Garcia blames Peru’s rising coca production on U.S. drop in aid

President Alan Garcia has said Peru’s growing drug trade is a result of the United States failing to provide aid to his country in similar amounts to what has been sent to Colombia, daily El Comercio reported.

“President Barack Obama asked me why they have planted 5,000 hectares more in El Putumayo,” Garcia was quoted as saying. “I told him: ‘It is your fault. You have given large amounts of money and technology to Colombia that you haven’t given to Peru.’”

Garcia said he was open to greater US military aid to Peru to combat drug trafficking. This includes setting up a training base for US troops as long as it is “always under the control of Peru.”

According to the UN World Drug Report 2010, Peru displaced Colombia as the world’s top producer of coca leaf, the raw material used to make cocaine. In 2009, Peru produced 119,000 tonnes of coca versus 103,100 tonnes in Colombia.

While officials have questioned the data on coca leaf production published by the UN, they agree that Peru’s coca output is increasing, while production is falling in Colombia.

The area used to grow coca in Colombia was 68,000 hectares, down 16 percent from 81,000ha in 2008. Colombian territory used to produce coca is down almost 60 percent from 2000 when 163,300ha were used for cultivation.

In Peru, 59,900ha were used to cultivate coca in 2009, up 6.8 percent from 56,100ha the year before. Since 1999, the area used to grow coca in Peru has increased 55 percent from 38,700ha.

The increase in coca cultivation and the manufacture of cocaine in Peru can be explained, in part, by the balloon effect, or the drug fields’ tendency to shift elsewhere and sometimes to harder-to-reach plots in response to local eradication campaigns.

The chief of Peru’s counter-drugs agency Devida, Romulo Pizarro, said that US counter-narcotics support for Peru has fallen from $140 million in 2002 to about half of that today.

Meanwhile in Colombia, the US government has spent more than $6.5 billion on Plan Colombia, a counter-narcotics campaign also aimed at cubing leftist guerrillas.

As a result of Plan Colombia, drug traffickers have crossed the porous border into Peru where they are now cultivating coca in growing numbers, Pizarro said.

“We are watching as they dangerously grow new illegal [coca crops] in areas where we didn’t have [coca] before, like el Putumayo.”

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