Colombia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Laura Gil, has announced that Colombia will submit a joint request with Bolivia calling for the UN to withdraw the coca leaf from its list of illicit substances, and embrace its traditional uses. The coca leaf is one ingredient used to produce cocaine, however, the leaf itself is not a narcotic and has been used by indigenous communities for its medicinal and nutritional qualities for millennia.
In an interview with Colombia Hoy Radio, Gil explained that the request will be made at the 66th session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs which will take place from March 13 to 17 in Vienna.
“For more or less ten years, Bolivia has undertaken an initiative calling for the legalization of the traditional use of coca (..) we consider that it is time to put the issue back on the table,” said the Deputy Minister.
She added that it is necessary to “begin to de-stigmatize the discussion about the drug problem” and argued that rural coca growers are not the ones that should be targeted, instead, it is the mafias that control the drug trade that should be apprehended.
Gil continued: “That is why the president insists so much that we have to strengthen the fight for security, but to not penalize campesinos with forced eradication”.
Since 2006, Bolivia has had a policy of permitting limited amounts of coca to be grown for the legal market and eradicating any excess produce. This stands in stark contrast to DEA-demanded policies, which instruct Colombia and Peru to eradicate all coca plantations by force, an approach that results in deadly repression against indigenous communities who grow the plant.
Bolivia’s approach, along with its policy of expelling the DEA and USAID, has resulted in a reduction in coca production and drug trafficking, all while Colombia and Peru have seen sharp increases during the same period.
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