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sábado, marzo 14, 2009

Evo Morales On Coca Leaves

Today's New York Times has an Op-ed by Bolivian President Evo Morales calling for the legalization of coca leaves. Coca leaves are not cocaine; cocaine can be made from coca leaves. People from the Andes have for centuries chewed the leaves and made tea from them and have used them in ceremonies.

In 1961, the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs placed the coca leaf in the same category with cocaine — thus promoting the false notion that the coca leaf is a narcotic — and ordered that “coca leaf chewing must be abolished within 25 years from the coming into force of this convention.” Bolivia signed the convention in 1976, during the brutal dictatorship of Col. Hugo Banzer, and the 25-year deadline expired in 2001.

So for the past eight years, the millions of us who maintain the traditional practice of chewing coca have been, according to the convention, criminals who violate international law. This is an unacceptable and absurd state of affairs for Bolivians and other Andean peoples. ...

Why is Bolivia so concerned with the coca leaf? Because it is an important symbol of the history and identity of the indigenous cultures of the Andes.

The custom of chewing coca leaves has existed in the Andean region of South America since at least 3000 B.C. It helps mitigate the sensation of hunger, offers energy during long days of labor and helps counter altitude sickness. Unlike nicotine or caffeine, it causes no harm to human health nor addiction or altered state, and it is effective in the struggle against obesity, a major problem in many modern societies.

Today, millions of people chew coca in Bolivia, Colombia, Peru and northern Argentina and Chile. The coca leaf continues to have ritual, religious and cultural significance that transcends indigenous cultures and encompasses the mestizo population.
In other words, la hoja de coca no es una droga. The coca leaf is not a drug.

Coca leaves are a vital part of the ritual of Andean Shamans and are used in despacho offerings and in divination and in other ceremonies. When Q'ero Shamans visit us in the US, we're forced to substitute bay leaves for coca leaves when we do ceremonies, because the coca leaves cannot legally be brought into the US. This, of course, makes no sense: we couldn't turn the leaves into cocaine even if we wanted to.

Significantly, the cultivation of poppies, which have no cultural or spiritual uses in Central Asia and Afghanistan, which are used to make heroin and opium, is not forbidden by the UN Convention.

Clearly, the ban on coca leaves needs to be removed.

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