|Discussing coca leaves' properties in the San Alejo Sunday flea market.|
As part of the negotiations beginning between the government and FARC guerrillas, the government is demanding that the guerrillas get out of the cocaine business, which has long provided much of their financing.
|Coca leaves by the handful.|
Indigenous people in the Andes have chewed coca leaves for thousands of years, without apparent injury, and also used them for religious and medicinal purposes. Bolivian President Evo Morales, an indigenous man who was a coca farmer and is still leader of a coca leaf growers organization, has been lobbying for the U.N. to take the coca leaf off of the prohibited list - so far without success.
|Coca and marijuana oils.|
|Coca tea and crackers.|
Despite coca leaves' benefits for health and the economy of indigenous communities, Colombian anti-drug warriors have tried to demonize the plant, branding it 'La mata que mata,' (The plant that kills) in radio and TV ads, until coca plant growers sued them for defamation and won.
|A sign lists coca leaves' supposed health benefits, including losing weight, removing skin blotches, and giving you energy.|
|These coca products come from harvests in the Sierra de Santa Marta.|
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours