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Jan 12, 2013 Associated Press
LA PAZ, Bolivia — Evo Morales' global crusade to decriminalize the coca leaf, launched in 2006 after the coca growers' union leader was first elected president of Bolivia, has finally attained a partial, if largely, symbolic victory.
A year ago, Bolivia temporarily withdrew from the 1961 U.N. convention on narcotic drugs because it classifies coca leaf, the raw material of cocaine, as an illicit drug.
It has now rejoined, with one important caveat: The centuries-old Andean practice of chewing or otherwise ingesting coca leaves, a mild stimulant in its natural form, will now be universally recognized as legal within Bolivia.
To press for coca's decriminalization, Bolivia's first indigenous president has chewed it at international forums, bestowed coca-leaf art on such figures as former U.S. Secretary of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and promoted the leaf as a "nutritional" ingredient fit for school lunches.
Bolivia's condition for rejoining the convention met resistance from 15 countries, including the United States and the rest of the G8 group of industrial nations, according to U.N. spokeswoman Arancha Hinojal. But the objections received by the United Nations ahead of Thursday's midnight deadline fell far short.