Bolivia Enters the Cola War With New "Coca-Colla"

Bolivian President Morales is the first to openly chew coca leaves in the UN. Photo via MercoPress
Bolivia has a standing army of around 55,500 soldier. Coca-Cola has a workforce of 71,000 worldwide. Being outnumbered, however, is not discouraging the government of the small South American nation from tossing its hat into the ring of the 'Cola Wars'. Bolivian President Evo Morales left little doubt which refreshment empire he had his sights set on with the decision when he made the announcement last week that his country would begin producing a new beverage, called Coca-Colla. Politically Expedient Soda
The move by the Morales is quite cunning in that it kills two birds with one stone. Not only is the socialist leader drumming up support for standing up against the great capitalist symbol (responsible for inspiring terms like "Coca-Colanization"), he's aiming resources to bring a boon the nation's coca growers. Morales began his career as a union leader for coca growers and is the first president to openly chew the leaves in meetings with the United Nations.

According to the Ministry of Coca and Integral Development, the project is already underway and the beverage may reach the market in four months. The government, however, has not yet determined whether the project will be fully state-run or whether they'll try to attract private capital, reports O Estado.

A Good Reason to Grow Coca
Bolivia is the third largest producer of coca in the world after Colombia and Peru, but Morales has promised to increase the area for legal cultivation of coca in the nation. Because of international pressures to reduce cocaine production and an unwillingness on the part of farmers to stop growing the plant long considered part of the Bolivian identity, the government has done its best to keep the demand for coca high. Recently years have seen the manufacture of tea, flour, toothpaste and alcoholic drinks made from coca leaves, but Bolivia is hoping to meet bigger success with the new soda.

Another Jab at the US?
The project is bound to be another source of controversy with the U.S.. The two nations have been on uncertain terms diplomatically since the Bolivian government expelled the DEA and, in 2008, declared the U.S. ambassador persona non grata.

Whether or not the initiative is a success, Bolivia may find international support for standing up to a company that many see as an unfeeling capitalist juggernaut with a product that better serves the environment and livelihoods of the people producing it. No word on how Coca-Colla will taste, but there's already something refreshing about it.

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Tags: Bolivia | Consumerism | Developing Nations | Farming