For centuries the coco leaf was a blessing from the Gods. It alleviated the hunger of the Bolivian poor. Today it is a source of narcotic evil for the West.
Bolivia’s government, reliant on US aid and vulnerable to US dictates, has been forced to uphold a war against coco producers. The ‘Leopards’ – anti-narcotic paramilitaries – patrol the tropical jungles of Chapere and destroy small cocaine factories. Local farmers, like Berto, are put under pressure to rip up their coco plants and rePlace them with alternative crops. But now Berto can’t sell his new produce and is more impoverished than ever. Human rights organisations report violent abuses committed by the ‘Leopards’ against men and women. US Ambassador coolly contests such reports and admits that Bolivia would be ‘hurt’ if it objected to US initiatives. Evo Morales leads the Chapere people in a protest rally. In their muddy villages, the tired faces don’t understand why their government is trying to destroy their livelihood.
Produced by ABC Australia
Distributed by Journeyman Pictures
Bolivia’s president Evo Morales, a former coca farmer, is focusing on battling production for the drug trade
but not for other, traditional uses of the plant, and he’s enlisting coca farmers themselves in the fight. However, the US thinks Morales is being too lenient.
Al Jazeera’s Teresa Bo joined a Bolivian army unit on a mission to find cocaine laboratories and sent this report.
The cocaine industry had a generally deleterious effect on the Bolivian economy. The cocaine trade greatly accelerated the predominance of the United States dollar in the economy and the large black market for currency, thereby helping to fuel inflation in the 1980s. The escalation of coca cultivation also damaged the output of fruits and coffee, which were mostly destined for local consumption. Coca’s high prices, besides being generally inflationary, also distorted other sectors, especially labor markets. Manufacturers in the Cochabamba area during the 1980s found it impossible to match the wages workers could gain in coca, making their supply of labor unreliable and thus hurting the formal economy.