Source: Associated Press
12 January 2011
Bolivian president Evo Morales announced a trip of his Minister of Foreign Affairs to Europe looking for support to his efforts towards the United Nations to eliminate the veto against the chewing of coca leaves, an ancestral habit among the people of Bolivia and other Andean countries.
“We will make this campaign with much humbleness. I will try to speak with some presidents who may object, but I first demand publically that this veto will be removed”, he said wednesday in a press conference without indicating which chiefs of state he was referring to.
In the end of 2008, Morales presented an amendment to article 49 of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, which penalises coca leaves as the raw material of cocaine. On 31 January the deadline for considering this amendment will expire.
A year ago, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) of the United Nations recommended to ” abolish the use of coca leaves that is contrary to the 1961 Convention of 1961, including the practice of chewing”.
Morales made efforts to obtain the support of several of his Southamerican colleagues. The UN members will have to pronounce themselves and if there is any opposition, we would have to deal with the matter in an international conference, said Foreign Affairs Minister David Choquehuanca. “The UN has a great opportunity to correct this error”, he added.
Morales said there was no reason to maintain prohibition when some states in the US do not penalise the personal transport of few grammes of cocaine for own use.
In its natural state, coca is said to have therapeutic and nutritional properties. Since ancient times Bolivian people chew dried coca leaves to combat fatigue, altitude sickness and to neutralise hunger
Among the arguments that were presented by Bolivia is the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that was approved in 2007, which recognises the practice of the habits and traditions of native people.
In Colombia also the indigenous Muisca people attribute medicinal properties to the coca leaf, to treat cancer, heart disease and problems with the nerve system.Republish