Bolivia's Evo Morales has been re-elected.
Some of you may be asking, "Weren't the country's elections in 2009?" Yes, they were. That's not at all what we're talking about.
It was reported Monday by several Hispanic news outlets - including Los Tiempos, La Razon and La Rioja (excuse the Google Translate pages, but you get the idea) - that the Bolivian president once again has been elected to helm the union for coca leaf producers in the nation.
Coca, as in the precursor plant for cocaine.
Those of you familiar with Morales are aware of his fondness for the crop. You might even remember the time he gave Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice a charango, an Andean instrument similar to a ukelele, inlaid with leaves from the plant ... which must have made for spirited discussion when she came back through U.S. Customs.
Those of you familiar with Bolivia are aware that many indigenous folks there have been known to employ the plant for purposes unrelated to Scarface Delight. The plant has been used for thousands of years in the Andes, and not merely as a stimulant. It's also a medicine that can reportedly relieve altitude sickness and pain or suppress appetite if you chew the leaves, a custom known as "acullico."
Holding up a coca leaf at a U.N. meeting on narcotics Monday, Bolivian President Evo Morales defended the practice of chewing on the leaves as tradition and urged the body to reconsider its decision to declare it illegal.
Coca leaves, the raw ingredient used in the making of cocaine, were declared an illegal substance under Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, along with heroin and others.
"I want to ask the assistance of the international community in correcting a historical error that was committed against the Bolivian people when it unreservedly ratified the Single Convention Against Narcotic Drugs of 1961," Morales told the 55th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, Austria.
Bolivia has withdrawn from the convention, but said it would rejoin if the traditional consumption of coca leaf is allowed to continue.
Morales, a former union leader for coca growers, told the body his country has designated $20 million to fight cocaine traffickin - but cultural "producers of coca leaf are not drug dealers; consumers of coca leaf are not drug addicts," he said.FULL STORY
Update: A 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck Bolivia Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
The quake's epicenter was about 185 kilometers (115 miles) south-southeast of Santa Ana, Bolivia, the agency said. It struck at a depth of about 530 kilometers (330 miles).
There were no immediate reports of injuries of damage.
Preliminary estimates put the magnitude at 6.7, but authorities later revised the number.
The U.S. State Department on Thursday issued a travel warning for U.S. citizens living in or visiting Bolivia because of the massive protests in the country's southwest.
The travel alert says Bolivia is suffering "unstable social and security situations" in several regions.