Authorities in Bolivia destroyed 5,689 hectares of coca in the first six months of 2013, according to officials, around one third of the total area estimated to be under illegal cultivation.
According to Vice Minister of Social Defense Felipe Caceres, the majority of crops were eradicated by the Joint Task Force (FTC) in the Tropico de Cochabamba region of the Cochabamba department and in the Yungas de La Paz region of the La Paz department, the two areas where most of Bolivia’s coca is grown, reported AFP.
The number of hectares eradicated included both illegal and “excess” crops, defined under Law 1008 as coca production greater than the amount legally allowed in certain areas of the country.
Meanwhile, the government has refused to slow coca eradication efforts in Apolo, in the north of the La Paz department, despite ongoing clashes with coca growers in the region who have demanded legal license to cultivate the crop.
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Eradication figures for the first half of 2013 indicate that Bolivia is on track to duplicate or surpass 2012 eradication, which was over 10,000 hectares according to the United States. It works out as nearly a third of all illegal coca crops eradicated, in line with efforts in neighboring Peru where around a quarter of total estimated crops were destroyed in the first six months of the year.
The estimated area under cultivation in Bolivia is small compared to the other two major producers, Colombia and Peru. According to the US State Department the total area of coca cultivation in Bolivia was around 30,000 hectares in 2011, of which 18,000 are illegal (Bolivia allows a certain amount of coca to be grown legally). In Colombia total coca cultivation was estimated at 83,000 hectares in 2011 and Peru 49,500 hectares.
The eradication figures indicate the expulsion of USAID and the closure of the US’s anti-drugs office in Bolivia earlier this year (meaning little US presence now left in the country) have not so far negatively impacted counternarcotics efforts, as had been feared.