Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The UN and the Coca Leaf

The United Nations is about to make another big mistake, reprising their decision to add the coca leaf to a compendium of illicit drugs including heroin and opium as they did in 1961. Unless, that is, Bolivia's request to amend the requirement to ban the chewing, brewing and other uses of the coca leaf for traditionally religious and medicinal purposes, is granted.

I am neither Bolivian, nor a part of any indigenous society. I am a U.S. citizen appalled by the injustice of the 1961 decision by the UN and the United States' role in condoning the ban as well as continuing the eradication of the coca leaf program as part as the war on drugs. I was raised in Bolivia for five of my childhood years and continue to identify with the natives as part of my own family. Yes, I learned about coca and drank coca tea on recent trips to Peru and Bolivia and I am not alone. You may be surprised to learn that mate' de coca is commonly served to visiting diplomats to counter the effects of "soroche," the high-altitude sickness for which many visitors are unprepared.

The indigenous peoples of Latin America have been using the sacred coca leaf for centuries for the reasons cited above -- it is their right to do so. It is our responsibility to keep some greedy so and so from isolating one of fourteen alkaloids in the coca leaf and mixing it with toxic substances to create cocaine (I am no chemist, but this is what I've read). I'm not sure what the U. S. can do to prevent it, but the abysmal failure of the "war on drugs" for the last forty years speaks volumes that IT is not the right way.

The U.S. should not be involved in abrogating the rights of the indigenous population of Latin America; it is in direct violation of the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples to which President Obama belatedly agreed in December while addressing an august body of over 500 federally recognized Native American nations.

There is an ancient prophecy extant in Latin America today that says that when the eagle flies with the condor there will be peace among nations. The eagle represents western civilization with its emphasis on technology, commerce and modern pill-popping pharmacology while the condor embodies the indigenous peoples of the world, respecting earth and earth's creatures as well as the natural curatives the earth provides (e.g. the coca leaf).

Perhaps it is time for the eagle to join with the condor; perhaps it is time to learn from each other and respect each others' rights to live our lives with respect, maintaining our dignity and traditions. If we learn to respect ancient tradition, perhaps then we can heal the rifts between the U. S. and left-leaning countries such as Bolivia and Venezuela. We can not expect the entire world to follow our principles in governing and tradition, but that should not mean we can't get along; why can't we respect that?

As Evo Morales said during his campaign for president of Bolivia, "Coca si, Cocaina, no."


  1. There is no good reason to keep Coca leaf illegal except to protect pharma caffeine and especially cigarettes- the ban on coca is criminal mercantilism.

    Please see my articles upon these topics in my blog Freedom of Medicine and Diet.



  2. Thank you for your comment. It is my belief that weak minds coupled with ignorance continue to allow inappropriate laws to rule our lives.