Accepted paper:

¿En defensa de la hoja de coca? The anti-drugs policies of Evo Morales and the Movimiento al Socialismo


Stacey Dunlea (University of Sheffield)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores recent developments relating to coca leaf cultivation and cocaine production in Bolivia, and in particular counter-narcotics measures under the MAS administration.

Paper long abstract:

The 2005 election of the Movimiento al Socialismo's Evo Morales, a former coca farmer and leader of a coca growers' trade union, as president of Bolivia led to some speculation that the country would break completely with a US-backed coca eradication programme. Despite the fact that the coca leaf, which plays a significant part in autochthonous Andean culture, is not the same as the synthetic drug cocaine, some commentators greeted Morales's promises to defend the coca leaf and its growers as a sign that cocaine production in Bolivia would increase. Indeed, prior to the 2002 elections, which Morales lost by a narrow margin, the then-US ambassador to Bolivia, Manuel Rocha, who warned that US aid would be jeopardized should the electorate vote for 'los que quieren que Bolivia vuelva a ser un exportador de cocaína'. This paper explores counter-narcotics measures employed by Morales and the MAS, and the extent to which they have altered the controversial forced eradication policies pursued by previous governments. The paper asks if the actions of the MAS administration can truly be considered a challenge to the 'War on Drugs', and a part of the alternative strategies emerging elsewhere in Latin American, such as Uruguay's recent decision to legalise the limited sale of marijuana.

panel P18
Drugs in Latin America in the early twenty-first century