Thursday, January 27, 2011

Protesters demonstrate outside the US embassy chewing coca leaves

Bolivians demonstrated against a 1961 UN ban on the practice of chewing coca leaves.

Protesters demonstrated outside the US embassy in La Paz chewing the leaf, celebrating the coca plant and demanding that the UN Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs be amended.

The United States is against the Bolivian proposal, saying that the 50 year old convention was "an important tool in the global struggle against narcotics trafficking."
The agreement says the coca leaf is a narcotic, and calls on countries to stop coca leaf chewing.
Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca has been in Europe, visiting the capitals, seeking support for the amendment. The United Nations has until January 31 to decide on this.
"The countries support us so that we can de-penalize (coca chewing); the only one opposing us is the United States," said Leonilda Zurita, a coca grower and a leader of the ruling Movement Toward Socialism party.

So, as the marches in La Paz, Santa Cruz and other cities attracted coca growers, peasants, Indians, miners,  and (surprise surprise) makers of coca-based products, and a bunch of activists protesters just kept on chewed coca leaves.

The coca leaf is a big deal and is part of everyday life in the Andean region.
Around seven million people in a region chew coca leaves, and so did their ancestors.

The argument for the chewing is, it stimulates blood and oxygenation properties, and the coca leaves have lots of vitamins and 14 alkaloids.
Chewed coca releases a mild narcotic and that fights altitude sickness, hunger and fatigue.

The US embassy, said even though it was in opposition to the proposed amendment to the UN convention,they were willing to work with the Bolivian government "out of respect for these millennial practices."