Lalo de Almeida
Initiated by its unconventional former president Eva Morales, Bolivia has been trying a different approach to an issue affecting a number of countries in the region – the dangerous supply chain that leads from coca leaf plantations, a feature of the Andes for centuries, to the ruthless, criminal cartels that buy the leaves and produce cocaine, an industry blamed for rampant violence and criminality. Evo Morales, a former coca farmer, forced the American DEA to leave Bolivia and introduced a policy of legal coca farming while maintaining strong enforcement of drug laws to combat the illegal production of cocaine. As a consequence the area under coca production has remained constant and the murder rate in Bolivia remains one of the lowest in Latin America. The Bolivian experience is at odds with the other two major producers Colombia and Peru which have had little success in suppressing coca production which continues to expand, while murder rates in both countries remains high.