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  HOME | Bolivia

Bolivia unbothered by increase in national coca crop
LA PAZ (EFE) – A high-ranking Bolivian official on Friday described as “insignificant” the increase in the country’s coca crop,

and predicted that acreage dedicated to the leaf will continue to grow while most of his compatriots remain poor.
The statement was made by Deputy Social Defense Minister Felipe Cáceres, a former coca growers’ leader who currently is Bolivia’s anti-drug “czar.”
A report issued last week by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), the independent and quasi-judicial organ for implementation of the United Nations’ drug control conventions, indicated that the area under coca bush cultivation rose 17 percent in 2004 over the previous year to 27,700 hectares (68,395 acres).
The U.S. State Department, meanwhile, said in a report released Wednesday that growth of coca leaf rose 8 percent last year from 24,600 to 26,500 hectares.
Cáceres, for his part, did not mention figures, but said the growth in coca cultivation “can not be hidden.”
He noted that the main reason Bolivian peasants cultivate coca is that they have no other options for permanent employment.
The anti-drug chief said voluntary reduction in coca cultivation in the Chapare region – where coca growing is not allowed – began at the end of 2004 following an agreement with government authorities.
Like neighboring Peru, Bolivia permits the cultivation of small amounts of coca for nutritional, cultural and medicinal purposes. Andean peoples for millennia have chewed the raw leaf as a mild stimulant similar to caffeine.
President Evo Morales, who built his political career as leader of coca leaf growers, has said cultivation of the leaf, the raw material for cocaine, will be decriminalized. But he also has pledged to combat its refinement into cocaine and the trafficking of that drug.
 

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