Limitation of the Production of Coca Leaf in Bolivia

Abstract

The conclusions and recommendations of the United Nations Commission of Enquiry on the Coca Leaf, which visited Peru and Bolivia at the invitation of the Governments of the two countries, have thrown into sharp relief the problem of the chewing of the coca leaf.

Details

Author: Abel Solíz-S.
Pages: 16 to 17
Creation Date: 1952/01/01

Limitation of the Production of Coca Leaf in Bolivia

Abel Solíz S. of the Yungas Landowners Association

The conclusions and recommendations of the United Nations Commission of Enquiry on the Coca Leaf, which visited Peru and Bolivia at the invitation of the Governments of the two countries, have thrown into sharp relief the problem of the chewing of the coca leaf.

A careful analysis of these conclusions and recommendations justifies the statement that the chewing of the coca leaf does not, except in rare instances, constitute a vice, but represents a pernicious habit of nutrition, if we may dignify by that name the latent undernourishment of the large majority of the population which indulges in this habit. The aim should therefore be to eliminate it gradually and in that way to improve the social and economic conditions of that part of the population.

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In our view, this task has two aspects: on the one hand, there is an imperative need for progressive limitation of coca-leaf production until it has been completely abolished, and on the other, the country's agricultural production must be encouraged. In other words, if social upheavals are to be avoided, agricultural production ensuring a better and more balanced diet must be increased in proportion to the decrease in coca production.

The limitation and suppression of the chewing of coca leaf is therefore not an isolated problem. Complete suppression, without the provision of substitute foods, may have all the serious consequences of a famine.

To increase agricultural production is a more complicated problem than to suppress coca-leaf production.

Bolivia is a single-product country; its greatest economic potential lies in the exploitation of the mines. The reason its agriculture is in such a state of utter neglect is precisely that coca was found to provide an easy means of stilling hunger, even though from a social point of view it resulted in the prevalence of an intellectually and morally backward population which is an obstacle to the country's general progress.

Having neglected its agricultural production and concentrated its productive capacity on mining, Bolivia is faced with a distressing situation. The proceeds from the sale of its minerals, in particular tin, are used to import most of the basic necessities. Wheat, sugar, meat, rice, dairy products, fats, vegetable oils and an endless number of food products are what it receives in return for its minerals.

It is easy to understand what a few cents difference in the price of its minerals means to Bolivia. The question of tin, therefore, must not be regarded as an ordinary business matter; this important resource must be viewed from a wider angle in conjunction with the primary objective of encouraging agricultural production in the country.

We welcome the recommendations of the United Nations Commission of Enquiry on the Coca Leaf. The Government is studying the problem with interest, and is anxious to take measures to limit the production of coca leaf and eliminate its consumption; public opinion is in agreement with the recommendations, but their implementation is more difficult than it may seem. It involves the replacement of this means of nutrition by a more proper and reasonable diet.

The replacing of coca-leaf cultivation by other crops of greater economic value is not difficult in itself. Recent technical studies have shown that coffee may be cultivated in all the regions where coca is now being produced. By organizing the export of coffee from Yungas we could obtain a price of 5,500 bolivianos per quintal of coffee as against only 3,000 bolivianos per quintal of coca, with the added advantage that the cultivation of coffee is much easier and less costly than that of coca Moreover, substitution by this exportable product would strengthen the gold resources of the country.

In order to bring about this replacement of coca cultivation it will be necessary to request technical and economic assistance from the United Nations, which would be in line with its own recommendations.

Furthermore the control of the production and consumption of coca leaf will require the organization of a State monopoly based on the industrialization of production, the result of which will be that a large part of such production will be diverted from coca chewing, and transformed into goods for export.

Bolivia offers immense possibilities for agricultural exportation; it has a variety of climates enabling it to be self-sufficient in all kinds of products. The industries it has created are not based on domestically-produced raw materials. Such production must be organized, and the land laws must be amended to ensure the standard of life to which Bolivia is entitled, within a system maintaining the distinction between capital and labour.

As will be seen from these brief observations, we agree with the conclusions and recommendations of the Commission of Enquiry on the Coca Leaf, and this attitude was not determined by the recent studies and observations on the subject since we publicly upheld the same views ten years ago.