coca leaf

Peru declares no-fly zone over coca valley

Authorities in Peru Feb. 4 announced the declaration of a no-fly zone over the conflicted coca-producing region known as the VRAEM, for the Valley of the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro rivers, in the country's southeast jungles. The head of Peru's anti-drug agency DEVIDA, Alberto Otarola (a former defense minister), spoke in blunt terms at a Lima press conference: "Any flight that is not reported to the aviation authority will be considered hostile and illegal. Peru must exercise the full sovereignty and jurisdiction of its airspace."

Peru: populist governor re-elected from prison

Gregorio Santos, the populist president of Peru's Cajamarca region, was comfortably re-elected Oct. 5—despite being imprisoned as corruption charges are pending against him. The biggest issue in the race by far was the unpopular Conga gold mine project, majority-owned by US-based Newmont Mining. Peru's central government said it would recognize the victory, while his supporters marched in Lima to demand his freedom. Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal called for a "political dialogue with all the actors" to resolve the crisis in Cajamarca. But Jorge Vergara Quiroz, president of the Cajamarca Chamber of Commerce, said that Santos' re-election created a climate of "uncertainty" that would discourage investment, and called on him not to take office. Segundo Mendoza, spokesman for Santos' Social Affirmation Movement (MAS), responded that the party respects private investment. He called on authorities to free Santos, saying he posed no flight risk.

Shining Path leaders indicted in US court

Three leaders of Peru's Shining Path guerrilla movement were indicted July 1 in US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Those charged are Florindo Eleuterio Flores Hala, who was captured by Peruvian security forces in February 2012; and the brothers Victor and Jorge Quispe Palomino, who remain at large. The charges include conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization; narco-terrorism conspiracy; and two counts of use of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. (Newsweek, July 2)

Gains claimed against coca in Colombia, Bolivia

Colombia's coca eradication program was cited by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as reason for historic lows in cocaine production in the Andean country. According to the UNODC's World Drug Report 2014, Colombian cocaine production fell 25% in 2012, driving a global decline in cocaine supply for the year. In 2012, Colombian security forces manually eradicated 34,486 hectares (85,217 acres) of coca and sprayed over 100,549 hectares (247,000 acres) with herbicide, by official figures. The country's potential cocaine production estimates for the year fell to 309 tons, the lowest levels in nearly two decades. Coca cultivation has been cut by half from 2007 to 2012, the report boasts. However, the area under coca cultivation remained stable between 2012 and 2013, at some 48,000 hectares. Colombia remained the second largest coca producer, ahead of Bolivia and behind Peru. Gains were also claimed in Peru and Bolivia. Peru reduced the area under coca cultivation by 17.5% between 2012 and 2013, bringing the figure down to 49,800 hectares. The area under cultivation in Bolivia dropped to its lowest in 12 years, decreasing 9% from 2012 to 23,000 hectares.  (Colombia Reports, BBC News, June 26; AP, June 23)

Colombia: FARC renounce narco-profits

Colombia's government and the FARC guerilla organization announced an agreement May 16, entitled "Solution to the Problem of Illicit Drugs," in which they pledge to work together against the narco trade. The FARC, whose top leaders face extradition to the United States on trafficking charges, agreed to "end any relationship" with the illicit drug trade, and cooperate in a "National Program for the substitution of the illicit uses of coca, poppy, and marijuana crops." The accord calls for "integral development plans" for rural communities impacted by the drug trade, to be drawn up with the participation of those communities, in the context of an "Integral Rural Reform." It also calls for an international conference to be held under the auspices of the UN to reconsider global strategies against drugs—the one veiled reference in the agreement to the FARC's earlier proposals to decriminalize cultivation of coca leaf and cannabis. "With this we will eliminate the gasoline that has fuelled the conflict in Colombia—drug trafficking," said the government's lead negotiator, Humberto de la Calle.

Colombia: pressure grows to expand drug decrim

An official from the capital district government of Bogotá on March 28 called upon Colombia’s national government to open debate on broadening the policy of cannabis decriminalization. "We really need leadership from the Congress and the government to regulate the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana," said the general secretary of the Bogotá mayor's office, Susana Muhamad. Despite efforts by the previous government of President Alvaro Uribe to roll back the policy, since 1994 cannabis has been decriminalized in small quantitites—recently established by the judiciary as up to 22 grams. However, sale and cultivation remain illegal. Muhamad appealed to current President Manuel Santos to examine lifting these limitations.

Bolivia: cocaleros clash with eradication force

Coca-growers in Bolivia's lowland jungle town of Yapacaní on March 27 clashed with police in a protest against the construction of a new base of the Mobile Rural Patrol Unit (UMOPAR), the hated coca-eradication force. Protesters set up roadblocks in an effort to prevent construction crews from breaking ground on the new base. When National Police troops used tear-gas to break up the blockades, protesters replied by hurling rocks. Regional police commander Johnny Requena blamed drug gangs for the opposition to the base, which is being financed by the European Union to the tune of $1.3 million.

Peru escalates cannabis crackdown

Peru's National Police on Feb. 4 announced the discovery of over 100,000 cannabis plants at the high Andean community of Minasel, 4,000 meters above sea level, on the border of Áncash and Huánuco regions. The plants were burned in the fields, police said, while the growers escaped into the mountains. (RPP, Feb. 4) On Jan. 15, elite troops of the Special Anti-drug Operation Division eradicated 65,000 plants of moño rojo (red bud) at the remote mountain village of San Martín de Porres, Chinchao district, Huánuco. (Peru21, Jan. 15)

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