Sunday, March 15, 2009

Evo Morales: Let me chew my coca leaves

Bolivia's President Evo Morales has an op-ed in The New York Times. He notes the absurdity of the Single Convention on Narcotics of 1961 that made the chewing of coca leaves an international crime. The indigenous people of the Andes have been doing it for, oh, about 5000 years. Coca leaf is also prepared as a tea, mate de coca, which is widely used in Bolivia and Peru.

In August 1983, as counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary, I accompanied a delegation of U.S. Members of Congress to Peru and Bolivia (as well as Mexico, Colombia and Jamaica). In La Paz, the Bolivian capital, we were at about 13,000 feet above sea level, and feeling the effects of altitude. To minimize those effects, coca leaf tea was provided to the members of the delegation in our hospitality suite. In our meeting with the Minister of the Interior (the head of the police) in his office, all the Members of Congress were offered mate de coca, the way a guest would be offered a cup of coffee at a meeting in the United States.

Morales' complaint is perfectly valid.

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