Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Colombia Sells Coca-Leaf Soda

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Colombia Sells Coca-Leaf Soda

Article excerpt

Forget Coca-Cola, a group of Colombian Indians is telling its community. Drink the real thing: coca.

Nasa Indians in southwestern Colombian have launched a soft drink made from coca leaves, a staple among indigenous Colombians for centuries and the main ingredient in cocaine. The amber-colored soda, its promoters say, offers a home-grown alternative to Coca- Cola.

"People associate coca with cocaine. We wanted to convince people that coca is not the same as the drug and to allow indigenous people to be proud of the leaf," says David Curtidor, who leads the project.

Nasa Indians grow coca legally for traditional uses, but illegal coca plantations in Colombia - the world's largest exporter of cocaine - have been the target of an aerial fumigation program bankrolled by the United States.

The drink was officially launched last week in the town of Inza which banned Coca-Cola from its store shelves last year in protest against Coke's Colombian bottlers who allegedly hired right-wing paramilitary forces in 1996 to intimidate and kill union leaders. The bottlers deny the charges. A US lawsuit is still pending.

The new soft drink, Coca-Sek, means "Coca of the Sun" in the Nasa language. …

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