Longreads

In her recent Guernica article “Bolivia’s Quest to Spread the Gospel of Coca,” journalist Jessica Camille Aguirre reports on policy changes in South America’s poorest country. New coca legalization goes against everything American policymakers think about cocaine, but as many Bolivians will tell you, coca isn’t cocaine. It’s a leaf, touted in Bolivia as a cure-all, no more dangerous than a cup of coffee, but far more invigorating.

The coca leaf doesn’t get you high, it simply wakes you up. Many Andean people chew or drink it brewed for energy, or to treat altitude sickness or stay sharp. The War on Drugs only led to violence and death in Bolivia, and small farmers suffered. After cooperating for decades with the U.S. on drug issues, Bolivian president Evo Morales decided to expel the DEA and let Bolivia design its own drug policy: It would let farmers grow and sell…

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