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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 December 2006, 12:29 GMT
Peru's president recommends coca
Peruvian President Alan Garcia
President Garcia said he had personally cooked with coca leaves
The coca leaf, from which the drug cocaine is derived, should be used in cooking and salads, the president of Peru has suggested.

President Alan Garcia said on Tuesday that coca leaves had many valuable uses, including giving relief from sore throats and colds.

Mr Garcia suggested the legal use of coca as a way of fighting cocaine production and trafficking.

Peru is the world's second largest producer of cocaine behind Colombia.

The coca plant has been used for centuries by Andean people for medicinal and ceremonial purposes, and has sacred status in some South American indigenous cultures.

Alternative uses

Mr Garcia's comments came at a press conference for foreign correspondents at the government palace in Lima.

Although some of Mr Garcia's ideas sounded unorthodox, he insisted that the coca plant could be used for nutritional and medicinal purposes.

He said that "normalising" relations with the coca leaf was a necessary step in combating illegal cocaine production and trafficking.

You could give a little moist coca to world leaders suffering from hoarseness. You'll see how it cleans their throats.
Alan Garcia, Peruvian president

He added that he believed the best way to fight illegal coca plantations was to open new markets so that Peru's land could be used to produce coca for legal purposes.

Mr Garcia's culinary suggestions did not stop at a simple salad.

"You can put coca leaves in your roast dinners, in the oven, you can make many things which it will give a special taste to."

Eradication

The president likened coca leaves to the herb rosemary and to rocket, adding that he personally had cooked with coca leaves.

He also said that coca leaves could be used to treat sore throats, suggesting that other world leaders who suffer from hoarseness should take a little moist coca.

Coca leaves
The coca plant has been used for centuries in Andean cultures

"You will see how it cleans the throat," he advised.

Mr Garcia said his country would continue to fight cocaine production by controlling the sale of chemicals like ether and kerosene used in the process of refining cocaine.

Peru would work to improve police action against drug-traffickers, he added.

A small amount of legal coca cultivation is permitted in Peru but the country has a policy of eradicating illegal crops.

However, coca eradication is a divisive issue in the country.

Despite presidential assurances made to the US in October that Peru would continue to manually eradicate illegal coca crops, coca growers won a number of key mayoral elections in November in central and southern Peru.




SEE ALSO
Seven die in coca ambush in Peru
18 Dec 06 |  Americas
Colombia sees rise in coca growth
20 Jun 06 |  Americas
Coca quandary for hard-up Bolivia
14 Apr 06 |  Americas
Peru vows to smash 'drug rebels'
22 Dec 05 |  Americas
Peru to tolerate coca cultivation
22 Jun 05 |  Americas
Country profile: Peru
25 Oct 06 |  Country profiles

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