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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bolivia Coca Leaf Soft Drink "Coca Colla"

There was a time when Coca Cola contained the drug cocaine as one of the two main ingredients. Invented in the late 19th century by John Pemberton it was sold as a medicine before it was a soft drink. When launched, Coca-Cola's two key ingredients were cocaine (benzoylmethyl ecgonine) and caffeine. The cocaine was derived from the coca leaf and the caffeine from kola nut, leading to the name Coca-Cola (the "K" in Kola was replaced with a "C" for marketing purposes). Pemberton made the claim that his creation cured many diseases, including morphine addiction, dyspepsia, neurasthenia, headache, and impotence; the original recipe called for five ounces of coca leaf per gallon of syrup. In 1903 coca leaves containing cocaine were removed from the ingredients, but, interestingly enough in order to retain the flavor cocaine-free coca leaves are used.

The days of soft drinks with cocaine in them are not gone yet, in Bolivia plans to release a coca leaf soft drink called "Coca Colla" is under way and will have a can that resembles the classic Coca Cola logo. With the first indigenous president in office, Evo Morales (known for chewing coca leaves at UN meetings), coca growers from the Morales stronghold of Chapare in central Bolivia submitted a plan to the government last week to boost coca production with the soft drink. La Paz wants to expand Cocaine production, a market which rose 6% in 2008 and no doubt climbed even higher last year; achieving this goal will not be hard considering the strong support of high officials. The Independent reports that Bolivia, "the world's third largest producer after Colombia and Peru, yielded a coca crop of some 30,500 hectares (75,370 acres) in 2008, an increase of six percent over the previous year, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime".

Right now, Bolivian law permits the use of up to 12,000 hectares (29,650 acres) to grow coca in the Yungas stretch of forest in the Andes Mountains "only" for traditional uses such as tea, chewing and religious rituals by the Aymara ethnic group. No matter what, a large portion of what is being grown is trafficked and sold, never seeing the inside of a toothpaste tube or a tea bag. If the drugs are not being grown for the international drug market, then why would the The Morales government kick out DEA agents in 2008? Cocaine is extremely addictive, it has the power to destroy lives; 10 million people in the Andes chew raw coca leaves daily to get through the abusively long work days. In this country and around the world the same leaves that people are chewing are also being used to produce cocaine.

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