Bolivia coca growers seek suspension of new coca law

Coca growers of the subtropical Yungas region in the Bolivian province of La Paz expressed their intention Monday to file suit before the Constitutional Court against the new coca law enacted last March, which enlarges the legal area of coca crops in Bolivia from 12,000 to 22,000 hectares (30,000 to 54,000 acres).

Representatives of the La Paz Provincial Coca Producers Association (Adepcoca) told the media they wish to file an appeal of partial unconstitutionality against two articles of Law 906 because they violate the constitution, which specifically protects “the ancestral original coca.”

The new General Coca Law, enacted March 8 by President Evo Morales, replaces Law 1008, which since 1988 has regulated production of the leaf and the policies of combating cocaine trafficking.

The earlier law established a limit of 12,000 hectares of legal plantations, which could only be grown in Yungas.

The new law authorizes up to 7,700 hectares of coca plantations in the Chapare region of the central province of Cochabamba, considered a non-traditional area, and 14,300 in La Paz province.

Yungas coca growers have protested from the outset against expanding the crop area to include the Chapare region and demanded that the measure be thrown out, but only succeeded in getting the area in their own region enlarged by 2,300 hectares.

A large part of coca production in Chapare, according to international reports, does not end up on legal markets but is diverted and processed IGNORE INTO cocaine, which is why opposition lawmakers pressed the case against growing coca in “non-traditional areas” at the Constitutional Court last April 10.

Adepcoca and the opposition both oppose articles in the new law that divide up the leaf-growing areas in Bolivia and which, according to the legal adviser to the coca-growers association, Froilan Tola, “have no constitutional support or protection.”

“We request that the application of Law 906, the General Coca Law, be suspended,” Tola told the media.

The president of Adepcoca, Franklin Rojas, said he hopes the appeal is presented this week in Sucre, constitutional capital of Bolivia and seat of the judiciary, but it must first be signed by the Yungas representatives in Congress, who are the ones authorized to take such legal action.