Dec. 16 - Bolivia's president holds talks as his country prepares to withdraw from U.N. narcotics convention over the criminalization of coca leaves. Paul Chapman reports.
Bolivian President Evo Morales is appealing to the International Narcotics Control Board in his battle to get coca leaves off the illegal substances list. Bolivia is set to pull out of the United Nations anti-narcotics conventions next month if the issue isn't resolved. SOUNDBITE: Bolivian President Evo Morales saying (Spanish): "We appealed, first, with an amendment to the Vienna Convention to repair the historic damage banning consumption of the coca leaf. They have denied our appeal. Meeting with international procedures we have requested the decriminalisation of the practice. I have asked the INCB to help us repair this historic damage." Coca leaf, the main ingredient of cocaine, was declared an illegal narcotic in 1961. But it's chewed by many Bolivians to curb hunger and altitude sickness. Morales, himself a former coca grower, has stepped up efforts to cut production of the crop. But his elimination programmes have been outpaced by the spread of new crops, alarming neighbouring Brazil and the United States. Morales says he's willing to tackle illegal drug trafficking but says coca leaf is part of Bolivia's cultural heritage. Paul Chapman, Reuters