LATIN AMERICA - REGIONAL AND POLITICAL ANALYSIS

Created: 2/1/1977

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This publication is prepared for regional specialists In the Washington community by the Office of Regional and Political Analysis, with occasional contributions from other offices within the Directorate of Intelligence, Comments and queries are Welcome. They should be dlrectod to tht authors of the Individual articles.i j

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Obstacles to Coca Crop Substitution

In an effort to curtail the production of cocoa and the flow of cocaine, the Bolivian government, withfrom the OS, ia attempting toarge-scale crop substitution program. Still in the embryonic stage, the program faces serious, and perhapsobstacles.

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! oca production has been an integral part of the

cultural and economic life of Bolivia for hundreds of years* it is ideally suited to the harsh environmentnd rugged terrain of the country. The plant requires virtually no cultivation and can be harvested up to fourear. Although middlemen receive most of the profits from coca production, the oampiainot nonetheless are financially dependent on their earnings from the crop.

Another aspect of the problem is thef alternative crops. Sugar, coffee, cotton, certain fruits, and other products have been tentativelyled, but none are as inexpensive and eaay to grow as coca. Even assuming an ideal replacement is found, there ia no gusranteed international market.

There is concern that the proposed substitutesto wide price

Without price

guarantees and price stability the government's crop substitution efforts are likely to fail. The resultant alienation and loss of political support from the adnpwiinoij, in turn, could adversely affect governmental stability.

One group of aamptitinom has already voiced opento the program and intends to resist theplan. ooperation cart be secured providedirrigation, cooperatives, and other forms of

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a"*Btanoaking an accord'

with tho US which wouldtabla market with equitable prices for the replacement crops.

It is unlikely, however, that any price agreement can bo reached. If the Bolivians are to continue the program, they will have toertain amount of economic risk, social disruption, and political At best, crop substitution willong time coming. In tho interim, coca production is likely to continue to increase.

If crop substitution efforts should fail, thefor coca regulation are slim. In many oases, the significant, large-scalo coca fields are under the aegis of the same Bolivian "lntocables" (untouchables) or mafia figures who control the country's cocaine smuggling networks. These individuals have substantial political and financie1 resources and are, in effect, beyond the law.

Moreover, neither the amount of coca undernor tho exact location of the fields is presently known, and aerial surveillance methods have not yet been developed. Unlike Mexico and Turkey, helicopters cannot bo used effectively in Bolivia for monitoring orprograms because of tho high altitudes involved.

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