Editor’s note: This is the first installment of a two-part series on Bolivia’s relationship with coca, funded by WPR’s International Reporting Fellowship. The second installment can be found here.
Ten years ago, Bolivian President Evo Morales expelled the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which had been tasked with curbing the production of coca in Bolivia, the main ingredient in cocaine. Since then, Morales has championed a nationalized, legal coca market, but critics accuse him of fostering the rise of a narco-state.
On a Monday afternoon this past February, around 300 residents of the small jungle town of Chimore in central Bolivia gathered at the town plaza ahead of a speech by the country’s president, Evo Morales.