Bolivian President Evo Morales announced that his government will eradicate 10,000 hectares of coca before the calendar year is up, although his claims that this would represent a new record are belied by United Nations data.
According to Prensa Latina and Tarija’s El Pais, Morales, “announced that the Plurinational State will break in 2011 all records for the elimination of surplus coca leaf.” Perhaps the distinction lies in the definition of “surplus coca,” but, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2011 World Drug Report, Bolivia has eradicated more than 10,000 hectares of coca four times since 1996, including a high of 15,353 hectares in 1999.
Morales, who said more than 8,000 hectares of coca have already been eradicated this year, stressed that an agreement with the producers made the eradication possible. It is taking place, “without a single shot being fired that resulted in death or injury, unlike what occurred during the neo-liberal governments,” he said.
Morales is a former coca grower, and current head of the coca-growers’ union. His political career largely began as a leader of the "cocalero" fight against the U.S.-backed coca eradication programs. He expelled U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg in 2008 and suspended Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) activity in Bolivia in 2008. He has insisted that his country can continue to produce coca for traditional uses while fighting the production and distribution of processed cocaine.
“You can not talk about free coca cultivation, nor zero coca for tradition and culture.” Morales said Monday.
Morales said the eradication was an important act in the fight against narcotraffickers. “This contribution and this conscious, voluntary reduction has a great impact on the international community,” Morales said.
The eradication of 10,000 hectares of coca would be a new record for the Morales administration, if not for Bolivian history, and would be double the amount eradicated during his first year in office. Since Morales took office, coca cultivation has increased roughly 12 percent, from 27,500 hectares in 2006 to 30,900 in 2010.