"The entire continent, in spite of the governmental
strategy, seems ready to rise up."
Raquel Gutiérrez Aguilar
Narco News '02
& the Brutality
"War on Drugs"
the daily La Jornada of Mexico City
by The Narco News Bulletin
trapped between the "war on drugs"
and the free market, has entered the new year convulsed by protest,
repression and death. In early January, the Bolivian president-by-default
Jorge Quiroga decided to make the purchase and sale of coca leaf
in the vast Chapare region, the eastern slope of the Andes mountains,
smack in the center of the country, illegal.
Through a so-called "Supreme Decree,"
that is to say, a unilateral decision by the president that nobody
voted for - just as Quiroga came to power a virtual unknown as
vice president for the ex dictator Hugo Banzer, who today agonizes
with terminal cancer - the ancient market of Sacaba where a large
volume of coca leaf is bought and sold for traditional use in
Southern Bolivia, was shut down.
The multitude reacted, outraged - the
same as, it seems, a large part of the continent - and almost
immediately. Thousands upon thousands of men and women, coca
leaf farmers, the so-called cocaleros, inhabitants of
diverse towns throughout the region whose subsistence is linked
to the flow of the now-banned leaf, congregated in the principal
highway of the city of Cochabamba. The brutal police-military
repression against these despondent acts of protest has left
more than ten civilians dead in recent days. This time, also,
there were military casualties that scandalized those who make
unsupportable decisions for the population. The civilian martyrs
of the past year, when the people resisted the "forced eradication"
of the only crop they can hope to sell, add up to more than fifty.
Neither the pineapple nor the citric fruits nor the banana, which
are the other products of the region, offer sufficient income
to live with dignity. We, the Mexican people, know all about
The problem of the persecution of coca
leaf in Bolivia is one of the most infamous stories in the drug
war, imposed by the United States for more than a decade. Being
ancestral, the indigenous and mixed-blood consumption of coca
leaf in the entire Andean region, above all in the desolated
mining camps and in the highest plains of the Aymara, "legal"
areas were designated for its cultivation in 1986 - imposing
on other regions the designation of "illegal" - and
a rigid control of the markets was established. The production
and circulation of "excess coca" - to use the words
of the official speeches - was impeded with the claim that these
leaves were destined to serve as materia prima in the
fabrication of cocaine.
The innumerable battles to define the
border between the legal and illegal zones for coca cultivation,
the explosion of "new" coca groves ferociously resisted
by those who know that the farmers have no other economic alternative
with which to subsist, the corruption that surged from this absurd
pretension of distinguishing between legality or not of a product
according to its place of origin, the brutality and impunity
of the "anti-drug" police agencies financed by United
States money; all of this has touched the life of the region
in recent years, making it one of the most conflicted, organized
and radicalized in the country.
From these battles comes the most well-known
leader of the coca growers, Evo Morales, national congressman
now expelled from Congress and separated from his parliamentary
immunity. The act of making the second most important coca leaf
market in the country illegal, one that feeds the traditional
consumption for half the Bolivian populace, marks the total elimination
of recognition for the popular culture by the governmental elite.
The expulsion of Morales makes his democratic participation null
and void. They refuse to recognize, they persecute, the popular
elected representative - the people voted directly for him as
a uninominal member of Congress, with the highest legitimacy
if we subscribe to the criteria of most votes obtained.
The weeks that come will be decisive.
The official discourse of "enforcing the law" sounds
emptier each day while the Bolivian social movement, rising since
the year 2000, strengthens its unity and clarifies its objectives.
The charismatic leader of the "Aymara Nation," the
most numerous, important and politicized indigenous ethnicity
of the country, Felipe Quispe, has expressed his backing for
the coca growers' movement and prepares, for the coming weeks,
a wide and drastic communal-farmer mobilization in the form of
highway blockades from the top to the bottom of Bolivia.
The perseverant resistance in Argentina
is washing away the principal pieces of Washington's consensus.
The basic elements of the "war on drugs" speech that
masks the rapier interventionism of the United States, are exploding
with the mobilized rage of the Bolivian population that defends
its coca leaf and its future.
The entire continent, in spite of the
governmental strategy, seems ready to rise up.
Aguilar -- email@example.com -- a Mexican academic, was prisoner
in Bolivia from 1992 to 1997, accused of 14 crimes for her supposed
participation in the disbanded Tupac Katari Guerrilla Army.
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That Won't Back Down