29 Jun 2015

Pope 'plans to chew coca leaves during Bolivia visit'

Pope Francis has requested to chew coca leaves during his forthcoming visit to Bolivia, according to Bolivian Culture Minister Marko Machicao.


Coca, the raw ingredient for cocaine, has been used in the Andes for thousands of years to combat altitude sickness and as a mild stimulant. Mr Machicao said the government offered the Pope coca tea and the pontiff had "specifically requested" to chew coca. Coca leaves were declared an illegal substance under the 1961 UN convention on narcotic drugs. But the growing of coca leaves for religious and medicinal purposes is legal and licensed in Bolivia.

The Vatican has not yet commented. The Pope travels to Bolivia on 8 July.

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