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The Collective
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Via the BBC: Peru to bomb Amazon cocaine labs

The Peruvian President, Alan Garcia, has ordered the use of warplanes to destroy clandestine airstrips and drug laboratories in the Amazon jungle.

Mr Garcia said drug barons must also be pursued and warned that Peru could face an insurgency funded by illicit drugs.

Peru must kill the drug-trafficking trade or have to deal with an insurgency like that of neighbouring Colombia, Mr Garcia said.

Indeed, Sendero Luminoso tapped into the drug trade as a method of funding itself back in the 1990s.

Of course, it would appear that the motivation for this rather ambitious policy announcement has a lot more to do with internal politics, as well as international relations, than about anti-drug policy, per se.

There has been an ongoing conflict within Peru over the traditional cultivation of coca leaf and the illicit drug trade that is akin to some of what we have seen in Bolivia in recent years. This has recently manifested as a strike by coca farmers:

Mr Garcia was speaking at the end of a two-week suspension of efforts to eradicate coca plants in one Amazon region, in his strongest statement on the cocaine trade since taking office last year.

The eradication campaign there was suspended after the agriculture minister, Juan Jose Salazar, negotiated with striking coca farmers. He was later heavily criticised by the opposition and some drug-trafficking experts.

Mr Salazar said the eradication strategy of the last 10 years had failed and there had been an increase in violence and cocaine production.

Salazar, quite frankly, has a point.

However, such a position is not popular in Washington, and it is there that the international dimension of Garcia’s move fits:

Later this month, Mr Garcia will visit Washington to try to ratify a free trade agreement with the US, which had been thrown into doubt by the Democrat-led Congress.

In regards to legal/illegal coca cultivation:

Peru allows a certain amount of coca leaf to be legally cultivated for traditional and medicinal use, but this makes up less than 10% of the 100,000 tonnes of the leaf produced in the country.

Recent years have seen a rise in Peru’s cocaine production and the growing presence of drug-trafficking cartels.

In regards to the “growing presence of drug-trafficking cartels” it is worth noting, in terms of policy evaluation, that Peru was once a far larger player in coca cultivation, but crop eradication programs helped to substantially reduce cultivation (both in Peru and Bolivia). However, as cultivation in Peru and Bolivia diminished, it simply moved into Colombia (which has not always been the major cultivator-state for coca leaf). There has been some success in reducing hectares under cultivation in Colombia, but one result of that policy “success” has been that cultivation has been moving back into Peru (and into other areas of Colombia).

Eradication policies have done a good job of making cultivation move around, but not such a good job of cutting down on drug supply. As such, if one watches this stuff long enough, the same stories tend to repeat themselves.

Technorati Tags: Peru, Coca, Alan Garcia, Cocaine, War on Drugs

Sphere: Related Content

Filed under: Latin America, War on Drugs | |

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