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New Bolivian President - Lets grow more Coca

Old 12-21-05, 07:48 AM
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New Bolivian President - Lets grow more Coca

Yahoo Story
Bolivian Front-Runner Pledges Coca Control
By FIONA SMITH, Associated Press Writer
Tue Dec 20,11:09 PM ET

LA PAZ, Bolivia - Bolivia's soon-to-be president, Evo Morales, a coca farmer under pressure to crack down on cocaine, pledged Tuesday to keep controls on coca but said he will study expanding the area where it can be legally grown.

Morales also called on the United States to work with him to develop better ways of ending drug trafficking while preserving the traditional market for coca in his Andean nation, where people have chewed the plant to stave off hunger and used it as a medicine for thousands of years.

"There won't be free cultivation of the coca leaf," said Morales, who still has his own coca plot and came to prominence leading fellow growers — "cocaleros" — in fighting U.S.-backed efforts to eradicate coca in Bolivia, the No. 3 supplier of cocaine to the United States after Colombia and Peru.

Morales' apparently wide victory margin in Sunday's election virtually assures that Congress will declare him president in January even if he falls shy of the majority needed to win outright in the eight-man race. And a majority win appears increasingly likely, since Morales already had slightly more than 50 percent Tuesday with half the vote still uncounted, according to official results. His opponents have conceded and the outgoing administration said it was preparing to hand over power to him.

A leftist Aymara Indian who grew up in poverty, herding llamas and raising potatoes in Bolivia's arid highlands, Morales migrated to the coca-growing region of Chapare, where many otherwise impoverished farmers depend on small plots of the crop.

The U.S.-led war on drugs inadvertently helped bring Morales to power. The battle against coca eradication that he led helped mobilize Indian organizations already angered by continuing poverty and political domination by a rich elite, feeding a broader political movement.

Indians are a majority of Bolivia's 8.5 million people, but never in its 180-year history has the country had an Indian president.

Morales said Tuesday he plans to strengthen relations with state-owned foreign energy companies as he seeks to assert ownership over his nation's large natural gas reserves. He has said, however, that he will not confiscate refineries or infrastructure.

"Many of these contracts signed by various governments are illegal and unconstitutional," Morales said.

Acting increasingly like the president-elect, Morales also said Tuesday that his government would study whether acreage limits should be increased to satisfy legal consumption.

Current laws permit coca cultivation in 29,000 acres of the Yungas valley and a legally dubious accord struck by President Carlos Mesa in a compromise with protesting farmers allowed 7,900 acres to be cultivated in the Chapare.

But past Bolivian administrations and the U.S. government are convinced that an increasing amount of the crop is being turned into drugs. Bolivia, the world's No. 3 coca grower, may have produced up to 118 tons of cocaine last year, up 35 percent from 2003, according to the latest U.N. World Drug Report.

U.S. officials so far have taken a cautious approach to the man who had described himself as their "nightmare."


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told CNN on Monday that relations with Bolivia will be determined by the "behavior" of the new government in La Paz.

"We have good relations with people across the political spectrum in Latin America," Rice said. She did not mention two of Morales' allies, Cuba's Fidel Castro and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, with whom the United States has had increasingly tense dealings.

Myles Frechette, a former U.S. ambassador to Colombia, said that while Bolivia may produce "more coca for local consumption," Morales may also cooperate "in his own way, so as not to hurt not just the United States, but the rest of the world."

Morales has described his policy as "zero cocaine and zero drug trafficking, but not zero coca or zero cocaleros," and says he is ready, in principle, to work with U.S. officials.

A former U.S. ambassador to Bolivia, Robert Gelbard, said Morales' real challenge will be using force to follow through on his pledge to curb drug trafficking.

"It's very, very likely there's going to be a move by trafficking cartels to try to increase their capabilities" in Bolivia.

But U.S. Rep. Mark Souder (news, bio, voting record), R-Ind., the chairman of the House Drug Policy Subcommittee, said he did not believe Morales would allow that to happen.

"I believe that his defense of traditional coca growers represents an effort to assert his independence and to stand up for indigenous people's rights, and that it does not mean that he would allow Bolivia to be taken over by international drug-trafficking syndicates," Souder said.


