Coca Colla Goes on Sale in Bolivia

A coca-based soft drink went on sale in Bolivia this week. Coca Colla, made from the coca leaf and named after Bolivia's indigenous Colla people, is the latest manifestation of President Evo Morales' quest to expand legal markets for coca products.

The first batch of Coca Colla, about 12,000 half-litre bottles going for $1.50 each, went on sale in La Paz, Santa Cruz, and Cochabamba. Like Coca-Cola, it is black, sweet, and comes in a bottle with a red label. Unlike Coca-Cola, which originally used full-fledged coca leaf extract but began de-cocainizing it early in the company's history, Coca Colla is the real thing.

While Morales' government has vowed zero tolerance for cocaine, it has encouraged Bolivian companies to use coca in products including tea, syrups, toothpaste, liqueurs, candies, and cakes. The Bolivian government backed Coca Colla from the beginning. If Coca Colla and other coca products take off, the government could expand the amount of land authorized for legal coca production from the current 30,000 acres to as much as 50,000 acres.

"We are seeing how we can give it impetus, because the industrialization of coca interests us," the deputy minister of rural development, the BBC quoted the deputy minister of rural development, Victor Hugo Vázquez, as saying.

Five years ago, Paez indigenous people in Colombia launched a coca-based soft drink, Coca Sek. But that drink was banned in 2007 following pressure from the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), which enforces the international drug treaties that consider coca a drug. No word yet from the INCB on Coca Colla.


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