UNITED NATIONS – The U.S. uses the war on drugs as an excuse to intervene in the affairs of other countries, Bolivian President Evo Morales said on Thursday.
The militarized, prohibitionist approach to the problem has been a failure, he said during a drug-policy summit in the UN General Assembly.
“From the decade of the (19)80s the misnamed war on drugs has brought us to a scenario that systematically violated countries’ sovereignty and worsened public health conditions and internal security,” the Bolivian said.
Following the end the Cold War, Washington seized on the illegal drug trade as an “excuse to apply an imperialist logic” in resource-rich regions such as Latin America, Morales said.
He called on the General Assembly to implement “concrete actions” to end the use of the drug problem “as a pretext for domination.”
Bolivia’s first indigenous president has fought for years to get the United Nations to remove coca leaf from the list of narcotics.
In its unadulterated form, coca is a mild stimulant that indigenous Andean people have used for millennia to counteract altitude sickness and Bolivia, like neighboring Peru, permits the cultivation of the leaf in limited amounts for use in teas, folk remedies and Andean religious rites.
Morales, who remains the leader of the Bolivian coca growers union, pointed out Thursday that his government’s policies have reduced coca cultivation to its lowest level in a decade.
Holding up a coca leaf, he said the plant “has been a victim of the interests of drug trafficking and capitalism.”
Since 2008, when Morales expelled the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Bolivia has come in for criticism in Washington’s annual reports on countries’ performance in the war on drugs, even though the current government in La Paz has seized far more than cocaine than any of its predecessors.