January 19, 2011 in Nation/World

Bolivia coca rule change upsets U.S.

Associated Press
 

BOGOTA, Colombia – The United States will file a formal objection today to Bolivia’s proposal to end the ban on coca leaf-chewing specified by a half-century-old U.N. treaty, according to a senior U.S. government official.

“We hope that a number of other countries will file as well,” the official told the Associated Press on Tuesday.

Despite being stigmatized as the raw material of cocaine, coca leaves have been chewed by indigenous peoples in the Andes for centuries.

A mild stimulant, the leaves have deep cultural and religious value in the region. Chewed or consumed as tea, coca counters altitude sickness, aids digestion and suppresses hunger and fatigue.

Jan. 31 is the deadline for nations to raise objections with the United Nations to Bolivia’s proposed amendment to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs to remove language that prohibits the chewing of coca leaves. If none are registered, it would automatically take effect.

Bolivia’s leftist government, which is led by a former coca growers union leader, and its supporters contend that the language it wants removed is discriminatory.

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