Bolivian coca growers social status… and political power

This cartoon is from La Prensa, August 21, 2011. Most of the coca growers from the Chapare, Cochabamba used to be working miners from the state-owned mines. Back in the 80s as a result of the low international prices; the cost of production was considerably higher than the international price and so the government had to subsidize those salaries at our expense (tax payers).

As Bolivia needed to come out of hyperinflation, many of those mining workers had to be laid of and some ended up as taxi drivers in the cities; while most of them went to Chapare to grow coca. Initially they were authorized to grow a “cato” of coca (land measure, which is about two-thirds of a hectare), given the constraint of the size of the legal demand for coca chewing purposes.

But times have changed and so the demand for coca leaf. In the cartoon two people are talking while surrounded by drying coca leafs. The male says “before we had one cato, know we have three; Godmother, what does it mean, this miracle?” and she says “that know we are part of the medium class!”

Sometime ago, a TV news program reported on the luxury vehicles you see at the Chapare humble houses; some huts with Hummers by its entrance…

Coca growers from the six federations of the Chapare have great political power; they have placed many of their leaders in high government structure. President, ministers, vice-ministers, ambassadors and high level public officials in office for the last six years have come from their ranks. They have diversified this way, and also by going to other parts of Bolivia, they are in Santa Cruz protected areas and want now to consolidate their presence in the TIPNIS.

The following link is from El Deber article; it says that in the last two years, about 3,120 Bolivian nationals that have been arrested in America, Europe, and Asia for cocaine drug trafficking.

Published by Bolivian Thoughts

Senior managerial experience on sustainable development projects.

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