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Morales: Don't blame coca farmers for drug problems

By bobSP     Jan 21, 2007 in World
The indigenous Bolivian president, Evo Morales, said on Friday that coca farmers are not equivalent to cocaine traffickers and rich countries should fight the demand for cocaine instead of shutting down coca farms.
"I'm a coca leaf farmer and they've always accused me of being a drug trafficker, but coca leaves don't cause addiction," Morales said at a summit of South American leaders in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Andean nations like Bolivia and Columbia are the largest producers of coca plants which are then refined by drug traffickers and turned into cocaine. Cocaine has helped to fuel drug wars among gangs in places like Rio de Janeiro.
Morales was asked what his government was doing to stop cocaine from reaching other places in the world. He responded that the cocaine problem is not something that Bolivia caused but rather was 'imported from elsewhere'.
He went on to say that the problem lies in all the crackdowns on coca farmers. There will always be coca leaves and people that will turn the leaves into cocaine, so there shouldn't just be policies against cocaine but also policies against demand the market for it.
Many indigenous in the Andes, in places like Bolivia, often chew on coca leaves for energy or use them in making tea. These remarks are just the latest in a long series as Morales has been one of the biggest critics of the U.S.-funded purging of coca farmer's plantations in South America.
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