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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 unionized 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][dead link] 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 American Drug Enforcement Administration 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]

  1. ^ Rivera Cusicanqui, Silvia. "An Indigenous Commodity and its Paradoxes". ReVista - Harvard Review of Latin America. The President and Fellows of Harvard College. Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  2. ^ http://www.nacionalte.com/hojadecoca_en.htm
  3. ^ http://chomsky.info/books/roguestates08.htm
  4. ^ http://www.indypendent.org/2011/08/04/the-andean-connection/
  5. ^ http://countrystudies.us/bolivia/
  6. ^ Chávez, Frank (2010-06-25). "69-Year-Old Native Leader Heads 1,500-Km March". IPS. Retrieved 2010-07-08
  7. ^ Cocalero. Dir. Alejandro Landes. Perf. Evo Morales. 2007.
  8. ^ http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/shared/shared_cssgj/Documents/smp_papers/anderson.pdf

External links[edit]


Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocalero — Please support Wikipedia.
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5116 news items

El Pais - Cali Colombia

ElTiempo.com
Tue, 01 Sep 2015 12:33:04 -0700

Cae 'hotel' cocalero del Eln que producía dos toneladas semanales. El lugar contaba con alojamiento en camarotes y víveres para unas 40 personas. Por: JUSTICIA |. 3:54 p.m. | 1 de septiembre de 2015. Cae campamento del ELN en el que producían dos ...

El Universal - Colombia

El Universal - Colombia
Sun, 30 Aug 2015 12:18:45 -0700

El hallazgo que se realizó gracias a las denuncias realizadas por la comunidad, dio cuenta de un complejo cocalero de 5 x 6 metros donde guardaban un bulto de urea, un kilo de fungicida, un kilo de cal, dos galones de ácido sulfúrico, cuatro kilos de ...
 
Correo del Sur
Tue, 25 Aug 2015 03:08:18 -0700

La agudeza de mi colaboradora periodística me condujo a tratar nuevamente el tema de la coca cuando me hizo notar que las camisetas que visten los jugadores de nuestra selección nacional son verdes como la coca, observación muy sutil que me llevó a ...

EntornoInteligente

Red Erbol
Thu, 20 Aug 2015 17:45:00 -0700

Zacarías Choque, cocalero del trópico de Cochabamba, denunció que el pasado fin de semana sufrió la erradicación de sus cultivos, como represalia por motivos políticos. Recordó que, después de las elecciones subnacionales, los sindicatos cocaleros ...

eju.tv

eju.tv
Sun, 23 Aug 2015 14:43:29 -0700

La cocalerización de Santa Cruz y el Beni parece ser una de las prioridades en la agenda presidencial de los próximos años, con lo cual el evismo sumaría un imperio cocalero de oriente al actual imperio de occidente, constituido por El Chapare y ...

eju.tv

eju.tv
Sun, 23 Aug 2015 00:07:30 -0700

El presidente Evo Morales prometió tierras en el oriente boliviano a los cocaleros del Chapare, Cochabamba. A cambio, les pidió que no ingresen a parques nacionales como Carrasco o el Tipnis. “Tenemos millones de hectáreas y buenas tierras en el ...

eju.tv

eju.tv
Sat, 08 Aug 2015 08:00:00 -0700

La Paz, 8 ago (ABI).- El Ministerio de Gobierno denunció el sábado que el abogado de los acusados de las muertes de un médico y tres uniformados de la Fuerza de Tarea Conjunta (FTC), en la población de Apolo en octubre de 2013, recurre al uso de una ...
 
New York Times
Sun, 16 Aug 2015 21:06:46 -0700

It was Peru's first violent "cocalero" protest since 2012, when several hundred growers attacked eradicators and police. The growers say they want eradication halted until the government offers them better alternatives for making a living. Hipolito ...
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