Bolivian President Evo Morales has begun a campaign to eliminate the indigenous Bolivian tradition of using urine to cure coughs and other mild diseases, admitting in a public statement that he had often used urine to cure himself in his youth at the behest of a local doctor.
“I was raised in the fields, and I cured myself with urine,” Morales stated at a public event to provide the town of Cochabamba with more modern medical equipment. “I grew up in the fields consuming lampaya and wira-wira to cure cough and, I lament to say, urine. When some doctor told me ‘drink urine, it is good,’ I would cure myself with urine, drinking urine,” he explained. “That was my medicine, we are from that family.” Morales, the first ethnically indigenous president of Bolivia, has long used his roots to reach out to rural indigenous Bolivians who have long felt alienated by the politics of La Paz.
Morales hosted the event in Cochabamba to promote the use of scientifically sanctioned medicine in indigenous areas, where such technology is often little known or rejected. The president gingerly suggested to the indigenous doctors of the region to, “with much respect, we must combine tradition medicine with science,” urging local doctors not to, among other things, encourage residents to drink urine. “There are still mothers today who cure their children with urine – it hurts, but it is true. That is the reality,” he told the crowd.
Morales has relied heavily on Cuba for many years to provide some medical aid. By 2008, over 2,000 Cuban doctors had visited and worked in the South American nation. Despite the aid from the impoverished communist Cuba, Bolivia’s medical situation is dubious at best in areas like the capital, La Paz, and critically damaged in rural areas. According to the United States embassy in the country, access to health care in rural areas is limited.
In addition to poverty issues limiting access to quality medicine, Bolivia was embroiled last year in a scandal in which individuals used false medical degrees obtained in Bolivia to practice medicine in other parts of South America. Fifteen Brazilian citizens were found to hold falsified degrees from the University of Cochabamba – fifteen confirmed cases of the alleged eighty initially brought to the attention of the authorities. Forty-one other falsified degrees allegedly conferred by other universities in Bolivia also made their way to Brazil.