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May 31 (Bloomberg) -- Former Cuban President Fidel Castro said the global ban on coca, the leaf used to make cocaine, is like taking away tea from the English.

The leaf, whose eradication is mandated by a 1961 United Nations treaty, is used as part of millennia-old traditions among Indians in Andean countries including Bolivia, Castro wrote in a “Reflections” column published on the Cuba Debate website.

“Prohibiting it is like saying to the English that they can’t consume tea, a healthy custom imported by the U.K. from Asia, which was conquered and colonized by them for centuries,” Castro wrote in the column titled “The Empire and Drugs.”

Peasants and miners in Bolivia chew coca, a stimulant, to ward off hunger and ease headaches.

The leader of the 1959 Cuban Revolution said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his counterpart in Bolivia, Evo Morales, are working especially hard to combat the production and trafficking of cocaine, which he said is different from the raw leaf.

The coca leaf contains less than 1 percent of the alkaloid that in large amounts can be used to make cocaine.

By Jonathan J. Levin


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