In a long-anticipated trip, Pope Francis arrives in Bolivia today, almost 30 years after the last papal visit. Bolivia’s president Evo Morales and the Argentine pontiff developed a good rapport during the president’s meeting at the Vatican in October 2014. The Pope’s commitment to the poor resonates well in a country that has prioritized the empowerment of previously excluded peoples under the leadership of Morales, the first indigenous president in the country.
Indeed, the Pope plans to embrace one of Bolivia’s strongest indigenous traditions by chewing coca leaves, a mild stimulant that has similar effects to coffee and that helps to mitigate the impact of the high altitude, in La Paz, his first stop. In doing so, the pontiff could give a boost to the Bolivian government’s efforts to gain international legal status for its sacred leaf, which is erroneously banned as a narcotic drug in the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.
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