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Coca and the Congressman
Co-Produced by DCTV & PBS (Wide Angle).
The rise of new leftist leaders in South America has been swift and surprising. From Venezuela's Chavez to Brazil's Lula, Argentina's Kirchner to Peru's Toledo, the swelling ranks of left-leaning government leaders has provoked fear among some conservatives. If the proverbial dominos are on the table, will Bolivia be the next to tip over?
In recent years, Bolivia has been roiled by competing political forces, with the indigenous coca growers’ union (the "Cocaleros") becoming an unexpected powerhouse. The Cocaleros' hero is ex-Congressman Evo Morales, a former coca farmer from indigenous peasant roots, who rose up to defend the coca growers against the Bolivian military's crop eradication program. Latin America's highest profile indigenous leader, Morales fell just 45,000 votes shy of the presidency in the country's June 2002 election.
In 2003, as the standoff between the Cocaleros and the government escalates, DCTV travels with Morales to the stunning highlands of Bolivia as he fights to expand the amount of coca that can be legally grown by farmers. From the pitfalls of a drug-based economy to the difficulty of finding suitable replacement crops to support peasant families, from profiles of powerful indigenous politicians working with Morales to the poor miners slaving away in Potosi and a coca-eradication commander on a slash and burn mission, Coca and the Congressman illuminates the shifting balance of power underway in Bolivia and spreading across Latin America.