Gregg Dobbs Writes From Bolivia's Coca Country

February 2006

Former Rocky Mountain News media reporter Greg Dobbs is in the heart of Bolivia's coca-leaf producing region working on a television documentary. His article in today's News describing the trip, the responses of the farmers to his question about whether they are responsible for lives destroyed by cocaine use and the details of the amount our government futilely has spent trying to eradicate the plant make it a very good read. Here's a snippet, about the road conditions:

....most of the trip after that, we felt our way along what Bolivians call el camino mas peligroso en el mundo, which literally translates as "the most dangerous road in the world." If it isn't, it's a close second! As it descends almost two miles from the Andean summit toward the Amazon River basin, it's just a slippery, rutty, muddy, cliffside, single-lane dirt track. Yet it's a two-way road. So when another car or, worse, a truck or a bus (with all the passengers shouting out their windows helping direct the delicate ballet of one vehicle squeezing by another) comes at you from the other direction, you are more than ever aware of the drop-offs. Sheer, sudden, spectacular, jungle-covered drop-offs of 1,000, 1,500, 2,000 feet. If your rear tire should slip on any of the road's thousand hairpin turns, you'll drop straight - and I mean straight - down into the rainforest. But if it was good enough for the Incans, it was good enough for us.

Bolivia elected the left-leaning Evo Morales President last month. He has promised to keep coca farming legal, much to the consternation of the U.S. Last week he slashed his own salary and those of his cabinet members, declaring the savings would be used to pay more for teachers. I wouldn't mind seeing our President do that.