Family killed for halting coca production

A family of coca growers who had replaced their illicit yield for legal alternative crops was brutally executed Sunday morning in Peru’s eastern jungle province of Padre Abad, in Ucayali Department. The mayor of a local community told Radio Programas radio the crime was in retaliation for the family’s support of a State program that encourages farmers to voluntarily eradicate their coca plantations.

One of the victims, 30-year-old Aniceto Cámara, received death threats the day before the attack because of his involvement in the eradication program, Agencia Andina reported. The other victims include Cámara’s wife, 28-year-old Césarea Polino, and their three children aged 10, seven and one. Cámara’s younger brother, 25-year-old Inocencio Cámara, was also killed.

Radio Programas reported that the adults were tied up and shot with shotguns and revolvers and that the children were hacked to death with machetes.

Cabinet Chief Jorge Del Castillo told Agencia Andina, “this murder shows the ferocity at the criminal hands of drug traffickers, who … kill those who want to change to a lawful economy.”

Interior Minister Luis Alva Castro downplayed the scope of the attack, telling reporters: “This is an isolated incident in an area where there is constant work against drug trafficking and organized crime.” He added that police have arrested one suspect, while the other perpetrators have been identified.

Peru is the world’s second largest producer of dry coca leaf, the raw material used to make cocaine. The 2007 UN World Drug Report estimated that Peru’s potential production of dry coca leaf was 105,100 metric tons in 2006 – an 8 percent increase over 2005.

A survey conducted in December 2007 in four coca-growing departments by Peru’s anti-drugs agency, Devida, showed that a large sector of the population supported the total elimination of coca cultivation. However,  more than 65 percent of those surveyed confirmed that coca growers are subject to continual threats and extortion by drug traffickers in order to increase production.

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