April 13, 2006

Not just your average soft drink.

The really real thingThe Nasa indigenous people of Colombia's Andes are marketing an increasingly popular soft drink called Coca-Sek, one ingredient for which is a syrup made from boiled coca leaves. The Nasas are hoping to take their drink nationwide, competing for the same market as drinks such as Red Bull and Gatorade. Print ads for Coca-Sek describe the citrus-flavored soft drink as 'more than an energizer.' Indeed.

While North Americans usually think of coca leaves as the main ingredient of cocaine, native people in all of South America's Andean countries have chewed the leaves or used them in food for centuries. The Nasas, like many indigenous people, consider coca leaves sacred.

[The] launch of Coca-Sek has ignited controversy in a country where Washington has spent $4 billion since 1999 combating the drug trade and terrorism.

The reasons are myriad: the tribe's market ambitions for the beverage; the inevitable comparisons with the original Coke, which dropped cocaine from its formula in 1905; and the recent election of Bolivian President Evo Morales, an indigenous coca grower who supports the production of legitimate coca products.

Coca-Sek has also reopened a debate over the limits of the sovereignty that indigenous groups in Colombia and other nations are afforded. The Nasa claim a sovereign right to commercialize the soft drink and other coca products, even though the law permitting its use clearly limits it to traditional, not commercial, ends...

Chewing coca leaves, which depresses the central nervous system, has enabled Indians to soften the effects of hunger, hard work and high altitude for centuries. Franky Rios, the engineer at Popayan's La Reina bottling plant who oversees the production of the beverage, said Coca-Sek delivers the various vitamins and minerals, including calcium, potassium and magnesium, found in the coca leaf.

"It's better than Gatorade," he said.

Via LA Times.

Posted by Magpie at April 13, 2006 01:37 PM | International | Technorati links |

Yes, and think of how many endangered Gators it will save!

Posted by: Kevin Hayden at April 15, 2006 05:24 PM