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Coca is life. And death | The World Weekly

“Coca is life” is a slogan of the Bolivian cocaleros whose protests helped bring President Evo Morales to power. 

In one sense, coca is a way of life. It is an ancient tradition among Andean people to chew the coca leaf, which has a mild stimulant effect and is used to help with altitude sickness. But coca is also literally a matter of life and death to these impoverished people. It means putting food on their children’s plates and clothes on their backs.

That coca is such a valuable cash crop in Bolivia and beyond is undoubtedly due to its use in producing cocaine. And it is for this reason that US-backed programmes have sought to eradicate the crop against the outcries of angry farmers. 

But while coca is life for the Andean peoples, the war on drugs has meant it is death for thousands of Mexicans and Colombians (among others) caught up in the violence and murder its trade has brought in its wake. 

Is it time, then, to legalise cocaine production to end these killings? In this week's dossier, The World Weekly weighs up the pros and cons of just what such a huge social experiment in crime prevention would mean all around the globe.

Salman Shaheen,Editor-in-Chief, The World Weeklysalman@theworldweekly.com

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