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2016 | OriginalPaper | Chapter

9. Social Control in Bolivia: A Humane Alternative to the Forced Eradication of Coca Crops

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Abstract

This chapter provides an overview of coca control policy in Bolivia. Two decades of forced coca eradication was a demonstrable failure, generating poverty and gross human right violations, without meeting its objective—reducing Bolivia’s coca crop. In 2004, the Bolivian government granted each registered coca growing family in the Chapare (one of Bolivia’s two main coca growing regions) the right to grow a cato (1600 m2) of coca. Policymakers and coca growers jointly agreed upon the size of the coca plot in an effort to provide each family with the equivalent of a monthly minimum wage as income from coca, and to reduce violence. The Morales administration has continued this policy, and over the past eight years the coca producer’s unions, government officials and members of the international community have built a complex sustainable coca monitoring, licensing, and reduction system. Drawing on 30 months of ethnographic research, the chapter outlines Bolivia’s new approach to coca control. It weights the program’s effectiveness as well as the significant challenges to implementation. It is argued that by focusing on the social welfare, human rights and economic stability of coca farming families, Bolivia’s collaborative approach might be more effective at reducing coca acreage in the long term than the previous strategy of forced eradication.

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Footnotes
1
Colombia is the only government to use aircraft to spray herbicides to destroy coca bushes. In 2015 Colombia suspended its aerial fumigation program.
 
2
When crops are eradicated in one area they simply expand elsewhere, a phenomenon known as the “balloon effect.”
 
3
Coca is also often used by miners in offerings to the Supay, a devil figure thought to be the owner of the minerals in the mines (Nash 1979).
 
4
A significant portion of the Yungas coca crop is diverted to the cocaine trade.
 
5
The government, in collaboration with coca grower unions from the Yungas and Chapare, are currently in the process of re-writing law 1008 which will be replaced by two separate laws: one to control coca, and a separate law to deal with controlled substances.
 
6
Over the past 30 years the state has expanded into the Chapare but the sindicatos continue to fulfil many of the functions typically associated with the state (Grisaffi 2013).
 
7
For example in 1986 the US government sent 160 US army officers and six Black Hawk helicopters to the Chapare to assist in eradication and interdiction missions—this was denominated Operation Blast Furnace.
 
8
Paz Zamora drew upon the coca growers’ own distinction between coca and cocaine and the government even proposed exporting the coca leaf for medicinal teas.
 
9
In 1993 cash payments were replaced with agricultural credits and other forms of development assistance, as cash payments were found to encourage farmers to re-plant coca.
 
10
They referred to themselves as the Broad Front of Anti-Imperialist Masses (Frente Amplio de Masas Anti-Imperialistas).
 
11
The cato accord was first ratified in 2004 under the Mesa administration (2003–2005) as a temporary measure to calm escalating tensions in the Chapare region.
 
12
Bolivia still boasts one of the lowest homicide rates in South America (see UNDP 2014).
 
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Metadata
Title
Social Control in Bolivia: A Humane Alternative to the Forced Eradication of Coca Crops
Author
Thomas Grisaffi
Copyright Year
2016
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-29082-9_9

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