Coca Production Shifts From Colombia to Peru
The U.S. spent more than $5 billion to fight coca production in Colombia over the past decade. The result: Growers have ramped up production in Peru.
When antinarcotics forces succeed in one place — as they recently have in Colombia, which has received more than $5 billion in American aid this decade — cultivation shifts to other corners of the Andes.
Eradication efforts in Peru and Bolivia in the 90's resulted in a shift by growers to Colombia. Now that efforts in Colombia have had success, growers have just moved back to Peru. That's the problem with a supply-oriented policy.
“Washington’s policy of supply-oriented intervention inevitably improves the efficiencies and entrepreneurial skills of traffickers,” said Paul Gootenberg, who wrote the book “Andean Cocaine.”
Coca is more profitable to farmers than other crops:
Now many farmers are planting coca once again. “Coca lets us feed our children,” said Jacinta Rojas, 45, a grower near Tingo María, explaining that coca can be harvested up to five times a year, compared with one or two harvests for crops like cacao.
The resurgence of Peru’s cocaine trade is on display in Tingo María, a bustling town that suffered when coca growing plunged during the 1990s. Now legions of motorcycle taxis swarm the streets and small hotels and restaurants cater to free-spending farmers.
Where does the current policy lead? According to Jaime Antezana, a security analyst at Catholic University in Peru:
“If current cultivation trends continue, we could also surpass Colombia as the world’s largest producer of coca leaf by 2011 or 2012, putting us back in the same place we were in the 1980s,” Mr. Antezana said.
The U.S. is also funneling money to Peru:
American antinarcotics aid for Peru stands at $71.7 million this year, slightly higher than last year’s $70.7 million. American antinarcotics officials operate from a newly expanded Peruvian police base here in Tingo María, overseeing Peruvian teams that fan out to nearby valleys to cut down coca bushes by hand.
What do they buy with the money? Helmets, vests and helicopters. Where that gets us? Chasing our tail.
From one helicopter, Gen. Horacio Huivin, director of Peru’s antidrug police, gazed at coca fields, minutes from Tingo María. “We have fallen into a vicious cycle,” he said, “because we are eradicating in the same places where we were eradicating last year or in previous years.”
How little we've learned. Here's Glenn Frey in 1985 in Smugglers' Blues:
You see it in the headlines, you hear it every day
They say they're gonna stop it, but it doesn't go away
...It's propping up the governments in Columbia and Peru
You ask any D.E.A. man, they'll say there's nothing we can do
From the office of the president right down to me and you
Me and you
It's a losing proposition, but one you can't refuse
It's the politics of contraband, it's the smugglers' blues
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