Latin America & Caribbean

Bolivia's Evo Morales re-elected coca growers' leader

Bolivian President Evo Morales on 2 July 20102
Image caption Evo Morales wants traditional uses of coca to be accepted

Bolivian President Evo Morales has been re-elected head of Bolivia's coca growers union, a post he has held since 1996.

Mr Morales urged growers meeting in the central city of Cochabamba to work for better control of coca leaf production.

This would help silence accusations that coca growers are involved in drug trafficking, Mr Morales said.

He has long campaigned for a UN ban to be lifted on coca chewing, saying it is part of Bolivia's heritage.

Coca leaves, the raw ingredient for cocaine, were declared an illegal substance under a 1961 UN convention.

Cocaine trade

Mr Morales thanked coca growers' representatives for choosing him as leader once again.

He urged them to abide by decisions taken by the union's committees:

  • maintain a small plot of some 40 sq m per family for domestic cultivation of coca
  • do not allow coca growing inside national parks or protected areas
  • do not allow production beyond areas reserved for traditional cultivation

"There cannot be zero coca, but nor can there be unregulated cultivation of coca. You know, brothers, that a portion is diverted into drug-trafficking," Mr Morales said.

Bolivia is the world's third biggest producer of cocaine, after Colombia and Peru.

Coca has been used in the Andes for thousands of years as a mild stimulant and sacred herbal medicine.

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