New president Bolivia pleads for legal coca crops

LA PAZ, Bolivia – Last Sunday, former cocafarmer Evo Morales has been chosen to president with 54 per cent of the votes. The Bush administration is ‘not amused’(and that is a an understatement) with the election of the new statesman who has announced that he will break with the policy of its predecessors to conduct the ‘war against coca farmers’. Morales is the first indigenous president Bolivia ever had.

The new president, who liked to call himself ‘Washington’s nightmare’ already during election time, wants to make an end to the campaign supported by the United States to exterminate the coca cultivation. The leaves of the coca shrub are the main ingredient for cocaine, but chewing on these leaves and drinking coca tea are deeply rooted cultural habits in Bolivia. Besides that, thanks to the coca leaves moreover ten thousands Bolivians manage to stay economically alive. Bolivia stands on the third place in the row of largest coca producers.

Referendum

Morales, who also is President of the Andescouncil, an association of about 2 million Indian coca farmers from Bolivia, Peru and Colombia, is not even considering to give the slightest cooperation on the American war on drugs. On the contrary, during a press conference in the capital La Paz last week he pleaded for a referendum about how the coca cultivation could be legalized.

And that is a huge thump in the face for the Bush administration. Although Morales’ left winged party Movemiento al Socialismo (MAS) never kept a secret about its not-so-warm feelings for the Northern neighbors. Washington and the American inclination to interfere with the interior policies of other country’s was repeatedly attackt during the election campaign.

Anti-America

The Bush administration now worries about the transformation of Morales into another anti-America president. Next to that there are doubts about his leadership. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in an interview with CNN that she has doubts about how democratic the future policy of the new president will be. A few weeks ago, an important leader of the MAS threatened with violence and a coup if Morales would not win the elections.

The Americans give the new president a fair chance though. And Morales as well says that he prefers a friendly relationship with the United States. But, he added, ‘that must be no relation in which Boliva has to submit itself’.

Next to the regulation of the cocacrops, he will also focus on national control over Bolivia's huge gas reserves and reshaping the constitution.

Sources: www.trouw.nl. and drugpolicycentral.com.