a collection of stories from the past 20 years

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Award-winning investigative journalist (and dad) Peter Gorman has spent more than 20 years tracking down stories from the streets of Manhattan to the slums of Bombay. Specializing in Drug War issues, he is credited as a primary journalist in the medical marijuana and hemp movements, as well as in property forfeiture reform. His work has appeared in over 100 national and international magazines and newspapers.

Peter Gorman's love affair with the Amazon jungle is well-known to people in the field. Since 1984 Mr. Gorman has spent a minimum of three months annually there generally using Iquitos
Peru as his base. During that time he has studied ayahuasca the visionary healing vine of the jungle with his friend the curandero Julio Jerena. He has collected artifacts for the American Museum of Natural History botanical specimens for Shaman Pharmaceuticals and herpetological specimens for the FIDIA Research Institute of the University of Rome. His description of the indiginous Matses Indians’ use of the secretions of the phyllomedusa bicolor frog has opened an entire field devoted to the use of amphibian peptides as potential medicines in Western medicine.

EVO MORALES: Bolivia’s New President Faces Uphill Task
Centuries of repression, US-imposed policies, and a bleak economy make Evo Morales’ promises difficult to keep.

by Peter Gorman

Just three months into his term, Bolivia’s new president, Juan Evo Morales Ayma is discovering that what he’d put on the table in order to get elected and the reality of the Bolivian political system are not just disparate, they may be irreconcilable. During the months of March and April, strikes by workers and unionists—the kind Morales was famous for leading—have blocked roads and airports, putting Morales-as-president in the unfamiliar role of strike-buster, rather than in his more familiar role as strike-organizer.

Morales, an Ayamara Indian who grew up in poverty as the son of a dirt farmer, won the recent presidential elections on the strength of the voices of the “forgotten people” as he called them, the vast majority of Bolivia’s 9.4 million citizens, more than two-thirds of which are indigenous Ayamara and Quechua people, whose voices, until recently have rarely, if ever, been heard. While their silence was initially the result of the Spanish conquest nearly 500 years ago, and later a result of the land-locked Andean nation’s de facto rule by oligarchy, during the past 35-years Bolivia’s indigenous majority has largely been kept silent and impoverished as a result of US-machinations, both politically and economically.
Morales’ platform promises to those people included legalization of all coca growing for industrial purposes—and with it the end of all forced eradication programs. (The coca leaf is already legal for locals who have used the sacred plant for as long as Bolivia, like Peru and Ecuador, has been inhabited, but for the past 20-years has been subject to eradication programs pushed by the US, which holds vital purse strings on which Bolivia has long depended.) He also promised to either nationalize or demand a larger slice of the pie from several industries—particularly the natural gas industry—which previous administrations have sold to foreign corporations. While those promises resonated with a populace which has been suffering for centuries, they put fear into the heart of international investors, corporations, and the US government, which sees Morales as a smaller version of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, a definite threat to the US-based free-trade, global economy policies it’s been trying to enact throughout Central and South America.
While those US policies are relatively new, the policy of US-intervention in Latin America dates back more than a century. In Bolivia, US attempts to impose its policies can be dated back to 1971, when strongman Hugo Banzer, trained at the notorious US School of the Americas, took dictatorial control of Bolivia after leading a successful US-backed coup against the legitimate president of the time. During Banzer’s tenure he banned socialist movements, closed universities, and operated death-squads that saw the disappearance of more than 3,000 of his political enemies, most of whom were Communists, the US bogeyman of the era. Simultaneously, he was widely known as the man through whose hands all of the country’s cocaine—and Bolivia was the world’s leading producer at the time—passed. If the US was not complicit in the trade, it was certainly willing to let it occur so long as Banzer eliminated any potential communist threat in the region. He resigned in 1978, a very wealthy man.
Nearly 20-years later, in 1997, Banzer returned to power as the democratically-elected president of Bolivia. Again backed by the US, he promised to eliminate all coca growing in the country by the time his term ended in 2002. Coca eradication, which was already ongoing, was stepped up, leading to civil unrest, and drawing the ire of coca-grower Evo Morales. Morales, at the time, was head of a fledgling coca-growers’ federation. U