Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bolivia Pro-Coca Campaign Inches Ahead

Via initiating process to maintain status quo
against yet another U.N. scheduled elimination of coca leaf chewing

From Drug War Rant:
Bolivian coca amendment to Single Convention

The Bolivian government has successfully commenced the formal process for amending the UN's Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961) to eliminate the provision that would require all countries to prohibit coca leaf chewing within 25 years (for Bolivia, that was 2001).

Interesting amendment process. If no country objects within 18 months, then the amendment passes (a nice, if time consuming, way to do it - countries need not get on the record to approve it). Countries most likely to object: United States and Sweden. If that happens, then there's a conference to consider it.

The proposal has a very nice argument as to why this provision should be removed from the Single Convention.
As reported by the International Drug Control Consortium:

Bolivia commences process to allow coca-leaf chewing under international drug control scheme

At the Substantive Session of the Economic and Social Council on Thursday, 30th July 2009 in Geneva, Bolivia commenced the formal process by which they hope to delete article 49, paragraphs 1(c) and 2(e) of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, as amended by the Protocol amending the Single convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961.

Article 49, paragraph 2(e) states that ‘coca leaf chewing must be abolished within twenty-five years from the coming into force of this Convention as provided in paragraph 1 of article 41’; paragraph 1(c) states that a Party to the Convention may reserve the right to permit coca leaf chewing temporarily in any one of its territories, subject to the restrictions established in paragraph 2(e), that is, for a period of no more than 25years.

The Bolivian proposal was supported by a letter from the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, which explains that coca leaf chewing is a non-harmful and ancient socio-cultural practice and ritual of the Andean indigenous peoples closely linked to their history and cultural identity practised today by millions of people in Bolivia, Peru, northern Argentina and Chile, Ecuador, and Colombia. The Bolivian delegate to ECOSOC assured other delegates that ‘we are not talking about free growing of coca so as not to feed the narco trade’ and explained that the proposed amendment to the Convention would allow countries to ‘make up their own minds’ on coca-leaf chewing and would not require any change in the domestic law of other countries, she said ‘this is a full application of the principle for non-intervention and non-meddling in the sovereignty of states’. The delegate further stated that the Bolivian government plans to hold a seminar for interested parties on coca leaf chewing in October of this year. Read the Bolivian proposal below.

The United States of America and Sweden both raised their flags on this agenda item but the resulting dramatic tension was quickly abated by a procedural question with regards to the consultation process. The question was answered as follows: if the proposed amendment is not rejected by any Party within eighteen months of 30th July 2009, it shall enter into force. If any rejection is forthcoming, however, a conference shall be called to consider the amendment.

Accompanying the USA with its promotion of Virginia Bright Leaf cigarettes adulterated with numerous chemicals to increase the burn (increasing health problems and house fires in order to sell more), and misbranded (with no labeling of the additives), is Sweden, with the following suggestion for Bolivians to abandon Coca in favor of Ice Cream!

Better income from ice cream than coca cultivation

Felipe and Mabel Vera Loza have started an ice cream factory and got the farmers to grow passion fruit instead of coca leaves. This is just what the Bolivian economy needs -- modern enterprise and profitable alternatives to the drug production that results from coca cultivation.

On the Altiplano, high above Bolivia's capital La Paz, 700,000 people live in poverty, but behind the first impressions of misery hides another reality - enterprise and ingenuity, a Bolivian "Gnosjö spirit" (distinctive enterprising spirit in Gnosjö, Sweden) that has turned the Altiplano into one of the fastest growing economic regions in Bolivia. One of many resourceful entrepreneurs is Felipe Vera Loza. Fifteen years ago, Felipe and his wife Mabel bought an Italian ice cream machine of the make Catabriga, which was placed in the family's kitchen. From there they built the company Delizia, which is now the second-biggest producer of yoghurt, ice cream and Juice in La Paz. Today, the facility is worth 40 million SEK and has an annual turnover of as much, and the company continues to grow.

"You have to grow slowly in pace with demand and always adapt to the market," says Felipe, "the Bolivian economy is unpredictable. You must be prepared for quick changes but still have a long-term perspective."

Inside the Delizia factory, the shiny aluminum machines whirr and hiss day and night. At the back, between the white tiled walls, there is a conveyor belt with plastic bottles filled with juice the colour of orange peel.

"No, it's not orange, it is passion fruit juice, our latest product," explains Felipe, "today farmers grow passion fruit on 2000 hectares of land, which is delivered to Delizia. Many of these farmers previously grew coca."

Swedish support allows the company to adapt its production to meet the strict international environmental requirements. This makes Delizia and other Bolivian companies more competitive. It offers long-term opportunities to reduce poverty and, at the same time, more coca farmers the opportunity to change their cultivations to other products and build a sound basis for the Bolivian economy.


Sida has supported industry in Bolivia since 1992 with a number of contributions. Sida cooperates with NGOs, which are in the best position to identify demands and solutions to problems. Sida also works with business development.

Updated 05 Nov 2007

To its credit, Swedish policy has at times favored the concept of harm reduction:

On the other side of the debate were UN agencies and much of the international community. The European Union and several of its member states voiced explicit support for harm reduction. Even staunchly prohibitionist Sweden "fully associated itself" with the EU's pro-harm reduction statement. Australia, Brazil, Norway, and Switzerland also supported harm reduction efforts, according to on-the-scene reports from Hungary's Peter Sarosi and England's Andria Efthimiou-Mordaunt, who were representing the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union and the European Coalition for Safe and Effective Drug Policies, respectively. In contrast to previous years, harm reduction also drew support from Moslem countries, with Iran and Morocco reporting they were working together to forge a response to injection drug use. China reported that methadone maintenance programs were underway and that "exchange of needles and syringes is expanding step by step."

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