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Bolivia's president re-elected head of coca union, calls for growth of legally allowed crops

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LA PAZ, Bolivia — Bolivian President Evo Morales has been re-elected head of the country's largest union of coca growers and promises to expand crops if he wins a third term as the nation's leader.

Morales told union members Sunday that Bolivia needs a new law regarding coca production.

PHOTO: FILE- In this July 16, 2014, file photo, Bolivia's President Evo Morales poses for a photo during the BRICS Summit at the Itamaraty Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil. Morales has been re-elected head of the country’s largest union of coca growers on July 20, 2014, and promises to expand crops if he wins a third term as the nation’s leader. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana,File)
FILE- In this July 16, 2014, file photo, Bolivia's President Evo Morales poses for a photo during the BRICS Summit at the Itamaraty Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil. Morales has been re-elected head of the country’s largest union of coca growers on July 20, 2014, and promises to expand crops if he wins a third term as the nation’s leader. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana,File)

Current law allows nearly 30,000 acres of coca leaf to be grown for traditional use. One proposal would expand the permitted acreage, including in the Chapare region that is Morales' political base, to more than 49,000 acres.

The United Nations, however, has estimated Bolivia already grows more than that, with nearly 57,000 acres believed dedicated to the crop last year.

Traditionally, coca leaf is used in religious rituals or to fight off fatigue and altitude sickness. It also can be used to produce cocaine.

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