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Enacting democracy in a de facto state: coca, cocaine and campesino unions in the Chapare, Bolivia.

Grisaffi, T. (2022) Enacting democracy in a de facto state: coca, cocaine and campesino unions in the Chapare, Bolivia. Journal of Peasant Studies, 49 (6). pp. 1273-1294. ISSN 0306-6150

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/03066150.2021.1922889


In Bolivia’s Chapare coca growing region, the union structure (sindicato) is the cornerstone of social and political organization. The type of democracy practiced by coca growers’ unions, has been portrayed by the media and opposition politicians as illiberal, anti-democratic, and even authoritarian. But yardsticks rooted in western democratic traditions do not readily apply as there is a substantively different form of democracy at work. The union leadership's use of force and sanctions is the result of a negotiated process, made with the consent of all members. But what evolved as the government of coca grower leader Evo Morales remained in power for three terms was a more top-down approach, as union executives increasingly disengaged from the grassroots. Union-led action against excess coca cultivation and cocaine paste production has impacted on some peasant households negatively and criticism that the amount of coca legally sanctioned was insufficient is ubiquitous. Thus, even among loyal followers, growing numbers of coca growers came to see Morales as increasingly authoritarian in failing to heed the principle of “leading by obeying. In telling this story this article contributes to debates on how state-level interventions intersect with the goals of the social movements that put them in power.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
ID Code:98694


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