The Struggle for Coca Decriminalization in Bolivia

Published: Thu 10 Nov 2005 12:02 AM
Mirtenbaum: The Struggle for Coca Decriminalization in Bolivia
November 9, 2005
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Bolivian social scientist and coca historian José Mirtenbaum provides a fascinating retrospective in The Narco News bulletin today on the history of coca criminalization and the struggle to decriminalize it during the last two decades. Mirtenbaum looks at the coca's role in both traditional culture and the narcotics trade, and explains the "war on drugs" as part of the larger development of neoliberal "Reaganomics" and post-Cold War U.S. military policy.
Mirtenbaum writes:
"With their massive consumption, cocaine consumers kept around 400,000 Andean peasant families busy with coca production, along with a range of services in the entertainment, transportation, construction, chemical, banking, hotel, and professional service sectors. The coca-cocaine political economic complex had consolidated a series of production and consumption networks, but at the same time it gave way to the proliferation of public agencies devoted to the 'war on drugs.' It is estimated that between 1987 and 1990, the United States created some 60 federal, state, and local offices that saw to various aspects related to the consumption of drugs and the 'war' on the latter. A true 'crusade' was unleashed, although this war's 'victories' are of the most pyrrhic nature. Today, the structural problem continues with even greater intensity, with the rise of an even greater variety of drugs available for recreational consumption in northern hemisphere countries, along with the aggravating factor of populations of southern countries now having higher rates of consumption of low-grade drugs, such as "oxi" and cocaine sulfate pastes.
"The 'drug war' doctrine became one of the most efficient edifices in a gigantic bureaucracy of government agencies to resolve the rising unemployment among police, intelligence agents, and retired military personnel. In 1990, private contractors for the Defense Department calculated that in order for the military-industrial complex to function in the United States, conflicts were needed to generate some $20 billion annually. Of course, the 'war on drugs' did not guarantee this type of financial yield. But that same year, the arms industry's revenue problem was solved when George Bush Sr. started the first Gulf War. In this context, the 'war on drugs' took Latin America as its epicenter. This would eventually receive a financing of $3.5 billion through 'Plan Colombia,' with subsequent increases for 'counterinsurgency,' 'drug war,' and 'antiterrorism' activities. A true Molotov cocktail in U.S. geopolitics."
Read the entire article in The Narco News Bulletin:
From somewhere in a country called América,
Dan Feder
Managing Editor
The Narco News Bulletin

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