In open defiance of the international ban, Bolivia has just announced that it is preparing to export coca-leaf products—initially mates (herbal teas) and liqueurs—to its Andean ally Ecuador. Didi Mercado, head of the Industrialization Unit at Bolivia’s Vice-Ministry of Coca, told the Bolivian Information Agency Nov. 28 that exports are to begin under a trade deal signed a week earlier in La Paz.
Mercado said that with Bolivia producing an annual 600 tons of legal coca leaf, it can easily meet the internal demand of both countries. And demand is expected to grow, with exports of coca-derived soft drinks, syrups and cereals foreseen.
The pact was signed by the two nations’ respective foreign ministers, Bolivia’s David Choquehuanca and Ecuador’s Guillaume Long. In the same Nov. 21 ceremony, Long was officially decorated with the Order of the Andean Condor, Bolivia’s highest honor, “in recognition of his efforts to strengthen the ties of friendship and cooperation” between the two countries.
With South America’s anti-imperialist bloc in crisis amid reversals for left-wing governments in Brazil and Venezuela, smaller Bolivia and Ecuador remain stalwart in their posture of opposing the US-led drug war on the continent.
A report on the signing ceremony in Ecuador’s La Republica casually notes that “international commerce in the plant [coca] is banned by the UN anti-drug convention because it contains alkaloids that can be used to fabricate cocaine.” That’s the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs—the same that mandates the illegal status of cannabis.
Under President Evo Morales—himself a former coca-grower—Bolivia has long pressed the United Nations to drop its prohibition on coca leaf, and in 2011 formally withdrew from the Single Convention over its failure to do so.
It is starting to look like Ecuador might be next.
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