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FORMER Bolivian president Evo Morales called on Wednesday for the relaunch of the Andean Council of Coca Leaf Producers and an end to US meddling in Latin America.
He was speaking on a tour of Peru, where he met coca leaf producers and warned of the malign influence of Washington.
Mr Morales questioned the anti-drug policy pursued by the US government and said it was time for regional collaboration and autonomy on the issue.
“Where there is a US military base, drug trafficking grows … We have closed the military bases and we are better in the fight against this phenomenon, all without the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and without the United States Agency for International Development (USAID),” he said.
With its military bases in strategic positions across Latin America, the US controls “the state, the nation and the peoples” in the region, Mr Morales argued, adding that Washington uses its presence to plunder natural resources under the guise of anti-drug trafficking operations.
Coca leaves are widely consumed in the countries where they grow for their nutritional and medicinal qualities, although they remain of high value on the illegal cocaine market.
But Mr Morales said that Peru, Bolivia and other regional states can collaborate in the fight against the illicit drug trade.
“With brother coca leaf growers of Peru … we agree to work for unity. Latin America is not the backyard of the US and this generation has the answer: plurinational America is of the peoples for the peoples,” he declared.
Now is the right time to relaunch the Andean Council of Coca Leaf Producers in Bolivia and Peru, thus sending a message about this crop, he added.
The US “War on Drugs” aimed to severely limit coca production in the region, but growers defended their right to cultivate the crop and protect the industry and their livelihoods.
Mr Morales was among a number of world leaders in Peru for the inauguration of newly elected President Pedro Castillo.
The two nations have already discussed strengthening bilateral relations, including through joint production of lithium along with Argentina.
Mr Castillo's election is seen by many as part of a Latin American pink tide, with left-wing leaders retaining or coming to power across the region.
Much attention is focused on the forthcoming elections in Nicaragua, where the US has been accused of interfering, while in Brazil, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is widely expected to defeat far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in next year’s poll.
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