The New York Times | 6/16/2010 12:00:00 AM
Coca Production Makes a Comeback in Peru
June 16--Coca cultivation is surging once again in this country’s remote tropical valleys, part of a major repositioning of the Andean drug trade that is making Peru a contender to surpass Colombia as the world’s largest exporter of cocaine.
The traffickers — fortified by the resilient demand for cocaine in the United States, Brazil and parts of Europe — are stymieing efforts to combat the drug’s resurgence here and raising the specter of greater violence in a nation still haunted by years of war.
“The struggle against coca can resemble detaining the wind,” said Gen. Juan Zárate, who leads the country’s coca eradication campaigns.
The increase in Peru offers a window into one of the most vexing aspects of the American-financed war against drugs in Latin America, which began in earnest four decades ago. 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.
This happened in the 1990s, when coca cultivation shifted to Colombia after successful eradication projects in Peru and Bolivia. More recently, coca growers moved to dozens of new areas within Colombia after aerial spraying in other areas. Scholars of the Andean drug war call this the balloon effect, bringing to mind a balloon that swells in one spot when another is squeezed.
“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.”
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