Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Bolivia News Roundup: Polls and Coca

During the last few days there has been a myriad of Bolivian news that I have not had the time to post --until now.


In an interesting poll, results indicate that Vice-President Garcia Linera has more support among the urban middle class than Evo. According to the poll, Garcia Linera has an approval rate of 54,3%, while Evo has 48,6%. Disapproval rates are 22,4% for the Vice President and 25,8% for the President. According to the article, Evo is confortable with those numbers and suggested that it was part of their (MAS') strategy. On the other hand, in February we posted news on alleged internal conflict in the current administration. The reason was precisely Garcia Linera's popularity, which caused a feeling of abbandonment in MAS' Old Guard. If there was some substance after those reports --it was denied by the govenrment, but then again, this is not something they would freely admit--, this poll is not going to fare well with them and may possibly deepen the conflict. The poll was conducted with a sample of 800 persons in La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz.

Another poll in Los Tiempos shows that Spaniards consider Bolivia the worst country to invest in. This is directly related to the arrest of Repsol's representatives in Bolivia. They were later released on bail, but was apparently enough to give Bolivia a bad image. Repsol is accussed of the government of smuggling gas out of the country. So far, the government has not presented any evidence. The next country in the list of worst places to invest is --surprise, surprise-- Venezuela. Am I the only one noticing a pattern here?


Sunday's edition of La Razon had an special report on coca. According to this article, there is no scientific proof that coca has any nutrtional value at all. Also, the article reports that the Foreign Minister is fully aware of this fact (interestingly, this did not stop him of suggesting feeding schoolchildren with it (here) on grounds of its nutritional value). Now, according to the article, the Latin American Centre for Scientific Research (CELIN) found that
after several tests to orine samples from consumers of coca in form of herbal tea, acullico (coca chewing) and cocaine, it was evident that all had similar quantities of benzoilecgonina, which is the drug's (cocaine) metabolite.
Coca is cocaine, it seems.

In addition, Peru's Centre of Information and Education for the Prevention of Substance Abuse (CEDRO), after a study of their own, concluded that coca has no nutritional value whatsoever and that it should not be recommended as a dietary supplement.

Evo's govenrment replied through Silvia Rivera, the government's assessor for coca issues, saying that none of those studies are valid, as they are hiding other interests behind. Thus, the second article in the report shows the arguments that are used by coca proponents. The first one is "Culture and Sovereignity". This argument will probably not be very convincing, since Bolivia can legally grow and consume a limited amount on cultural grounds. It is the excedent, that goes into cocaine, that is the issue. The second argument is "Nutrition". However, as we have seen, coca has been scientifically proven not to be nutritional. The third argument is "Health". Mrs. Rivera argues that she has seen with her own eyes how coca helps people suffering from diabetes, headaches, stomach pain and even AIDS --yes, AIDS. Mrs. Rivera's testimony does not count as scientific evidence, though. The final argument is the "Social Role" it has for indigenous communities. Again, nobody is prohibiting the traditional use of coca in Bolivia. This argument is just argument 1 revisited. These arguments, however, were not necessary: Mrs. Rivera, you had me at "hidden interests".

The question here is why the UN should take coca out of the list of prohibited items for cultural grounds, if the the only country that has a cultural use for coca already allows its legal consumption on tradition grounds.

Read why Morales' coca policy is nothing but a catch-22 trap here.

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Anonymous dgormezano@yahoo.fr said...

Very interesting comments. But it seems to me that beyond scientific studies or economics, the debate on coca is cultural. Coca is a symbol of the country, and it is being criminalised abroad. What is at stake at the moment is not figures, it has to do with national pride and recognition.

Jorge Quiroga is anti-coca because he heavily lost the elections to a cocalero, and because he will never say anything that can upset the US. Anyway, he is capable of saying anything as long as it can help him come back to power.

Anyway, your blog is very good, keep going.

Hasta luego

A french journalist working on a TV program about coca in bolivia

3:59 PM  
Blogger Coca Blog said...


8:11 AM  

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