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Standoff in the Bolivian Rainforests

The Reagan administration launched its drug war against Bolivian coca and cocaine production between 1980-2 with attacks meant to terrorize the Quechua-speaking people growing coca in Chapare. Bullets from aircraft penetrated the tin rooftops of Bolivian homes, killing women, children, and men inside. As was his style, Ronald Reagan’s war failed to stop coca production.

The coca growers, comprising male ‘cocoleros’ and women ‘cocoleras,’ sought protection from US funded paramilitaries and death squads by sleeping in the jungles. They formed a growers’ union (sindicato) using sindicato-funded FM and shortwave radios to organize and protect coca growers from non-sindicato sources of information. The union flexed its coca political muscle to arrange an agreement with the Bolivian government that distinctly clarified the national laws: coca was to be legal and its growers and coca plots were not to be harmed, while cocaine was made someone else’s problem. In his book, Coca Yes, Cocaine No (2019), Thomas Grisaffi summarizes the results:

The projection of the coca leaf as a symbol of national sovereignty, captured by the union’s call to arms, “Long live coca, death to Yankees,” served in part to tie national movements together to bring about the process that put [President] Evo Morales in power….

Morales and the MAS [Movimiento al Socialismo] never had to be explicit on coca’s relationship with cocaine: in the face of repressive policing, the promise was simply to end the war on drugs, to demilitarize the region, and to defend traditional coca leaf use…in 2013 the United Nations accepted the right to traditional coca consumption within Bolivian territory. [Kindle Edition pp. 20-21]. […]

Any cocalero or cocalera will explain that U.S.-led efforts had absolutely nothing to do with tackling the illicit drug trade, but rather were about obliterating organized peasant resistance to the neoliberal development model. In a 2006 interview, Doña Apolonia Bustamante, a leader in her mid-forties, put it this way: “The United States, they want to snuff out oppositional movements that don’t fit with their vision. They saw that we were unionized. They were scared about a powerful social movement here in the Tropics. And so they thought about it, and they decided to do away with the organizations, and that is why they attacked us repeatedly.” She went on to explain how the focus had previously been the fight against communism, “but today it’s the war on drugs.” […]

“Behind the war on drugs there are other interests. Interests in natural resources, and in dismantling the unions of the Chapare.” He went on to explain that the aim was to move peasant farmers off the land so that transnational companies could take control and employ them as a cheap labor force. [Kindle Edition, p. 43].

Today, thirty percent of Bolivians chew coca, including some middle class professionals, while coca remains a part of traditions thousands of years old. Coca increases the intake of oxygen in the lungs making it useful for altitude adaptations. In Cusco, Peru, coca tea is served to tourists for altitude sickness. Pope Francis, who’s had only one lung since an operation for a teenage lung infection, requested coca leaves on a visit to South America. Coca leaves can now be ordered served on silver trays in elite establishments in Argentina. Meanwhile, sindicato strategies against US interference have been adopted by resistance movements throughout the world. Given an impenetrable source of coca leaves, and with drug enforcement restricted to cocaine, prohibitionists may have found their holy grail—a drug war without end.

Thomas Grisaffi cites another possibility besides perpetual drug war: legalize coca leaves internationally so consumers can choose between cocaine and legal coca with its “vitamins, calcium, iron, fiber, protein, and calories.” Bolivians might have easy access to cocaine, but they prefer chewing coca. Survival of Bolivia’s traditions and transitions through decades of US drug war and propaganda suggests decriminalizing or legalizing coca leaves could cut deeply enough into cocaine markets to make cocaine wars obsolete.

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32 comments to Standoff in the Bolivian Rainforests

  • Daniel Williams

    It’s hard to imagine sindicato crops supported only indigenous use. I’m not suggesting their involvement in supplying the illegal trade is/was necessarily a bad idea, just that it was likely. And I’m curious as to what exactly constitutes non-sindicato information, and why the sindicatos suppress it.

    As to Mr. Grisaffi’s alternative possibility: Legalizing coca leaves internationally, and absent any enforceable limits on production tied to world demand – and good luck with that – would make cocaine production easier and less risky.

    Most if not all of us here believe the only logical solution is ending drug prohibition. That Mr. Grisaffi failed to make that point, whether wittingly or not, takes a little shine off his penny.

    • Servetus

      For future political correctness-sake, never say ‘indigenous’ to describe Bolivians. They don’t like the word, no matter what their class status. It’s why I used the term ‘Quechua-speaking.’

      The sindicato organized coca growers. Cocaine manufacture was a separate category, Bolivian cocaine production is done by outside organizations that hire Quechua kids, Bolivians, and many types of outsiders to work 24-hour production runs in the jungles, stomping coca leaves mixed in gasoline, etc. This in a country where US$30 is a month’s wages. BTW, Bolivia’s tin miners had their privately funded FM radio station destroyed by the government, but they’re allowed to use coca. It improves their work performance.

