An opposition politician says he has seen a long-delayed report on Bolivia’s coca cultivation and that it concludes the country needs only 6,000 hectares to meet legal demand, claims the government has denied but which could place its pro-coca policies in a precarious position.
Juan del Granado, a member of the Movimiento sin Miedo (Without Fear Movement) party, claimed he had gained access to the European Union-funded report on Bolivia’s legal coca market, reported La Razon. According to Granado, the investigation found Bolivia could satisfy legal demand for coca using just 6,000 hectares of productive land.
The report is the result of a study commissioned in 2007 that aimed to determine the exact quantity of land Bolivia needs to meet domestic and commercial demand for coca. According to EU officials, the study was completed in 2010, however Bolivian authorities have repeatedly delayed its release, claiming they were still working on several complementary studies, reported La Razon.
The government responded to the claim by announcing the complementary studies have now been completed and the final report will be presented before the end of the year. Bolivia’s Vice Minister for Coca and Development, Gumercindo Pucho, dismissed the 6,000 hectares claim as “absurd.”
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Granado’s allegations are almost certainly a political maneuver to undermine Morales’ policy of licensed coca crops as the country prepares for the 2014 presidential elections.
However, the lengthy delay of the report’s release is also likely driven by political motives. Morales was once a coca grower and still heads one of the country’s major coca growing unions, and coca growers remain an important part of his political base. Recent violence between Bolivian authorities and people protesting the eradication of unlicensed coca crops only highlights how unpopular it would be to propose the country’s 12,000 hectare legal crop quota should be halved.
See also: Coverage of Drug Policy
Bolivia’s combative stance on coca has also caused international tensions, which have led to the expulsion of US officials, temporary withdrawal from a UN drug treaty and the United States closing its local anti-drug office.
With some politicians proposing to increase the legal quota to 20,000 hectares while Bolivia receives millions in international anti-drug aid annually, the issue of how much coca Bolivia needs to satisfy commercial demand is more sensitive than ever, both internationally and at home. If this leak forces the government into finally releasing the report and the findings are as reported, Morales will have to perform a very delicate juggling act to placate both the international community and his electoral base.
*This article was updated on October 28 to include the government response