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Coca leaf

Cocaleros are the coca leaf growers of Peru and Bolivia. In response to U.S.-funded attempts to eradicate and fumigate coca crops in the Chapare region of Bolivia, cocaleros joined with other grassroots indigenous organizations in the country, such as syndicated mine workers and peasants to contest the government. Evo Morales, who became president of Bolivia in 2006, is a leader of the cocalero movement in that country.[1]

The coca plant and the War on Drugs[edit]

Coca has been cultivated for 8,000 years by indigenous people in the Andes for medicinal and religious reasons. As a stimulant, it is helpful in overcoming altitude sickness in the high Andes, and can be chewed and made into tea. Other medicinal uses include pain relief, stanching blood flow, combating Malaria, Ulcers, Asthma and improving digestion.[2] It is also configured in many religious ceremonies as offerings to Apus, Inti, and the Pachamama and as a method of divination.

An herbicidal shower over a coca field

It was introduced to Europe in the 16th century, but it was not until the mid-19th century that it began to be refined into cocaine. Its cultivation was prohibited by Bolivian law, except in the region of Yungas despite its affinity to the climate and land of the Chapare region. Coca crops in Chapare were thus targeted for eradication. Because coca and cocaine were being trafficked up through South and Central America to the United States, coca production in South America came to the attention of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which, under subsequently Plan Colombia, began to fund eradication efforts across the continent. Plan Colombia sent hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid, training and equipment to Central and South American countries, thereby militarizing the region and local and national governments' responses to coca production. Cocaleros who make their livings growing and selling coca were the most negatively affected by the policies, as their crops were burned, ripped up, or sprayed with herbicide.[3] Coca producers are left with few alternatives for subsistence, and therefore call for the legalization of coca. Also the anti-drug militancy has targeted left wing guerrilla groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and gangs who are involved in the drug trade. In 1987, UMOPAR, La Unidad Móvil Policial para Áreas Rurales, was formed as an anti-narcotic counterinsurgency force in Bolivia. It received training and monetary aid from the United States Drug Enforcement Agency and led raids on coca fields and suppressed cocalero organizing.[4]

Indigenous Organizing in Bolivia[edit]

See also: Coca in Bolivia

Bolivia is a multiethnic, majority indigenous country in South America. Among over three dozen Amerindian nations, the most prominent are the Quechuas, Aymaras, Chiquitanos, Guaranís, and Mojeños. White and mestizo Bolivians have traditionally held power in the country since the time of colonization. For hundreds of years indigenous people were employed by mines that exported the country's mineral wealth abroad, first to Spain and then to other parts of quickly industrializing countries such as the U.S. and Western Europe following independence in 1809.[5] In the 1980s, the Bolivian Mining Corporation closed many mines, which forced many former miners into coca production. Not only did coca farming provide a living for the ex-miners, but the turn from wage labor to farming allowed for more political organization. Many of the organizations formed during this time period such as the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia later joined forces with the Confederación Sindical Única de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia, the Confederación Sindical de Colonizadores de Bolivia to form the beginnings of the Movimiento al Socialismo, the Party of Evo Morales. Among major mobilizations since its inception, the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia has played a part in marches for land reform, indigenous autonomy, and for a plurinational state.[6]

Cocaleros and the MAS Party[edit]

Evo Morales

Movement for Socialism - Political Instrument for the Sovereignty of the Peoples (In Spanish Movimiento al Socialismo-Instrumento Político por la Soberanía de los Pueblos) or MAS rose as a left-wing populist political organization to support the preservation of the coca plant and the cocalero economy. It grew out of and gained support from the indigenous grassroots organizations that began to coalesce following the closure of mines and the criminalization of the coca plant and indigenous cocaleros.[7] Carlos Mesa, the president of Bolivia from October 17, 2003 to June 6, 2005, presided over several controversies that mobilized the indigenous grassroots organizations against the government, notably the Bolivian Gas Conflict which drew momentum from the Cochabamba Water Wars. Both of these conflicts centered on disputes between the indigenous population and the government over control of resources, which has long defined Bolivia's relation to the so-called first world. Mesa hastily resigned, opening up the country for elections. The momentum of the MAS party led to the successful election of Evo Morales, a cocalero union organizer, with a 54% absolute majority.[8]

References[edit]

External links[edit]


Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocalero — Please support Wikipedia.
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2073 news items

Daily Times

Buenos Aires Herald
Sat, 11 Oct 2014 04:58:26 -0700

We originally met in Buenos Aires in August 1995, when he first rose to prominence as a popular cocalero (coca-leaf grower) union leader. In the almost 11 years that followed, I interviewed him for newspapers, magazines, and documentaries. His trust in ...
 
Buenos Aires Herald
Fri, 10 Oct 2014 20:56:15 -0700

On Sunday on Saturday: The cocalero, the fighter, the president. The Herald will not be published today because newsstands will be closed due to a strike. The On Sunday supplement was published yesterday. Comment; Increase font size Decrease font size ...

Semana.com

Semana.com
Wed, 22 Oct 2014 14:33:45 -0700

Fuentes militares precisaron que el sitio donde se hizo la operación es zona de influencia de la columna móvil Daniel Aldana de las FARC, por lo que se presume que esa guerrilla es la dueña del complejo cocalero. De acuerdo con el oficial, “todo ese ...
 
Red Erbol
Wed, 22 Oct 2014 19:03:45 -0700

Un cocalero de nombre Hernán R. S. de 30 años de edad fue capturado la mañana de este miércoles por la Policía cuando pretendía darse a la fuga después de haber sido sorprendido violando a su última víctima dentro de un monte en Ivirgarzama, ...
 
El Heraldo (Colombia) (blog)
Mon, 20 Oct 2014 22:26:15 -0700

El Ejército destruyó en La Guajira un complejo cocalero de ocho hectáreas en el cual, según la institución armada, se procesaba cocaína que generaba unos $50 mil millones al mes. El operativo fue realizado por tropas de la Décima Brigada Blindada ...

ABC.es

ABC.es
Sat, 11 Oct 2014 23:56:15 -0700

Hace nueve años, cuando ganó su primera elección presidencial con el 54% de los votos, el dirigente cocalero (aún mantiene ese cargo) ya tenía en mente que el proceso que le tocó encabezar no acabaría en una gestión de cinco años. El 22 de enero de ...

El Universal

El Universal
Sun, 12 Oct 2014 00:37:00 -0700

El Evo Morales versión 2014 está lejos de aquel que en 2006 sorprendía al mundo al asumir como el primer indígena presidente de Bolivia. Mucho más lejano, a años luz, quedó de aquel líder cocalero que, en 1995, encabezaba en Cochabamba los ...

La Razón (Bolivia)

La Razón (Bolivia)
Sat, 04 Oct 2014 00:41:15 -0700

El Gobierno advirtió ayer que el autor del disparo que mató al cocalero Gualberto Aguilar debe ir a la cárcel. El Ministerio Público inició las investigaciones del caso y por ello ya ingresó a Villa Tunari para recolectar pruebas e indicios del hecho.
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