      Growers receive about US$4 per pound (2013) for their coca leaves, a big deal for an environmentally friendly culture that relies on rainforest territories for most of their needs. In that sense, they’re much like the coffee growers in Central America who get very little for their product. By contrast, a prosecution for cocaine in Bolivia usually nets the hapless offender 8-15 years in prison. It takes 300 pounds of coca leaves to process one kilo of coca paste.

      Bolivia’s news media never reported the realities of the coca growing territories being hit with eradication efforts; murders, for instance. Growers needed their own trusted guerrilla radio station and transceivers to provide coded messages for coca growers, including growing tips and alerts of government activities in the area.

      Cocaine hydrochloride, originally formulated to produce a water-soluble coca chemical analog, will not necessarily gain in popularity, not with a new sheriff in town, a cultivated plant in the family Erythroxylaceae exhibiting no adverse side effects. Like weed, no one ever died or ruined their sinuses chewing coca leaves.

      Buy the ticket, read the book. I think you’ll enjoy it.

  • WalStMonky

    Contaminant found in vaping products linked to deadly lung illnesses, tests show
    The chemical found in the products is an oil derived from vitamin E

    /snip/
    The chemical is an oil derived from vitamin E. Investigators at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found the oil in cannabis products in samples collected from patients who fell ill across the country. FDA officials shared that information with state health officials during a telephone briefing this week, according to several officials who took part in the call.

    That same chemical was also found in nearly all cannabis samples from patients who fell ill in New York in recent weeks, a state health department spokeswoman said.

    Vitamin E is found naturally in certain foods, such as canola oil, olive oil and almonds. The oil derived from the vitamin, known as vitamin E acetate, is commonly available as a nutritional supplement and is used in topical skin treatments. It is not known to cause harm when ingested as a vitamin supplement or applied to the skin.
    RELATED: Second vape-related mystery illness confirmed in Colorado

    Its name sounds harmless, experts said, but its molecular structure could make it hazardous when inhaled. Its oil-like properties could be associated with the kinds of respiratory symptoms that many patients have reported: cough, shortness of breath and chest pain, officials said.

    /snip/
    An FDA spokesman said the agency is “looking into potential leads regarding any particular constituent or compound that may be at issue.” The FDA is analyzing sample for a broad range of chemicals, including nicotine, THC, other cannabinoids, “cutting agents” that may be used to dilute liquids, other additives, pesticides, opioids, poisons and toxins.

    “The number of samples received continues to increase and we now have over 100 samples for testing,” spokesman Michael Felberbaum said Thursday.

    Not all the samples are suitable for testing. The FDA analyzed 12 viable nicotine samples and 18 viable THC products, state officials said. Vitamin E acetate was found in 10 of the 18 THC products.

    “This was the only thing that seemed to show up in 10 of the 18 cannabis products,” said one state official who took part in the call.

    The federal lab results seem to confirm findings from New York State. Late last week, its lab found “very high levels of vitamin E acetate in nearly all” its cannabis samples tested. More than a dozen cannabis samples were tested, a health department spokeswoman said Thursday. “Vitamin E acetate is not an approved additive for New York State Medical Marijuana Program-authorized vape samples and was not seen in the nicotine-based products that were tested.”

    “As a result, vitamin E acetate is now a key focus” of New York’s investigation, the department said Thursday.

    /snip/
    Vitamin E acetate is basically grease, said Michelle Francl, a chemistry professor at Bryn Mawr College. Its molecular structure means that “you have to heat it up pretty hot” for it to vaporize. Its boiling point is 363 degrees Fahrenheit, which is well above the 212 degree F boiling point for water, and nearly four times higher than normal human body temperature.

    Once the oil is heated hot enough to vaporize, it can potentially decompose and “now you’re breathing in who-knows-what,” Francl said.

    When that vapor cools down in the lungs, it returns to its original state at that temperature and pressure, she said, which means “it has now coated the inside of your lungs with that oil,” she said.

  • TrippyEnd

    “Decades later, however, spectacular revelations cast Olson’s death in a completely new light. First, the CIA admitted that, shortly before he died, Olson’s colleagues had lured him to a retreat and fed him LSD without his knowledge. Then it turned out that Olson had talked about leaving the CIA – and told his wife that he had made “a terrible mistake”. Slowly, a counter-narrative emerged: Olson was disturbed about his work and wanted to quit, leading his comrades to consider him a security risk. All of this led him to room 1018A.”

    Extract from Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control, published by Henry Holt & Co on 10 September.

    https://tinyurl.com/UKGuardianUK

    • Servetus

      Execution caused by being thrown out a window is called ‘defenestration.’ Defenestration has a venerable and symbolic history, first as a means of executing the biblical Jezebel. The method encompasses historically relevant events beginning in Prague in 1419, and resuming with Frank Olson’s death in 1953.

      https://allthatsinteresting.com/defenestration

      • WalStMonky

        .
        .

