Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"War on Drugs" red herring

Is recent deadly violent conflict in tropical Cochabamba between indigenous peoples and cocaleros really the fault of Evo Morales' "permissive" or "much looser" coca regulation (feeding cocaine production) as put by Reuters and Jim Shultz at the Blog from Bolivia?

To get beyond rhetoric as Shultz put it, let's get some facts.

1. Coca cultivation has increase in recent years in Bolivia.

2. Evo Morales has pursued a demilitarized coca regulatory policy, to keep coca farmers from being murdered by the DEA.

3. Morales has shifted coercive man power to policing cocaine traffickers and producers.

4. Bolivian anti-narcotics police, FELCN, have since Morales taking office more than doubled cocaine seizures and continues to make seizures of large cocaine factories, all without the "help" of the DEA.

5. Morales' demilitarized coca regulations have resulted in the eradication of more coca cultivation per hectare than under previous neoliberal administration.

Now about the clash between indigenous groups protecting their territory and cocaleros deforesting and invading the land. It somehow got forgotten that this specific land dispute (the TIPNIS indigenous reserve) in tropical Cochabamba is nothing new, even to the Morales government, and goes back more than a decade; the subject of multiple land conflict studies and government intervention by multiple administrations.

A land conflict that has to be understood from different sides and relating to subjects beyond the "War on Drugs", such as deforestation, development in the Amazon, poverty, and indigenous and environmental rights, to name a few.

What journalistic enterprise did the best job covering this story? even interviewing some of the groups involved? As usual the Latin American Herald Tribune which continues its great coverage of the world "South of the Border".

And hey, look, we find out that from Deputy Interior Minister Marcos Farfan that the government considers the coca cultivation in the reserve "illegal" while vice president of the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia, or CIDOB, Pedro Nuny accused the government of negligence, not intervening in time to halt the violent clash.

So why is this conflict seen as a part of cocalero Evo Morales vs. the US "War on Drugs"? Because that is what uninsightful gringos who suspect Evo is up to no good like to hear. Much rather than the complex muddle of decades old land problems and questions in Bolivia.

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