Bolivia's legal coca trade

The bus ride from La Paz, the capitol, to this village, is a bumpy five hour drive that ends in a lush cloud forest. The forest gives way to a patchwork of green squares, all planted with coca. The bus ride ends in the town square where I meet this coca grower. He tells me it'll be hard to get the coca growers to talk, and a lot of journalists have given coca growers and coca a bad name, saying coca is cocaine. But this man is one coca grower who will talk. His plot is about the size of a soccer field and grows some citrus and coffee but plants mainly coca. He says coca makes more money. Traditionally farmers in this region grow a variety of crops, but coca dominates because coca prices have soared in recent years, to which President Morales is given credit. This woman is a Morales supporter and says most people here are as well. She says it's thanks to him that prices are up and that coca is decriminalized. One place where coca sells a lot is at this legal coca market in La Paz. Farmers bring in and sell the coca plants themselves. Each bag sells for a little over $100 dollars and weighs about 50 pounds. This system which avoids a middleman was established by President Morales and is meant to ensure legally grown coca is sold at fair prices and for legal reasons. This man points out that if coca plants were eradicated, many people would be out of money and jobs. Many officials would like coca growers to grow a wider variety of other crops, but will let them grow coca which is more profitable, and cites international help is needed if they want less coca grown. Meanwhile, the Bolivian government prefers to look for additional legal ways coca can be used. Coca can be used in tea, cola, and liquor. This liquor factor owner says his coca liquor is selling well. He says he's in business because of the government's legal policies towards coca. The critics of Morales's plans say more coca cultivation is producing more cocaine.

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