        So speaking of defenestration, committing suicide by jumping out of a window is called self defenestration. But since we’re talking about self defenestration, did you know that among securities trading professionals a seriously bad trading session might be referred to as “raining brokers” or hear comments like”there’s blood on the Street?” Strangely enough not a single broker committed suicide by self defenestration on Black Tuesday. There was no blood on the Street on 10/29/1929. 1930-1932 is still the best time ever to buy stocks.

        I also suspect that no one ever dropped a dead cat from the observation platform of the Empire State Building but that investigation is on the back burner because the Republican Party obviously caught wind of my plan to encourage all Americans to change their voter registration to Republican in order to get rid of the POTUS proactively. It would have been much easier to get rid of him by keeping him off the ballot on Election Day. Less than 30% of voters self identify as Republicans Now I want an explanation of why the Republicans can just up and cancel their primaries and caucuses when there are people who want to vote against the Bloviator-in-chief?
        —————————————–
        I’ve never liked the idea of electing judges, especially State Supreme Court Justices. Here’s an example…in Arizona Bill Montgomery is now one of 7 sitting Justices on the State Supreme Court. Arizona is a very, very weird State.

  • NorCalNative

    OT update

    Almost 2-years ago I fled the house at midnight to escape the Tubbs Fire in Sonoma County that destroyed my Wine Country home.

    Fire in the belly
    Fire in the hole
    Fire on the mountain
    Fire in my soul

    Oh boo hoo! I turned ash-into-cash, tripling my income, paid off student loan and have titles to a mobile home, SUV, and a nice cash reserve thanks to 1/2 of a Santa Rosa home.

    I spent a year-and-a-half on the Mendocino coast on the insurances companies dime. My only bill was the 30-pack of Bud I gave my neighbor to take my garbage and recycling down my driveway. Got a good taste of Mendo weed.

    Now I’m close to Humboldt Bay in Humboldt County where the weed quality is the best!
    They grow the best and import the best CA weed as well. I think just maybe Humboldt will compete and win against the new oncoming corporate tide. Quality matters and the genetics in Humboldt County rock!

    I’m digging my new digs in the Emerald Triangle. Take care peeps gotta go.

  • Ho Lee Phuc

    The working shorthand for this crisis is “deaths of despair,” a resonant phrase conjured by the economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton to describe the sudden rise in deaths from suicide, alcohol and drug abuse since the turn of the millennium.

    Now a new report from the Senate’s Joint Economic Committee charts the scale of this increase — a doubling from 22.7 deaths of despair per 100,000 American in 2000 to 45.8 per 100,000 in 2017, easily eclipsing all prior 20th-century highs.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/07/opinion/sunday/the-age-of-american-despair.html

  • DdC

    Come gather ’round people
    Wherever you roam
    And admit that the waters
    Around you have grown
    And accept it that soon
    You’ll be drenched to the bone
    If your time to you
    Is worth savin’
    Then you better start swimmin’
    Or you’ll sink like a stone
    For the times they are a-changin’.

    The Top Medical School in the US
    Now Has a Psychedelics Research Center

    Johns Hopkins University is known for producing some of the nation’s best doctors, and now it’s preparing them for the approaching era of medicinal psychedelics, too.

    Canada’s University of Guelph
    Launches Cannabis Cultivation Program

    California:
    Lawmakers Advance Measure
    Permitting Medical Cannabis Use on School Grounds

    Nevada Nets Over $100M
    From Cannabis Taxes and Fees

    Cannabis-derived revenues continue to climb in Nevada, where officials have raked in more than $100 million from cannabis taxes and fees over the last fiscal year.

    ‘Weediatrics’:
    The New Film That Looks Into Medical Cannabis
    For Children Suffering From Debilitating Conditions

    Hemp Farming Quadrupled In The U.S. This Year

    • WalStMonky

      .
      .

      Everyone says that Mitch McConnell won’t allow a vote on regulated re-legalization or any cannabis law reform for that matter. But I think that he’s gone and painted himself into a corner. Is he really going to allow all of those Kentucky farmers suffer at the hands of people that have nothing to offer except hysterical rhetoric and irrational fear? Oh yes, let’s not forget that the thought of regulated re-legalization is being bandied about Frankfort, specifically to relieve Kentucky farmers of that potential burden. So does he hate the fans of 420 more than he loves his Kentucky dirt farmers? Stay tuned…

      • atrocity

        Is he really going to allow all of those Kentucky farmers suffer at the hands of people that have nothing to offer except hysterical rhetoric and irrational fear?

        Never, ever underestimate the prevalence and intensity of sadism.

  • WalStMonky

    .
    .

