British Foreign Affairs Minister for LAC, Jeremy Browne was very harsh but also very clear, he said Bolivia’s coca chewing practice is a pretext to grow more coca; which ends up in cocaine that goes as far as Europe (this week, Greece seized cocaine from Bolivia). Bolivia has an estimated 30,900 hectares; 20,000 hectares are currently approved for traditional purposes (coca chewing mostly, government and coca growers also speak about industrializing: candies, toothpaste, wine, etc. I tried coca candy once and had to spit it out, it tastes horrible); so around 10,900 hectares need to be eradicated.
Current Bolivian president who continues to serve as coca grower leader from the Chapare region, has been trying (along with other government officials) to discourage more coca plantains and have asked to reduce the size of coca plots in that region. Without any reply nor formal commitment from coca producers.
Yesterday, Bolivian TV channels interviewed coca growers from the Yungas region, who were also criticizing this government for letting Chapare coca expanding their plots. Yungas is the origin for more than 90% of coca chewing; most people say it tastes better than the one from Chapare. Carlos Valverde showed a few days ago in his program, a person asking for coca for chewing in the Chapare; all vendors praised and were selling coca from Yungas.
The difference between what is today known as legal coca (20,000 has.) minus what is used for coca chewing (16,000 has.) is around 4,000 hectares. This government is now saying openly that this difference will be paid by the Bolivian Treasury, “so it will not go into cocaine.”
Interesting and biased policy: this government expressly forbid sugar and soy to be exported; they require special permits and there are quotas. In the case of coca, this government is just saying they will pay for that surplus (with Bolivian taxpayers money, that is all of us citizens who currently pay taxes, which are a minority of the population).
British Minister Browne was very clear in his remarks; something I haven’t seen for a long time in Bolivia, kudos for him and his nation! Bolivia cannot continue to use self-pity, commiseration and pretexts to disguise coca supply. Coca crop is known to deplete the soil where its grown; crime rates are sky rocketing due to narcotrafficking. Stop pretexes!!!