Peru to Increase Coca Eradication 50% in 2013

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Peru’s government has increased its coca eradication target for 2013 to a record 22,000 hectares, as part of the government’s efforts to cut cocaine output after it was named as the world’s biggest producer.

The target, announced in a statement by Interior Minister Wilfredo Pedraza, represents a 57 percent increase on last year’s goal of destroying 14,000 hectares of coca.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) calculated Peru’s total area of coca cultivation to be 62,500 hectares in 2011, up from 61,200 in 2010, marking the sixth consecutive annual increase.

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This target is a rise from the government’s previous goal of eradicting 16,000 hectares in 2013, announced by Pedraza in October. Over the last 15 years, annual coca eradication has gone no higher than 15,000 hectares.

It remains to be seen if increasing the level of coca eradication will have a significant impact on the number of hectares under cultivation. Coca growers have proven adept at shifting production; one trend identified by the UNODC report last year was the increase in coca crops in the Peruvian Amazon, an area previously believed to be unfit for coca plants to produce cocaine.

Another question is whether the government will indeed be able to reach its target. Eradication efforts face fierce opposition from Peru’s coca growing unions, which are a powerful force in a country with an ancestral history of coca leaf chewing. A visit by Peru’s coca eradication authority in August to the Monzon Valley, where with one of the greatest concentrations of coca crops in the country, resulted in a confrontation in which two people died.

Humala promised not to carry out forced eradication while on the campaign trail in 2011, but radically changed his policy since taking office, appointing pro-eradication Carmen Masias as his drug czar.

Under the country’s current four-year strategy, announced in March 2012, eradication of coca crops will rise to 30,000 hectares in 2016, with the aim of bringing the area under cultivation down to 38,000 hectares by 2021.

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