Bolivian leader moves to legalize small coca plots
LA PAZ, Bolivia -- President Evo Morales said Saturday that he plans to make it legal for Bolivia's farmers to grow small parcels of coca plants.
Morales, who also heads a coca growers association, said he wants to permit individual farmers to cultivate coca plots of 40 meters by 40 meters (130 feet by 130 feet). Coca leaf is the key ingredient of cocaine.
The president predicted the measure will be enacted, noting he won re-election Dec. 6 with 64 percent of the vote and commands a strong majority in the national legislature.
Morales said Bolivia's anti-drug laws allow the cultivation of a total of 12,000 hectares (29,640 acres) of coca for traditional uses, but make no provision for what individual farmers can grow.
Bolivia's president has clashed with Washington over his efforts to allow some coca growing. In the past year, Bolivia has expelled agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as well as U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg, accusing the envoy of working with Morales' political opponents.
Local authorities say they are still cracking down on large-scale cocaine trafficking. The country's antidrug force has reported confiscating 26.6 tons of cocaine this year and destroying 16 drug laboratories.
According to a report by the United Nations, the potential capacity for cocaine production in Bolivia increased 9 percent over the last year, to 113 tons.
Bolivia is the third largest producer of coca and cocaine after Colombia and Peru
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
December 26, 2009