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Coca Si, Cocaina No: Evo Morales' Coca Policy in Los Yungas, Bolivia

For the past two years, Bolivian President Evo Morales has shifted drug policy in Bolivia toward a program he calls "Coca Si, Cocaina No." Though the "zero cocaine" program continues to work against illegal cocaine production and trafficking, it also allows an increase in the cultivation of coca for legal purposes. Morales, a former coca grower himself, owes much of his political support to "cocaleros" — as coca farmers are known in Bolivia.

His controversial "Coca Yes, Cocaine No" program focuses on the industrialization of coca for products like tea, medicine and toothpaste, much of it with financial help from Morales' regional ally, Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. According to Bolivia's Coca Industrialization Directorate, there are an estimated 50,000 coca growers in Los Yungas, who already support the effort to market coca legally.

On the other hand, Morales remains opposed to the unregulated and illegal growth of coca for cocaine production. He is encouraging growers to meet voluntary limits while continuing to cooperate with the United States government in stepping up efforts to stop cocaine traffickers. But U.S. law enforcement authorities remain skeptical of Morales' "Coca Yes, Cocaine No" program, arguing that any increase in coca cultivation will lead to an increase in cocaine production.

January 17, 2009|

Legal Coca Farming

Bolivian President Evo Morales says he's committed to fighting cocaine production and trafficking in his country. Three years ago, he instituted a drug program called "Coca si, cocaine no." That means it's illegal to make cocaine -- but farmers are allowed to grow the coca plant, the basis of cocaine, for traditional uses such as chewing or making tea.

September 30, 2008|

Growing Controversy

The big city of La Paz may be a draw for younger people in Sabina Ramirez and her husband Roberto's village. But not for her. "I was born into a coca-growing family," Sabina says, "and we're going to keep it that way." The Ramirezes live in a humble two-bedroom cinder block house in the village of Irupana, in the forest region of Los Yungas. Of Aymara Indian stock, Roberto's eyes are constantly smiling. Sabina wears the traditional braid across her back, like most indigenous women from the area. Both show signs in their skin of a lifetime working under the strong Andean sun.

September 19, 2008|

Bolivia's Coca Culture featured on Foreign Exchange

The coca plant, used in indigenous cultural rituals and traditional medicines, is also the main ingredient for cocaine. Bolivia is the third largest producer of coca and cocaine after Peru and Colombia. Despite pressure to cut back on coca farming, many Bolivians see few alternatives.

Aired on Foreign Exchange with Daljit Dhaliwal the week of September 19, 2008.

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June 17, 2009|

"La Hoja" at Philanthropy New York's documentary film series 6/17

Pulitzer Center-supported documentary "La Hoya," Gabrielle Weiss' film about Bolivia's coca culture, was shown at the Philanthropy New York documentary series. This series invites funders, non-profit colleagues, and other friends to view award-winning documentaries that will help funders and other stakeholders think about alternative mediums for promoting their missions.

The Oscar-winning documentary "Smile Pinki" was also shown.

The event will be held at The Paley Center for Media in New York City.

June 10, 2009|

"La Hoja" by Gabrielle Weiss Wins Unspoken Truth Award at Media That Matters

Two Pulitzer Center-supported films won honors at the 9th Annual Media That Matters Film Festival June 3. Jennifer Redfearn's "The Next Wave," a short version of "Sun Come Up," her film on the effects of climate change on the native inhabitants of the Carteret Islands, won the Jury Award. Gabrielle Weiss' "La Hoja," on coca leaf farmers and the coca industry in Bolivia, won the Unspoken Truth Award. Congratulations, Jennifer and Gabrielle!