    Punctuation can make a big difference. For instance there’s a claim that a certain Mr. Jason Dickout got high on legal cannabis oil, had a psychotic break and stabbed his mother to death. Police arrived and entered through the front door, where they found Mr. Dickout, naked from the waist down with blood droplets on his face and t-shirt, his bare feet smeared with blood. He was screaming unintelligibly and laughing. Oh well, at least I was able to salvage a little black humor from this nonsense. Do Canadians just have weird names? I recall another incident in Canada involving a man from the Outhouse family. Do you think that Mr. Dickout knows Mr. Outhouse?

    So let’s make a list of all the alleged murders allegedly committed by people who got high on legal cannabis.

    In April 2014 in Colorado Richard Kirk murders his wife after consuming edibles.
    August 2019 Jason Dickout allegedly murders his mother after “smoking” cannabis.” oil through a vape pen .

    Gosh, I sure hope I didn’t omit any incidents. Sometimes writing out long lists gives me a brain fart.

    Cannabis-induced psychosis’ suspected in case of man who killed mother

  • DdC

    THAT SAM-I-AM!
    THAT SAM-I-AM!
    I DO NOT LIKE THAT SAM-I-AM!

    WOULD YOU LIKE GREEN EGGS AND HAM?

    I DO NOT LIKE SAM-I-AM.
    I DO NOT LIKE GREEN EGGS AND HAM.

    WOULD YOU LIKE THEM HERE OR THERE?

    I WOULD NOT LIKE THEM HERE OR THERE.
    I WOULD NOT LIKE THEM ANYWHERE.
    I DO NOT LIKE GREEN EGGS AND HAM.
    I DO NOT LIKE SAM-I-AM.

    JUST IN:
    A New York ethics commission has rejected prohibitionist group @learnaboutsam’s effort to keep its list of anti-marijuana donors secret.
    https://t.co/ZfPvmIuBLp?amp=1

    Group opposed to marijuana legalization
    wants to keep donors private

    https://t.co/P36bcs3L41?amp=1
    Smart Approaches to Marijuana New York (SAM NY) President Kevin Abraham Sabet-Sharghi, a former drug policy advisor to President Obama, speaks during a press conference at the New York State Capitol on Monday Feb. 11, 2019 in Albany, N.Y. He was joined by victims of drug abuse, education advocates, law enforcement and healthcare experts to urge lawmakers to reject rushing to commercialize marijuana in New York State. (Lori Van Buren/Times Union)

    Opinion:
    The Hypocrisy of Cannabis Prohibition Advocates’
    Taxpayer Funding

    https://t.co/U9DGLkhOD0?amp=1
    SAM’s request for donor anonymity claims that it doesn’t receive funding from “faceless deep-pocketed corporate interests” in the “alcohol, tobacco, opioid, or the prison industries…”

    Yet the organization’s attempt to avoid transparency is ironic, when SAM has just announced its intention to release a report on industry donations to the marijuana legalization movement.

  • DdC

    Hey NCN, I’m contemplating retirement. Have some friends in Eurika I plan to see next month or so. Thinking about re-locating around Arcata by the end of the year. Might go back to Florida and see my kids a while, but Humboldt seems to be on the radar. Still concerned about the weather being more cold than I want. But we’ll see. I’ll give you a shout out when I’m in the area. Be Well.

  • DdC

    I had to sign a nondisclosure form for Proctor&Gamble when I worked for them in FL. Many Care Management agencies would prefer I not advocate to famalies doctors and nurses. I was never formally told not too or signed any agreements, so I did as I do private cases and told the doctors. I also respect patients rights if they don’t want people to know they’re using. One case that fell short imo was Bong Hits for Jesus removing free speech from students. I have a small problem with these articles below. Not really, or even a big concern, due to the no loveloss for SAM type groups. But it does seem a tad hypocritical. Except its been so one sided for 5 decades its hard to conjure they are the same. SAM keeps donors private because they lie and do harm to people and only slimy degenerates would donate to such a cause. Those against prohibition donors were persecuted and stigmatized for telling the truth. Seems more like protecting the right to remain silent.

    ACLU-NJ Challenges Unconstitutional Donor Disclosure Law That Threatens Free Speech
    The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and the national ACLU today filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a law requiring all social welfare organizations to disclose personal information about their donors and details about nonpartisan voter education and advocacy activities.

    Group opposed to marijuana legalization wants to keep donors private

    Bong Hits 4 Jesus

  • The Secret History of Fort Detrick, the CIA’s Base for Mind Control Experiments

    In 1954, a prison doctor in Kentucky isolated seven black inmates and fed them “double, triple and quadruple” doses of LSD for 77 days straight. No one knows what became of the victims. They may have died without knowing they were part of the CIA’s highly secretive program to develop ways to control minds—a program based out of a little-known Army base with a dark past, Fort Detrick.

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