Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Industrializing Coca

After a week of relative calm in Bolivia, there is a piece of news that catched my attention. Evo's government will start coca industrialization this Saturday. The plan is to start three factories -one in Chulumani, one in Coripata and the last in the Chapare- with Venezuelan and Cuban financing. While the Venezuelan financing does not really surprise -it may even be useful if you want to view it in light of Venezuela's increasing importance in international drug trafficking (read these posts on VCrisis: 1, 2), that is not the objective of this post.

What puzzles me most is the objective of these factories: Get coca legalized. According to the article, these factories would manufacture coca tea, liquor and coca flour -I know. On January 2007, the plan is to start with the production of food, cosmetics and medicine.

Now... The rationale behind this Evo venture is showing that coca can be used for something different than cocaine and should therefore be legalized. But there is a very important question Evo is not taking in consideration: markets. First, Evo will have a problem just getting into new markets. What real medicine does use coca, for example? None. But let's assume for a moment that such a medicine has been developed in MAS' headquearters and exists allright. If this medicine is manufactured, will it get the seal of approval outside Bolivia? No. Same thing for food and cosmetics.

So, Evo will end up with a market comprising Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela. In the last two countries, their dictators will probably find a way to stick this production to their people, even though some studies have found plenty of evidence about how harmful regular coca consumption can be (if you can find it, the study is at CEDRO). In Bolivia, the market's too small (and already has legal coca) to make a difference in the plant's legal status. So, will these factories change something? Probably not. At least as far as the legal status of the plant goes.

I have already argued that Evo Morales' coca policy is nothing but a catch-22 trap (here). And my opinion since then has not changed. These factories are probably nothing but a way to justify his coca policy to the international community and a get-rich-quick scheme: I think we can safely conclude that these factories will be nothing but a way of transferring the little tax money that the government is able to get to the coca federations -which incidentally have Evo as their president. In other words, these factories will be the cow from which Evo and his hardcore followers get the milk.

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Anonymous lita said...

It looks like a cover up for cocaine production to me, no more, no less.

12:23 AM  
Blogger CandiaMan┬« said...

Hi everybody, Have you heard how sofisticated is our Chancellor? I remember, like tow months ago or so, a ridiculous idea, manufacturing coca flavored rubbers, looks like they are going to fabricate them any way (LOL)

1:24 AM  
Blogger Alexey said...

Hi Alvaro, if you are referring to the studies by CELIN, you're out of luck because their publications don't have any bit of evidence showing how harmful (if at all) it is to drink coca tea.



8:38 AM  
Blogger Alvaro Ruiz-Navajas said...

Yes, lita, the "coca flour" plant does sound like the perfect place to cover for cocaine production. And if you sum the Venezuelan financing (I don't believe for a minute that Cuba is able to finance anything)...There you go.
And yes, Alexey. I read the CELIN paper and it was tremendously spurious. No scientific base whatsoever. But the studies I am referring to are from a Peru-based think tank. So, it seems I'm not out luck, no? Still searching, though, I don't remeber where those studies are.

11:48 AM  
Blogger Alvaro Ruiz-Navajas said...

Found it! It is in the Cedro website.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Alexey said...

Alvaro, when you have the time, please post a link to the paper with (if possible) the page where the statement is made. I am extremely skeptical of the toxicity of ocasional coca chewing and even more so of coca tea drinking.


3:56 PM  
Blogger Alexey said...

Alvaro, when you have the time, please post a link to the paper with (if possible) the page where the statement is made. I am extremely skeptical of the toxicity of ocasional coca chewing and even more so of coca tea drinking. So, precise references will be helpful to debunk this doubtful claim. Thanks.

3:59 PM  
Blogger Alexey said...

Oops, sorry for the duplicate. Blogspot was behaving strange.

4:00 PM  
Blogger Alvaro Ruiz-Navajas said...

Hey Alexey. I am not sure about the toxicity of occasional coca chewing and tea drinking either. All studies to that respect focus on the heavy consumption of those and other coca uses. Anyway, I have already posted the link to the paper on the post. If you cannot find it in there, this is it;

7:13 PM  
Blogger Alexey said...

Alvaro, thank you very much for the link. Indeed I missed it from the post since you changed your post and a claim without making it clear in an update.

Let me summarize the findings of the article: using coca as an EXCLUSIVE source of nutrients is bad for your health.

In coca tea terms this does not mean that drinking coca tea is bad. Trying to feed on coca tea is bad, just the same way as it would be trying to feed on mint/camomile/whatever tea.

As for other forms of consumption... it would be useful to do a study quantifying the effects depending on the amount of intake and frequency.

The point stands, though, that it is doubtful that coca can be used for treating diseases (besides mild ones such as sorojchi, that is).


10:38 PM  
Blogger Coca Blog said...

coca leaves for energy!


9:26 PM  

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