Friday, April 13, 2007
Bolivia challenges Coca-Cola's monopoly on coca
Bolivians have had it with Coke—Coca-Cola, that is—and want to diversify. Though they're reportedly shipping 105 tons of coca leaf per year to the U.S. for use in Coca-Cola products, that still leaves them with more leaf than they can chew.
Of course, the U.S. sets a limit on how much "industrial coca" can be grown in Bolivia, and all of it goes to Coca-Cola. This upsets the Bolivian growers to no end. It would be like telling the U.S. how many weapons we can produce or how much tobacco we're allowed to grow and sell.
In the drive for commercialization, Margarita Teran, head of the Coca Committee in Bolivia's Constituent Assembly, wants Coca-Cola to take the "Coca" out of its name. She also wants to see coca leaf included in the national seal, which is a part of the Bolivian flag.
This year after Bolivian President Evo Morales acknowledged that the country was producing double the official estimate of coca, the U.S. cut drug-enforcement aid by 25%. No problem. In another little jab at the U.S., Venezuela announced in January that it would buy Bolivia's entire industrial coca production for medicines and teas. It advanced the money to construct two processing plants and sent along some Cuban scientists to help with the engineering.
Various groups are now charging that Venezuela's purchase of coca is a violation of the Vienna Convention and amounts to "indirect legalization of coca by-products." Don't expect any of that to make a difference. International law went down the toilet with the Bush administration.
So Bolivians are looking toward the development of "a variety of consumer products from coca, including candy, wine, shampoo and toothpaste." And Venezuelan consumers will soon be enjoying "coca mate and 'three-mate,' a compound of anise, chamomile and coca." Yum.