Bolivia breaks the mould in ‘war on drugs’
Photograph Courtesy of DPA – Drug Policy Alliance
Instead of ruining farmers’ livelihoods by eradicating their coca plots, Bolivia is applying “social control.” It’s led to a drop in the plant’s cultivation in a country the US blames for being a source of illegal drugs.
“In this part of Cochabamba it’s mainly the coca leaf that supports families – there are other products, but they don’t have markets,” said Marcela Lopez Vazquez, a former coca union leader in Cochabamba who was on the front lines of the fight against coca eradication. “It’s a sacred leaf, and a natural resource in its natural state. For us it’s not a drug.”
Coca and cocaine
Cocaine and its less expensive derivative crack became a major issue in the United States in the 1980s and ’90s, when a rise in violent crime was widely attributed to crack. Planning to curb the tide of addiction and violence at home by dismantling the drug chain at its source, the US pushed for large cuts in coca production. In Bolivia that meant eliminating coca cultivation in the country’s central Cochabamba region through a combination of forced eradication and alternative development.