Intervention of Bolivia at the 2008 Commission on Narcotic Drugs

With a "Causachun coca! (quechua), viva la coca. Long life to coca leaf!" the vice-minister of Foreign Affairs of Bolivia Hugo Fernandez ended his intervention at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND). He protested against the request of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) to eliminate the traditional use of coca, such as coca chewing and coca tea. Fernandez denounced the lack of respect of the Board. He red the letter President Evo Morales sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.

Coca is not cocaine, Fernandez said, and he strongly questioned the INCBs interpretation of the UN drug conventions. He repeated that Bolivia would seek to remove the coca leaf from the list of the 1961 Single Convention. "Bolivia is convinced that te day will come that the INCB will recognize its error, just as the Pontifical Academy of Sciences of the Vatican recently did with Galileo and his contibution to science," Fernandez said.

Intervention of Fernandez and the letter to Ban Ki Moon (PDF)

Intervention by Amb. Hugo Fernandez, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs and Religion of the Republic of Bolivia

Fifty-first period of the UN Comission on Narcotic Drugs
Vienna, 10th March 2008

Ambassador Eugenio Maria Cura, please allow me to express to you my delegation’s congratulations on your election as president of this 51st session of the Comission on Narcotic Drugs, and for your chairing of the distinguished members of the platform. antonio maria costa, executive director of the united nations office on drugs and crime, honourable ministers, viceministers and higher authorities attending this session,

Ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen,

As the distinguished representatives here present are already aware, Bolivia has been the target of erroneous policies to repress the cultivation of coca leaf and combat drug trafficking. These policies have, in the recent past, been applied for over 20 years, disregarding the constitutional rules in force and in violation of the fundamental Human Rights of the coca producers, as recognised in the UN Charter. Despite this, Bolivia has never ignored its international obligations and has punctually attended this Forum in order to inform on what has been done in the country to meet those obligations in the fight against drug trafficking.

Furthermore, for the past two years there has been an additional motive for attending this annual event, because it was considered necessary to explain to the international community the changes that have been introduced into the country’s anti drugs policy by our current President, his excellency Evo Morales Ayma – himself a coca leaf producer and leader of the largest organisations of coca leaf producers – who assumed leadership of my country by the free and sovereign vote of 53.7% of the inhabitants, in elections held on 18th December 2005.

In this appearance before this Annual Forum, and on all other occasions that my country has deemed it necessary, or the international community has requested it, Bolivia has made an effort to explain the particular situation that characterises the country, which can be summarised as the following: on the one hand, the cultivation of coca leaf is considered a sacred, integral and inalienable part of our culture; on the other hand, we recognise that coca leaf is diverted from its traditional use, and used as raw material in the production of cocaine.

Without wishing to draw out my speech by reciting the many historic and scientific arguments that support Bolivia in asserting and maintaining this clear distinction between coca leaf and cocaine – a distinction that forms a part of the daily life and behaviour at absolutely all levels of its population – allow me to present to you, distinguished representatives, a pair of stone sculptures that are but one of the many pieces of evidence that 3,000 years ago, the men that then populated my country did not only consider the coca leaf to be sacred, but they chewed it in the same way that their descendants do today. In the left cheek of these sculptures one can see clearly the bolus of coca leaf.

Nevertheless, and despite the respect and consideration with which we endeavour to explain these particular circumstances to the international community, all the inhabitants of my country, and above all the representatives of the indigenous communities were aggrieved and extremely offended by the unscrupulous and prejudicial expressions used by the International Narcotics Control Board in its last Annual Report, when referring to the coca leaf in particular and more generally to the ancestral practice of chewing the leaf and its other cultural, medicinal and ritual uses.

Mr. President

The generalised climate of indignation in my country at this enormous disrespect is such that His Excellency the President of the Republic, Evo Morales Ayma has deemed it necessary to send to his Excellency, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki Moon, the letter that I will go on to read and which, distinguished representatives, he has entrusted me to bring to your attention:

For all the reasons expressed by His Excellency the President of my country in the letter I have just read, the delegation I head, in the name of the government and people of Bolivia, would like to respectfully express the following to the delegations participating in the this 51st Period of Sessions of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs:

Letter Evo Morales to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

Distinguished representatives,

1. Our energetic protest at the lack of consideration and respect expressed by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) in relation to the coca leaf, the practice of chewing it and the other traditional uses that have 3,000 years of history and are fully legally recognised in Bolivia.

2. Our firm rejection of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB)’s attempt to impose ignorance of the Reservation that Bolivia presented on the 10th July 1990, when they ratified the 1988 UN Convention, in a letter to the then UN General Secretary, his Excellency Dr. Javier Pérez de Cuellar.

3. Our serious questioning of the way in which the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) is attempting to ignore or bypass all other obligations and international agreements which the states are also committed to observing, and which are related or linked to the global drugs problem.

Finally, bringing together what is established in the different conventions in order to introduce changes in the sphere of application of control, Bolivia would like to announce to the distinguished delegates here present that it has decided to make use of the right it has to present a formal application to the Secretary General for the declassification of coca leaf so that it ceases to form part of List I.

At the same time, we are calling on the international community, on the States that have close knowledge of the Bolivian reality and the international scientific community to dedicate themselves to collaborating to achieve this aim.

Finally, Bolivia is sure that the day will come in which the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) will recognise its error, in the same way as we are pleased to see that the Vatican has recently announced it will do with Galileo Galilei and his contribution to science and knowledge.

Causachun Coca. Viva la Coca. Long Life to Coca Leaf.

Thank you very much.