Culture - US embassy in Bolivia recommends coca tea to help alleviate altitude sickness...

Discussion in 'Coca' started by CrookedEye, Mar 29, 2006.

  1. CrookedEye

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    http://www.vheadline.com/readnews.asp?id=51732

    US embassy in Bolivia recommends coca tea to help alleviate altitude sickness
    The (Caracas) Daily Journal (Niko Kyriakou): The war against coca ... the plant used to make cocaine ... has become a defining issue for U.S. policy in South America, yet many people outside South America know little about the plant the US. is fighting against.
    In a meeting with newly elected Bolivian President Evo Morales earlier this month, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sought renewed cooperation between the two countries to counter drug trafficking, but it was the coca leaf that captured headlines.
    Morales, a former coca farmer who calls himself pro-coca but anti-cocaine, ended his half-hour meeting with Rice by giving her a guitar decorated with real coca leaves sealed under lacquer.
    • While the gesture bears a mark of humor, in the context of Morales’ wider stance on coca, the message seems designed to point out the importance of the plant to South American culture, and not -- as it is often perceived in the United States -- to illicit markets.
    Morales still serves as head of the coca farmers’ union that lifted him to power. He has increased the allowed level of coca cultivation to about 1,600 square meters per family since taking office last December. At his inaugural dinner, Morales served coca wine, coca cake, and coca cookies.
    In Bolivia’s Andean neighbor Peru, presidential candidate and retired Lt. Col. Ollanta Humala announced in mid-March that if the left-wing Humala wins Peru’s presidency in April, he plans to serve poor children bread made from flour containing five percent coca.
    While coca gains top-level approval in various parts of Latin America, in the US coca remains taboo. If a US politician were to suggest giving children coca it would be seen not just as political suicide, but as a criminal act.
    And that difference in perspective reflects a vast gap between US and South American experience of a substance with a known history stretching back long before Christopher Columbus’s landfall, times when the Incas controlled much of the continent.
    For thousands of years, coca has been a rich source of nutrients for poor South Americans.
    Today, use of the leaf is so common that in Bolivia, for example, police carry out US-funded coca eradication programs with wads of coca in their mouths, Sanho Tree, director of the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. told The Daily Journal.
    Coca leaves are often chewed or made into a tea rich in calcium, iron, and vitamin A, said Tree, adding that by contrast, coffee “leeches all the vitamins out of your body.”
    Coca also has health benefits as a salve for arthritis and gout, as toothpaste, and as a cure for altitude sickness.
    Even the US embassy in Bolivia recommends on its Web site that travelers consume coca tea to help alleviate altitude sickness. “A tall cup of coca offers less stimulation than a cup of Starbucks coffee,” added Tree, a critic of the US “war on drugs.”
    “What would happen in the US if you banned coffee?” Tree said. “Imagine the kind of upheaval you would have. Coca and cocaine are worlds apart. It’s like trying to compare coffee to methamphetamine.”
    Medical opinion generally maintains that coca leaf, unlike cocaine, is neither addictive nor harmful. Nevertheless, the US perception of coca as a dangerous drug warrants billions of dollars in spending on anti-coca programs.
    The Bush administration recently asked Congress to renew an annual budget of roughly US$340 million for arms, training, and services to help fight the drug war in South America.
    The Andean Counter-drug Initiative, a State Department program and a follow on to Plan Colombia, provides assistance to Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia as well as lesser amounts to Venezuela, Brazil, and Panama.
    A State Department report, released March 1, found that despite billions of dollars spent on combating coca in Colombia, 90% of all cocaine imported into the US still comes from that country. In addition, the report found that production had increased in Peru over the last year.
    • To be sure, the world’s top three coca producers ... Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia ... earn untold sums through the sale of coca for illicit uses.
    While the amount is hotly debated, it is easy to overlook coca’s importance to the legal economies of these three large producers, and to the culture of those who depend on it.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Edited to add a new article from a second source:

    http://www.thedailyjournalonline.com/article.asp?ArticleId=232398&CategoryId=14919


    Coca: A hazard or a cultural icon?
    The war against coca – the plant used to make cocaine – has become a defining issue for U.S. policy in South America, yet many people outside South America know little about the plant the U.S. is fighting against.

    In a meeting with newly elected Bolivian President Evo Morales earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sought renewed cooperation between the two countries to counter drug trafficking, but it was the coca leaf that captured headlines.
    Morales, a former coca farmer who calls himself pro-coca but anti-cocaine, ended his half-hour meeting with Rice by giving her a guitar decorated with real coca leaves sealed under lacquer.
    While the gesture bears a mark of humor, in the context of Morales’ wider stance on coca, the message seems designed to point out the importance of the plant to South American culture, and not – as it is often perceived in the United States – to illicit markets.
    Morales still serves as head of the coca farmers’ union that lifted him to power. He has increased the allowed level of coca cultivation to about 1,600 square meters per family since taking office last December. At his inaugural dinner, Morales served coca wine, coca cake, and coca cookies.
    In Bolivia’s Andean neighbor Peru, presidential candidate and retired Lt. Col. Ollanta Humala announced in mid-March that if the left-wing Humala wins Peru’s presidency in April, he plans to serve poor children bread made from flour containing five percent coca.
    While coca gains top-level approval in various parts of Latin America, in the U.S. coca remains taboo. If a U.S. politician were to suggest giving children coca it would be seen not just as political suicide, but as a criminal act.
    And that difference in perspective reflects a vast gap between U.S. and South American experience of a substance with a known history stretching back long before Christopher Columbus’s landfall, times when the Incas controlled much of the continent.
    For thousands of years, coca has been a rich source of nutrients for poor South Americans.
    Today, use of the leaf is so common that in Bolivia, for example, police carry out U.S.-funded coca eradication programs with wads of coca in their mouths, Sanho Tree, director of the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. told The Daily Journal.
    Coca leaves are often chewed or made into a tea rich in calcium, iron, and vitamin A, said Tree, adding that by contrast, coffee “leeches all the vitamins out of your body.”
    Coca also has health benefits as a salve for arthritis and gout, as toothpaste, and as a cure for altitude sickness.
    Even the U.S. embassy in Bolivia recommends on its Web site that travelers consume coca tea to help alleviate altitude sickness.
    “A tall cup of coca offers less stimulation than a cup of Starbucks coffee,” added Tree, a critic of the U.S. “war on drugs.”
    “What would happen in the U.S. if you banned coffee?” Tree said. “Imagine the kind of upheaval you would have. Coca and cocaine are worlds apart. It’s like trying to compare coffee to methamphetamine.”
    Medical opinion generally maintains that coca leaf, unlike cocaine, is neither addictive nor harmful. Nevertheless, the U.S. perception of coca as a dangerous drug warrants billions of dollars in spending on anti-coca programs.
    The Bush administration recently asked Congress to renew an annual budget of roughly $340 million for arms, training, and services to help fight the drug war in South America.
    The Andean Counterdrug Initiative, a State Department program and a follow on to Plan Colombia, provides assistance to Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia as well as lesser amounts to Venezuela, Brazil, and Panama.
    A State Department report released March 1 found that despite billions of dollars spent on combating coca in Colombia, 90 percent of all cocaine imported into the U.S. still comes from that country.
    In addition, the report found that production had increased in Peru over the last year.
    To be sure, the world’s top three coca producers – Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia – earn untold sums through the sale of coca for illicit uses. While the amount is hotly debated, it is easy to overlook coca’s importance to the legal economies of these three large producers, and to the culture of those who depend on it.

    By Niko Kyriakou
    Daily Journal Staff
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 10, 2017