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Anthropologists Advocate for Coca Chewing Amendment

The AAA Blog is delighted to introduce our member, Doug Hertzler. Doug Hertzler is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Eastern Mennonite University and serves on the board of the Andean Information Network based in Cochabamba, Bolivia. He is currently the coordinator of the Bolivia Working Group, a coalition of advocacy organizations in Washington, DC. Dr. Hertzler is guest blogging to share with readers the work of anthropologists that advocate for coca chewing. Thank you Dr. Hertzler!

Last month over 100 anthropologists signed a letter by organizations calling for the Obama administration to withdraw its blockade of Bolivia’s amendment that would end the obligation of Andean countries to ban coca chewing as stipulated by the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

The requirement that Andean countries abolish coca chewing was included in the 1961 Convention based on a 1950 commission lead by Howard Fonda who believed that coca chewing was responsible for “racial degeneration.” Since then, numerous studies by anthropologists have shown coca chewing or acullico to be a benign practice with nutritional and medicinal benefits that is central to the religion and cultural identities of indigenous peoples.

Unfortunately, the United States has also pressured Canada and several European countries to join the blockade by arguing that Bolivia’s amendment would affect the integrity of the convention, even though the amendment would only remove the coca chewing prohibition in Article 49. The amendment would not have legalized the coca leaf internationally or have removed the coca leaf from the Convention’s list of substances subject to international control.

Possible next steps include a campaign for UN conference on the issue, given that the inclusion of the ban on coca chewing would seem to actually undermine the seriousness and integrity of the Convention, as well as conflict with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

5 Responses

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by AmerAnthroAssoc, kmcentellas and Nicole Noël, Priscila Borges. Priscila Borges said: RT @AmericanAnthro: Anthropologists Advocate for Coca Chewing Amendment http://wp.me/prUnT-1I9 […]

  2. Thank you, Doug, for summarizing this issue for an anthropology audience. For those of us who work in Bolivia, Morales’s amendment is a no-brainer; of course it should pass to redress an historical injustice. That the US administration refused to concede even this minor aspect of the UN convention shows how out of touch–or willfully ignorant–it is with the history and culture of the Andean region. Military and top-down development solutions to the “drug war” sadly remain the order of the day, while democratic solutions from the grassroots are shoved aside.

  3. Interesting stuff, and thanks for the article. This sacred leaf is an amazing tool in our herbal cornucopia. As a medicinal food alone the benefits of chewing coca leaves, and brewing coca tea are phenomenal.

    The politicians involved in coca prohibition on the other hand are phenomenally misguided tools. How much more time, blood, money, and livelihood will we waste perpetuating a system of terrible injustice against honest people, worldwide?

    The United States (and the rest of the world) need to buck up to the fact that the global war on drugs is a masochistic shit show in desperate need of dismantling.

    “La hoja de coca no es droga”

  4. We need to stop the underselling of Coca via acknowledgeing and accounting for its true costs as effectively a criminal agrilcultural mercantilism enacted during the early 1900s to protect the far far worse competitor of Tobacco:



  5. Me fascino la claridad del articulo y en especial el apoyo de la AAA al asunto de la despenalización del consumo tradicional de la hoja de coca.
    Soy un antropologo boliviano cuya pagina es http://antradio-pod.blogspot.com/ que trabaje tanto con poblaciones indígenas quechuas como con mineros, ambos consumidores de la hoja de coca y, una ley no puede decir que ellos son unos drogadictos, por que no entran en ninguna definición sobre el tema.

    Traducido al ingles:
    I love the clarity of the article and especially the support of the AAA to the issue of decriminalization of traditional consumption of coca leaf.
    I am a Bolivian anthropologist whose website is http://antradio-pod.blogspot.com/ working with both indigenous Quechua as miners, both consumers of coca leaf, a law can not say that they are a drug, that do not fall within any definition of the subject.

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