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| 4/14/2010 12:00:00 AM

On the front line of the Colombian drugs war

April 14--Production is down in the world's biggest cocaine-producing country. Ten years ago, Colombia churned out almost 1,000 tonnes of cocaine annually, now it is down to less than 300 tonnes.

"It's still one of our country's biggest problems," says Col Jose Angel Mendoza, deputy head of the Colombian anti-narcotics police force. "But we're on the right track."
 
However, success has brought its own problems, the colonel says. "A couple of years ago you'd find a 30-hectare (74-acre) coca field and you'd use a plane to spray it with herbicides.

"Now, the coca fields are much smaller, hidden in dense jungle and hard to access. Often, the plants have been booby-trapped, and the surrounding area is mined, making it risky to eradicate them by hand."
 
Elite force

The enemy, too, has changed, Col Mendoza says. The big drugs cartels have been broken up, smaller criminal gangs which are harder to target have taken their place.

And after the capture and death of many of the top leaders of the Farc, Colombia's main rebel group is also becoming more fragmented, making it in some ways harder to fight.
 
So, the battle goes on. Dressed in combat gear and armed with M4 rifles, the anti-narcotic force's 7,200 agents look more like soldiers than police officers.
 
Read more here.
 
Semana International delivers news about Colombia in English. Find more in our home.
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