shocked a country where Indians, and especially indigenous women, have long been treated as second-class citizens.” As a result, this struggle for gender equality is considered by many to be a radical idea. Nonetheless, President Morales has already begun to make changes. Women already hold 28 percent of congressional seats and 47 percent in the senate. However, their strive for equality within the local government continues to be an arduous endeavor.
This article not only speaks of the racial divide, but also of the gender gap which still exists. As evident in the article, President Morales is the first true indigenous leader of Bolivia. Throughout the history of most Latin American countries, indigenous peoples have always been ignored. It was always the white elite who undertook the decision-making of the nation. It is not until recent years that a few indigenous persons have actually risen to positions of power. This also bodes true for women, who have always been the minority in a male-dominated society.
by Carlos Valdez for The AP, Jan. 20, 2010
This article simply articulates the feelings of recently re-elected Bolivian President, Evo Morales, concerning the involvement of US military in devastated Haiti. Like other Latin American leaders (this article mentions Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, while other posts this week have pointed to others), he is calling this military occupation and insinuates that their presence could lead to further violence (“Haiti doesn’t need more blood”). Morales is asking the UN to condemn further US involvement, which the UN seems unlikely to do in light of their recent praise of US assistance to Haiti. The UN has said that they are to sign an agreement that would stipulate the UN as the lead security organization in Haiti.
This article, and the expression of this feeling from numerous Latin American nations invokes all of the detriment that the Monroe Doctrine and it’s associated action has caused, and the lingering distrust. It also raises the question of what appropriate US assistance would look like.