Interior Minister Daniel Urresti said that Peru is on its way to reaching a goal of eradicating some 30,000 hectares of coca crops this year, state newspaper El Peruano reported.
Peru, the world’s top cocaine producer, has been stepping up eradication since President Ollanta Humala took office and last year eradicated a little over 20,000 hectares of coca plantations.
Urresti, a retired military general appointed Interior minister in June, said that 16,591 hectares of illegal coca crops have been eradicated so far this year.
“The fight against drug trafficking is to the death,” he said. “The goal is to eradicate 30,000 hectares. We’ve gone past the 15,000 mark, so we are going to reach that goal.”
The areas used to grow coca in Peru fell by about 17 percent last year, thanks to a major eradication push in the Upper Huallaga Valley, which for decades was the leading coca production zone.
The government had planned to start eradication in what is now the top coca-growing area, the south central Andes valleys known strategically as the VRAEM. However, the plan was changed over concerns about security and a major focus is now a plan to work with local communities to implement crop substitution. The VRAEM is home to the last remaining splinter group of the Shining Path rebels, and well-organized coca growers who said they would fight forced eradication efforts. Despite police-military surveillance, several light aircraft fly in every day from Bolivia to collect coca paste and cocaine.