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Click here for more about cocaine and South America.



18 Percent Increase Over Past 5 Years in Andean Coca Production, $4 Billion Wasted

The United States has poured billions of dollars over the last 20 years into South America towards cocaine eradication, all while Bolivia has seen a significant rise in cocaine production. In South America, coca is viewed as a central crop to many farming families survival. According to The Washington Post September 3, 2008 article,("Despite U.S. Aid, Coca Cultivation on Rise in Andes") "Across the Andean region, the size of the coca crop has increased 18 percent in the past five years, a period during which the United States has spent $4 billion on anti-drug programs. With farmers turning to pesticides and modern irrigation to improve crop yields, the amount of cocaine produced in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia -- source countries for nearly all of the global supply -- hovers at 1,100 tons a year, according to a recent U.N. report."

The article states, "Here in the lush Yungas region of western Bolivia, farmers are allowed by law to plant a total of nearly 30,000 acres of coca--leaf that is then sold in the domestic market for tea or to be chewed to ward off hunger. But production here far exceeds that threshold, and much of the surplus feeds a cocaine trade thriving in part on the new regional demand of a rising Latin American middle class. The Andean cocaine supply now exceeds the amount produced in the 1990s, when U.S. policymakers pushed anti-drug aid to the region to counter powerful Colombian cartels. In 1993, when a U.S.-supported police unit shot dead the drug lord Pablo Escobar in his home town of Medellin, the Andes produced 200 fewer tons of cocaine than it did last year."

The article adds, "So far this decade, the United States has invested nearly $8 billion in the drug war, funding manual eradication efforts in Bolivia and neighboring Peru and an aerial herbicide-spraying program in Colombia that has covered more than 2.5 million acres since 2000. In Colombia, where the United States has spent the most, coca cultivation rose 27 percent from 2006 to 2007, to about 245,000 acres. That accounts for more than 50 percent of all coca production in the region. Coca plantings in Bolivia and Peru also increased by about 5 percent each. Taken together, the United Nations reported a 16 percent increase in Andean coca production in 2007."

The article notes, "While Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is revered in Washington for his tough stance against cocaine trafficking, the Bush administration has been sharply at odds with Bolivia's president, Evo Morales, a former coca farmer who still heads the coca growers federation. Morales rose to power on the strength of his leadership of coca growers, who organized against what they saw as damaging U.S.-sponsored eradication policies. Since being elected president in December 2005, Morales has promoted the coca leaf as a symbol of Bolivian nationalism, while stressing the need to fight cocaine production. His government continues to eradicate illegal coca -- plots with known links to the drug trade or grown in national parks, for example. Under Morales, the amount of cocaine seized each year has risen to the nearly 20 tons confiscated so far this year, according to government statistics. Morales also supports a four-year-old policy that allows coca farmers in Bolivia's Chapare region, where coca cultivation had previously been illegal, to grow the plant on a third of an acre of their land, called a cato. Critics say the policy has led to a spike in coca production because coca farmers, or cocaleros, do not fear punishment if they exceed the limit. The U.N. figures show that coca cultivation last year in Bolivia surpassed the 50,000-acre limit that the government allows by nearly 50 percent."

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