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TitleCOCA AND COCAINE COCA AND COCAINE Effects on People and Policy in Latin America (CULTURAL SURVIVAL REPORT 23)
TagsWellness Andes Cocaine Coca Stimulant
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Effects on People and Policy in Latin Atiaerica



Deborah. Facini and CrtneFqiemont

d itFrs

Page 2

Cultural Survival is a non-profit organization founded in 1972. It is con­
cerned with the fate of ethnic minorities and indigenous people throughout
the world. Some of these groups face ph',sical extinction, for they are seen
as impediments to "development" or "progress". For others the destruction is
more subtle. If they are not annihilated or swallowed up by the governing
group, they are often decimated by newly introduced diseases and denied
their self-determination. They normally ar2 deprived of their lands and
their means of livelihood and forced to adapt to a dominant society, whose
language they may not speak, without possessing the educational, techni­
cal, or other skills necessary to make such an adaptation. They therefore are
likely to experience permanent poverty, political marginality and cultural

Cultural Survival is thus concerned with human rights issues related to
economic development. The organization searches for alternative solutions
and works to put those solutions into effect. This involves documenting the
destructive aspects of certain types of development and describing alterna­
tive, culturally sensitive development projects. Publications, such as Cul­
tural Survival Quarterly, and the Special Reports, as well as this Cultural
Survival Report series, formerly known as Occasional Paper series, are de­
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well as for specialized readers, in the hope that the reports will provide basic
informati, n as well as research documents for professional work.

Cultural Survival Quarterly, first published as Cultural Survival News­
letter from 1976 until 1981, documents urgent problems facing ethnic mi­
norities and indigenous peoples throughout the world and publicizes violent
infringements of human rights as well as more subtle but equally disruptive
processes. Quarterly articles, however, are necessarily brief.

From 1979 to 1982, Cultural Survival published Special Reports. These
broad reports ranged from studies of the situation of ethnic minorities and
indigenous peoples in a single area to analyses of general problems facing
such groups.

The Cultural Survival Report series, first published as the Occasional Pa­
per series from 1980 until 1985, fills the need for specialized rionographs
that exceed acceptable length for the Quarterly. Each paper concentrates on
an urgent situation precipitated by policies or activities adversely affecting
indigenous peoples. Planned to influence policy as well as to inform read­
ers, Cultural Survival Reports accepted for publication are printed immedi­
ately and sold at cost.

Cultural Survival also publishes the results of staff research, non-staff in­
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02138, 617-495-2562.

Page 86

However, this transition is not necessarily beneficial to the recipients of
such aid if the resulting integration is poorly carried out. Lappe, Collins and
Kinley (1979) recently noted that US foreign aid frequently fails to reach the
poor because of necessity it is based on a fallacy - namely, that aid can
reach the powerless when funneled through the powerful.

Another motive for the US proposal to eradicate coca leaf in Peru is that
it represents an attempt by drug control agei-cies in the US to show that
they can effectively stop cocaine trafficking. According to one estimate,
60-120 tons of cocaine are consumed in the US alone (The New York Times
June 1980). It is believed that as many as 7,000 unauthorized drug-bearing
flights arrive every year from South America (The New York Times May
1980). Joint committees of Congress have criticized government efforts to
interdict trafficking.

The enormous wealth generated from cocaine trafficking is impossible to
calculate exactly. Rough estimates indicate that Bolivia and Peru together
produce enough metric tons of leaf to make 25 billion dollars worth of co­
caine, if all this leaf cultivated illegally were converted into cocaine, and if
the drug were sold at its current wholesale value ($65,000 per kg). Two­
thirds of this amount is Peru's share, since official DEA (US Drug Enforce­
ment Administration) estimates indicate that Peru produces twice as much
leaf as Bolivia.6

Whatever amount of money circulates as a result of cocaine trafficking,
this enormous quantity can have destabilizing effects on private banking in­
stitutions and even governments, as the Vienna-based International Nar­
cotics Control Board has recently noted (WHO Journal February 1981).
Therefore, the US effort to eradicate coca leaf, even if only partially suc­
cessful, can also be viewed as an effort by the United States government to
deal with the corruption and disequilibrium the circulation of vast amounts
of illegal currency causes.

