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.
"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,
The Narco News Bulletin