LA PAZ – Eradication of coca leaf – the source of cocaine – has declined nearly 40 percent in Bolivia since Evo Morales became president in 2006, but seizures of cocaine have doubled, according to a government report to which Efe obtained access.
In Morales’ first term, 2006-2009, an annual average of almost 5,800 hectares (14,500 acres) of coca leaf plantations were destroyed, compared to a yearly average of 9,000 hectares (22,500 acres) during the period 2002-2005, according to figures from the interior ministry.
The president is still the head of the union representing coca growers in the Chapare region and intends to increase the area where the leaf may be legally grown from 12,000 to 20,000 hectares (30,000 to 50,000 acres) to foster plans to industrialize the plant.
Bolivia, like neighboring Peru, allows cultivation of coca in limited quantities for legal use in teas, folk medicine and Andean religious rites. In its natural or unconcentrated form, coca is a mild stimulant known to ease the symptoms of altitude sickness.
The latest U.N. drugs report says Bolivia currently has around 30,000 hectares (75,000 acres) of coca leaf.
The interior ministry document also emphasizes that during the governments that preceded the Morales administration, 40 people died and 550 were injured in repressive actions against the coca growers.
Regarding the situation under the current government so far, three coca growers have died in clashes with security forces.
In addition, under the Morales administration a total of 102 tons of cocaine, 4,470 tons of marijuana and 7,123 tons of coca leaf destined for the drug trafficking trade have been seized.
The comparable figures for the 2001-2006 period were 48.4 tons of cocaine, 91 tons of marijuana and 1,726 tons of coca leaf.
During the Morales government, 47,000 police operations have been mounted against drug traffickers, while during the previous five-year period 28,000 anti-drug operations were carried out.
Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous head of state, has urged the United Nations to remove coca from the list of banned substances. EFE