And Morales and supporters insist that the coca leaves they sell in local marketplaces go for legitimate ends.

People in the Andean highlands have chewed coca leaf to suppress appetite and work up energy, used it in religious ceremonies and boiled it into medicinal tea. It is sold legally in supermarkets throughout Bolivia and Peru, and is served as tea in cafes.

Julio Atto, a 56-year-old worker at La Paz's coca market, said that his meager income from coca allowed him to put his children through college.

"The poor don't have money, the drug traffickers have dollars," Atto said as Indian women in bowler hats, stooping under 25-kilogram bags of coca, stood in line before scales saying "Made in the U.S.A."
So let me get this straight, he wants to increase the amount of Coca grown, but wants to cut down on the drug trafficking?

What is the most lucrative use of the Coca leaf for farmers? Hmm, I wonder. We could legalize it and take the profit margin out of it. Man I love the "war on drugs." It's going to be fun to watch how both Bolivia and the US spin this one.
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Old 12-21-05, 09:02 AM
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Weird, I just read an article a day or two ago that made Morales out to be much more of an anti-American politician.

Either way - his country should be able to grow coca to their heart's delight.
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Old 12-21-05, 09:24 AM
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I agree. The way to stop drug trafficing is to stop demand. That unfortunately isn't going to happen.
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Old 12-21-05, 09:24 AM
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My foreign policy towards Bolivia would be: don't fret and wait for the next guy. Bolivia had 18 different presidents in the past 35 years.

Edited: It's since 1970, so 35 years, not 25...

Last edited by eXcentris; 12-21-05 at 09:43 AM.
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Old 12-21-05, 09:26 AM
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Bolivia had 18 different presidents in the past 25 years.
That's better than Italy.
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Old 12-21-05, 09:34 AM
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Originally Posted by bhk
That's better than Italy.
Actually, Italy's only had 16!

October 18, 1980 - June 28, 1981 - Arnaldo Forlani
June 28, 1981 - December 1, 1982 - Giovanni Spadolini
December 1, 1982 - August 4, 1983 - Amintore Fanfani
August 4, 1983 - April 17, 1987 - Bettino Craxi
April 17, 1987 - July 28, 1987 - Amintore Fanfani
July 28, 1987 - April 13, 1988 - Giovanni Goria
April 13, 1988 - July 22, 1989 - Ciriaco De Mita
July 22, 1989 - April 24, 1992 - Giulio Andreotti
June 28, 1992 - April 28, 1993 Giuliano Amato
April 28, 1993 - May 10, 1994 - Carlo Azeglio Ciampi
May 10, 1994 - January 17, 1995 - Silvio Berlusconi
January 17, 1995 - May 17, 1996 - Lamberto Dini
May 17, 1996 - October 21, 1998 - Romano Prodi
October 21, 1998 - April 25, 2000 - Massimo D'Alema
April 25, 2000 - June 11, 2001 - Giuliano Amato
June 11, 2001 - present - Silvio Berlusconi
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Old 12-21-05, 09:39 AM
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Originally Posted by bhk
That's better than Italy.
Italy only had 15 different prime ministers since 1970. Granted they had more changes of power because 3 or 4 of these guys were playing musical chairs.
Military junta leaders in Bolivia made sure that woudn't happen there.
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Old 12-21-05, 09:41 AM
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"junta" is a fun word to say.
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Old 12-21-05, 09:42 AM
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Duh! I suck at math... I started the count at 1970, so that makes 35 years, not 25 years.

So Bolivia had 18 different presidents in the last 35 years. Italy had 15, but they win the changes of power sweepstakes with 23.

Last edited by eXcentris; 12-21-05 at 09:48 AM.
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Old 12-21-05, 09:58 AM
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Of course at the other end of the spectrum you can get great political stability when some loony names himself president for life.
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Old 12-21-05, 09:59 AM
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Originally Posted by B.A.
Weird, I just read an article a day or two ago that made Morales out to be much more of an anti-American politician.

Either way - his country should be able to grow coca to their heart's delight.


He has to continue, at least for some time, with the leftist rhetoric that got him narrowly elected. His actions however are likely to be a bit more to the center/right, and I should say a bit more realistic.
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