Bolivia, one of the world’s three coca-growing countries (along with Peru and Colombia), found a way to end its bloody drug wars – by legalizing coca and kicking out the DEA.
Although the strategy runs counter to that of the U.S. (which continues to pursue its largely useless eradication and interdiction policies elsewhere), it has proven to be enormously successful for Bolivian citizens and farmers, who have seen a drop in criminality and violence ever since coca harvesting was made legal in 2004.
The coca leaf – which can be processed into cocaine – has been used by indigenous South American cultures for thousands of years. In its unprocessed leaf form, it is normally chewed or made into tea, and provides a mild stimulant effect along with numerous medicinal properties.
‘Coca yes, cocaine no’
The use of the coca leaf for these purposes is a strong cultural tradition in Bolivia and the leaf is popular among the citizens of the country, so under the new policy, Bolivian farmers are allowed to grow a limited amount of coca for sale and use within the country – under strict monitoring to ensure that it is not processed into cocaine.
The “coca yes, cocaine no” system has largely ended the production of cocaine in the country and the violence and corruption associated with the illicit trade.
From Vice News:
“Wherever you go in the Chapare — one of Bolivia’s two coca-growing regions — you hear … stories of life in the 1990s and early 2000s: narco-slayings, police violence and rapes, and coca-grower protests ending in violence and death.
“You also hear gratitude that Bolivia has replaced a strategy of eradication with one of regulated production to meet historic national demand for coca.
“Farmers feel particularly indebted to President Evo Morales, a former firebrand coca growers’ leader from the Chapare. Morales expelled the DEA from Bolivia in 2008 after violent confrontations in the region claimed 30 lives and he said he could no longer guarantee the US agents’ safety.”
Bolivia’s success annoys Washington, threatens profitable war on drugs
The legalization of coca in Bolivia is a thorn in Washington’s side, however, which is not surprising since it goes against everything the U.S. policy on drugs is based upon.
The DEA’s annual budget of more than $2 billion might be threatened if other countries choose to follow Bolivia’s example, not to mention the fact that the success of the country’s new policy tends to negate the whole drug prohibition paradigm.
The U.S. war on drugs – both at home and abroad – is a cash cow for law enforcement agencies and those who build and operate prisons. It’s also an excuse to meddle in the affairs of foreign nations, while controlling and incarcerating millions of American citizens.
The failed war on drugs has cost American taxpayers more than $1 trillion since its launch in 1971 under President Richard Nixon, and continues to consume more than $50 billion per year.
No wonder the U.S. authorities feel threatened by Bolivia’s audacity in implementing such a program. It must be terrifying to those whose livelihood depends on the war on drugs – despite its having been a complete failure from its very inception.
The legalization of recreational marijuana in several states has proven that ending its prohibition not only causes crime rates to drop, but also that its regulation and taxation can actually fill public coffers instead of draining them and making criminals out of otherwise law-abiding ordinary citizens.
It’s time for Americans to recognize what the war on drugs really is: a way to fleece taxpayers and control the populace while actually promoting criminality and violence.
Let’s follow Bolivia’s example and kick out the DEA, along with all the others who profit from this senseless and wasteful scheme.