Bolivia is close to withdrawing from a UN convention on narcotics over attempts to classify coca leaves as an illegal drug. The country is arguing that in their natural state, the leaves are not an illicit substance.
The Bolivian House of Representatives has approved a bill to pull out of the 1961 convention, but the senate still needs to approve the decision. The government says that chewing coca leaves is part of the cultural heritage and is protected by the constitution.
Putting coca on a list of illegal drugs is a sensitive issue for President Evo Morales, who also heads a main coca producer’s union.
Bolivia grows the third largest amount of coca, but much of it is turned into cocaine for consumption in the United States and Europe.