INPUD Member Jorge Roque writes for the Bulletin of ENCOD (Feb 1st).
We live in an age where drugs that are produced in Western countries are allowed, while drugs that are originating from non-western countries are forbidden. Alcohol is publicized as a great drug all over the world, while publicity and marketing campaigns for tobacco make everyone forget that lung cancer is one of the most important causes of drug-related death.
Health never had nothing to do with drug policies. Western countries have been able to control global legislation in such a way that only their drugs should be legal and drugs from different countries or cultures should be forbidden. The western drug alcohol caused great disasters in nineteenth-century America, where local communities were completely destroyed by this “fire water”. Many became addicted, kept drinking all day, but authorities never decided to control or prohibit this drug at the time. One and a half century ago, the opium wars were fought to oblige the Chinese to consume opium from the British colonies in India.
These days, drugs are prohibited following an economic imperative, to limit the supply and increase the price. Criminal organisations know very well how to take advantage of these naive policies.
This month we were confronted with the news that several Western countries have made an objection against the proposal by the Bolivian government to end the ban on traditional coca leaf consumption. These countries are afraid that if Bolivian people will be allowed to chew coca leaves, they will have to stop eradicating coca fields. But why don`t they persecute the industries that produce chemicals like potassium permanganate or other substances that are fundamental to obtain cocaine from the coca leaf? Because these industries are based in the Western world, and they don`t want them to loose money and send people to unemployment.
The attack on the coca leaf is an act of racism and disrespect for cultural traditions, beliefs and religion. Western countries would understand this if they would see their wine or tobacco fields being fumigated by foreign countries.
When drugs became forbidden this policy appeared to be a way to control criminal and subversive minds. Of course we cannot say that the policy has put drugs in the mouth and veins of people, but as soon as prohibition appears some wise guys analyze the situation and find a way to make profit.
Western countries present themselves as victims of drug producing countries and drug dealers who have been able to jump the strong walls and sell drugs to innocent people.
But the truth is very different. Western countries are the creators of the UN conventions. They are responsible for the fact that drug producing countries apply the death penalty to traffickers, after having suffered pressures from Western countries for not doing more to stop the drug export from their countries. They are responsible for the “cultural genocide”, the attempts to destroy the millennial coca leaf culture, making people believe that it is easier to persecute an ancient culture in South America than to allow the Euro-american chemical enterprises loose money!
Maybe its time for us activists to stop fighting for a particular substance and fight for a “New Drug Culture”. We could claim to belong to a new tribe that is a minority in this world, but that exists in all countries of this planet, a tribe not connected by religious or economic interests, a tribe driven by the culture of idealism and for sure very different from the majority, but a tribe that believes in its own life style and will fight for it!
By Jorge Roque, February 1, 2011 Article can be found in ENCOD Bulletin here
- Bolivia energises campaign to legalise coca leaf (guardian.co.uk)
- Bolivia launches coca diplomacy (bbc.co.uk)
- Coca-chewing protest in Bolivia (bbc.co.uk)