The Peruvian government is likely to implement the North American

proposal despite the inevitable protest that will occur from those peasants
who fear their economic livelihood will be harmed and from those peasants
who fear tl .eir centuries-old traditional use of the leaf will be jeopard­
ized. Peas :-i.s substitute for coca leaf inrcognize that no other crop can
terms ol :,r,,cability and the ability to meet cash needs peasants face; no
other suL;.,ance or cultural element can ,eplace coca's cultural importance
or v-"lue in helping peasants live under the difficulties stemming from life at
high altitudes in the Andes.

However, peasants' protests against government threats and actions to
curtail coca leaf cultivation have, to date, not been of sufficient militancy or
sufficiently threatening to the established order for the Peruvian govern­
ment to reject the idea of eradication in parts of the high jungle in return for
foreign assistance to develop the high jungle.

Peru remains an underdeveloped capitalist state whose economic system

82 Coca and Cocaine

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is integrated into a larger global economic system and is especially influ­
enced by the US government's attitudes and actions. Recently, several inter­
national lending institutions, such as the IMF, which is strongly influenced
by North American banking interests, "rescued" Peru's bankrupt economy
with a series of loans. These institutions have emphasized the importance of
promoting Peruvian industrial developmen. One result has been the
stagnation of Peruvian agriculture and, in particular, agricultural develop­
ment of the high jungle.

Support for promotion of Peruvian industrial development is motivated
no( only by the belief of lending institutions that promotion of petroleum
and mining production in Peru will help assure that Peru pays off its exter­
nal debts, but also by a need for these products in the developed world.

The coca leaf cultivation boom in the Peruvian high jungle the last several
years reflects an increased demand in the US and elsewhere for the raw
materials that are used to manufacture cocaine as well as the Peruvian
government's lack of support to promote agriculture in general. Not only do
other crops fail to make close to the profits coca leaf does, but high bank in­
terest rates, poor marketing possibilities, fluctuating prices and soaring in­
flation make cultivation of most other crops a losing proposition for the

Hence the appeal of the North American proposal; it would increase
Peru's agricultural and agroindustrial exports as well as its production of
food crops to feed the urban poor hit hardest by soaring food costs. 7 A
developed high jungle might also mean increased work opportunities for
Peru's unemployed and a geographical area into which some of Peru's
highly concentrated highland Indian population might be funneled.

Other indirect results are likely to follow from implementation of the
development part of the US proposal. These benefits are thought to include
further integration of peasant life into national life, individualization of
land ownership and a technological transfer from a traditional and indepen­
dent peasant economy to one more dependent on production on the na­
tional and international market, none of which have been proven to be
beneficial to peasants. Peru might also, through the eradication part of the
proposal, gain greater control over an extraordinarily valuable (albeit il­
legal) commodity and the inflation it has caused.

The US proposal represents a diversity of North American interests. The
eradication aspects of the proposal may help to incet Congressional
criticism that US drug control agencies have not been successful in curbing
cocaine trafficking. The development aspects of the proposal might extend
North American influence over the Peruvian government's national policy
decisions and create greater dependency ties between Peru and the United

Cultural Survival and LASP 83

Page 171


Brazil. Articles translated from "A Quest~o de Emancipaqo" (Comissao
Pro-Indio, Sao Paulo, 1979) and "Nimuendaju" (Comiss5o Pro-Indio, Rio
de Janeiro, 1979). (No. 1, December 1979.) 68 pages. $1.
The Indian Peoples of Paraguay: Their Plight and Their Prospects. By Da­
vid Maybury-Lewis and James Howe. (No. 2, October 1980.) 122 pages. $4.
Amazonia Ecuatoriana: La Otra Cara del Progreso. Edited by Norman E.
Whitten, Jr. Contributions by N. E. Whitten, Jr., E. Salazar, P. Descola,
A. C. Taylor, W. Belzner, T. Macdonald, Jr., and D. Whitten Published
with Mundo Shuar. (No. 3, 1981.) 227 pages. $2.50.
Fishers of Men or Founders of Empire? The Wycliffe Bible Translators in
Latin America. A U.S. Evangelical Mission in the Third World. By David
Stoll. Published with Zed Press. (No. 4, December 1982.) 344 pages. $12.99.

Pleasesend check or money orderfor the amount of orderplus $1 postage
and handling to CulturalSurvival Publications,11 Divinity Avenue, Cam­
bridge, M-. 02138. Bookstores and those needing publications for class­
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CulturalSurvival and LASP 169

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