So arrogant U.S. and UN forces are telling indigenous Latin Americans that they’ll simply have to do away with the tradition:
The latest affront, they say, is a recommendation this month from the UN’s drug enforcement watchdog, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), that Bolivia and Peru criminalize the practice of chewing coca and drinking its tea. The move has provoked widespread anger and street protests in the two countries, especially among the majority indigenous populations. For them, coca has been a cultural cornerstone for 3,000 years, as much a part of daily life as coffee in the U.S. (La Paz is home to perhaps the world’s only coca museum.) From the countryside to swanky urban hotels, it is chewed or brewed to stave off hunger or exhaustion or to ease the often debilitating effects of high-altitude life in the Andes. It is also “used by healers and in ceremonial offerings to the gods,” says Ana Maria Chavez, a coca seller in La Paz, who refers to her product as “the sacred leaf.” Pope John Paul II even drank coca tea on a 1988 visit to Bolivia. It is, says Chavez, “part of who we are.”
The problem is, it’s also considered the building block of broken lives in the rest of the world, where cocaine consumption and addiction remain rampant in developed regions like North America and Europe.
Bolivia’s holding its ground:
Even as the INCB was issuing its report, the Bolivian government was reaffirming its desire to increase Bolivia’s legal coca crop limit from 12,000 hectares (30,000 acres) to 20,000 hectares (49,000 acres). The Bush Administration has warned that the latter move would put Bolivia in violation of its international agreements — it is “not consistent with Bolivia’s obligations,” said the State Department — and risk tens of millions of dollars in U.S. aid.
So get them hooked on aid, then threaten to pull it unless they bend to our will, and adopt our foolish approach to intoxicating substances, which is to ban (almost all of) them.
The sad thing is, our scorched earth drug policy in Latin America is a big reason why the entire continent hates us, and has turned to electing hostile political leaders like Chavez and Morales. Who can blame them? We send armed agents down there to march through their backyards, poison their fields with industrial-strength herbicides, and foment dangerous black markets and fund organized crime syndicates, all because our government can’t bear the thought its own citizens getting high. And of course, anyone who wants to can get high, anyway.
The tragedy is that poor countries like Bolivia, Venezuela, and Peru then lump all U.S. policy in with our shameful coca eradication efforts. So they reject free trade, privatization, and other liberal reforms, too. Which keeps them poor.
The amount of widespread destruction effected by the drug war is really mind-boggling.