La Paz, Bolivia — Indian leader Evo Morales said he would reject Washington's policy of eradicating much of Bolivia's coca crop if he is elected president and pledged he would work to legalize the leaf used to make cocaine.
Morales, a front-runner in this Andean nation's Dec. 4 election, is an Aymara Indian who led protests that helped oust President Carlos Mesa in June and led to the calling of the December vote.
He rose to power 10 years ago as the leader of the coca growers of the Chapare region, where U.S.-backed eradication efforts are focused.
During a campaign stop in the city of Sucre late Tuesday, Morales said the U.S. government's policies have the sole objective of "eliminating coca" and "tormenting the cocaleros," the people who grow coca.
Morales said he would oppose coca eradication efforts if president, but added that he would still fight cocaine production.
"They're won't be zero coca, but there will by zero drug trafficking," Morales said.
The U.S. Embassy in Bolivia would not immediately comment on Morales' position.