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Push to promote coca-based food in Bolivia fails to win over palates

  • 797da49b77204a0f310f6a70670050f0.jpg

    In this April 12, 2013 photo, Paneton pastries made by Ebococa sit in the factory in Villa Tunari, Bolivia. Urged on by President Evo Morales, Bolivians had been trying to turn coca leaf, the base ingredient of cocaine, into popular treats ranging from candies to pastries. Yet as coca processing factories were built and products were marketed, a stubborn problem kept getting in the way of Morales' grand plan: Most people, including many Bolivians, just don't like eating coca food. (AP Photo/Juan Karita) (The Associated Press)

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    In this April 12, 2013 photo, machines sit in the industrial plant run by Ebococa in Villa Tunari, Bolivia. The one now-defunct factory churned out a million bags of baked coca treats in 2011 and 2012, as well as sweet breads and liquors made from the tough, bitter-tasting coca plant. To enhance the food's edibility, the factory had added sweeteners, corn and cheese flavoring. But to the government's disappointment, the coca food market refused to grow. (AP Photo/Juan Karita) (The Associated Press)

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    This April 12, 2013 photo, shows the Ebococa industrial plant in Villa Tunari, Bolivia. Bolivia's President Evo Morales has convinced regional allies to both invest in coca food processing plants in Bolivia and import coca products to their own countries. The late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez sank $900,000 in the Ebococa plant in Villa Tunari, which Morales had trumpeted as the country's first to produce coca-based food. (AP Photo/Juan Karita) (The Associated Press)

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    In this April 12, 2013 photo, a man walks through the Ebococa industrial plant in Villa Tunari, Bolivia. The government of Bolivia's President Evo Morales has tried to promote coca foods through culinary festivals and incentives for private companies that produce the treats. He's also financed the construction of a second factory in the capital of La Paz, part of his promise to help fellow coca growers produce everything from hand lotion to syrup to toothpaste. (AP Photo/Juan Karita) (The Associated Press)

Bolivian President Evo Morales has been trying to persuade the world that he has no tolerance for cocaine. He says his country's thousands of acres of coca plants are dedicated to uses such as fighting off fatigue and even in whipping up wholesome treats such as coca puff snacks.

As longtime leader of a coca growers union, Morales and other growers say they want to build a healthy market for coca-based products, despite the belief of U.S. officials that most of Bolivia's crop ends up as narcotics

Yet a stubborn problem keeps getting in the way of the president's grand plan: While coca tea is popular, most people seem to find other coca-based food unappetizing. A series of efforts to create foods based on the bitter leaf have flopped.

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