The Decolonization of Bolivia's Antinarcotics Policy


  • Alba Hesselroth



Andean countries, decolonization, drug policy, US drug policy


This paper argues that a peculiar form of colonization developed during the 20th century in Bolivia's antinarcotics policy, comprised of features that resemble both external and internal colonialism. On the one hand, international institutions and the United States were able to impose a system of control and prohibition on the growing and consumption of coca leaf in the country. On the other hand, the governing elite supported by the US imposed their power and domination over coca farmers, introducing US-sponsored prohibition of the growing of coca leaf and promoting forced coca eradication, severely jeopardizing coca farmers’ rights. In contrast to previous administrations that passively accepted decisions taken in international forums regarding coca leaf classification as an illegal drug, and rigorously followed instructions issued by the US with respect to eradication of coca, the government of Evo Morales is acting to change this situation in a twofold effort in both international and national arenas. Through the analysis of policies issued by this government between 2006-2014, this paper argues that in its management of antinarcotics policy is pursuing a particular process of decolonization to defend traditional uses of coca leaf, protect social, economic and cultural rights of Andean indigenous peoples involved in its production and/or consumption, and promote economic development of areas where coca is grown.