LA PAZ (Reuters) - Bolivia, the world’s third biggest cocaine producer, should redesign its coat of arms to include coca leaves, according to one group of delegates to an assembly rewriting the constitution.
Outside of the Andean region, coca is known as the main ingredient for cocaine, but in Bolivia it is a treasured herb and mild stimulant used in traditional medicines to stave off hunger and altitude sickness. It is also used in religious ceremonies.
“Laurel and olive branches should be replaced by branches of sacred ancient coca leaf, as a symbol of perseverance and the people’s economy,” says a proposal before the assembly that is overhauling Bolivia’s constitution to guarantee more rights for the poor and the Indian majority.
The proposal says the laurel and olive branches are European symbols.
Coca would join a llama and a condor, animals native to the Bolivian Andes, on the coat of arms.
Leftist, indigenous president Evo Morales came to political prominence as a leader of rebellious coca farmer groups.
He aims to crack down on cocaine production while scaling back programs to eradicate coca crops and promoting legal commercial uses for the leaf in everything from toothpastes and candies to balms.
The State Department says Morales’ policy had contributed to an expansion in coca growing and that it threatened to undermine advances made in the 1990s in U.S.-backed coca-eradication programs.