Global anti-drug strategy a failure, Bolivia tells UN

Vienna, March 12 (IANS/EFE) Current international policy against drugs has failed, creating more violence and operating as an "instrument of geopolitical domination", Bolivian President Evo Morales said here Monday before the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

"Every day there are more drugs on the markets, every day there are more weapons spurring social violence, every day more money from crime is covered up by banking secrecy," he said during the commission's annual meeting in Vienna.

"Illegal drugs constitute the third most profitable industry in the world after food and oil, according to a United Nations report, with an annual estimated value of $450 billion completely under the control of criminals," the Bolivian leader said.

At the same time, he denounced the "political use" of the war on drugs by "certain powers."

Morales said that, without the help of the US, Bolivia has reduced the expanse of fields dedicated to the illegal growing of coca leaf - the raw material of cocaine - and urged other countries to assert national control over anti-drug efforts inside their borders.

With 27,200 hectares planted, Bolivia is the third-largest producer of coca leaf after Colombia and Peru.

A little less than half of Bolivia's coca is grown legally for use in teas, folk remedies and Andean religious rites. Coca leaf, in its unadulterated form, is a mild stimulant similar to caffeine.

Since taking office in 2006, Morales, an Aymara Indian who came to prominence as the leader of coca growers in the Chapare region, has largely moved away from the forced eradication of coca while stepping up efforts against drug traffickers, with record seizures of cocaine.

He has also sought to promote additional legal applications for coca in products including fertilizer and soft drinks.