Peru Seeks Alternatives to Coca Eradication in Drug Policy

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    Peru’s new top drug official told Reuters that his government has reached an understanding with the U.S. on drug policy, with less emphasis on eradication and more on providing alternatives to coca growers.

    In an interview with the news agency Ricardo Soberon (pictured) said, “we’ve reached a basic understanding with the United States about Peru’s new policy.” Soberon explained that funding for “alternative development” strategies for coca farmers will rise to $25 million in 2012, up from $22 million this year. Funding for eradication, however, is likely to fall to $27.5 million from $38 million.

    Despite less focus on eradication efforts, Soberon said that Peru would reach its goal of eradicating 10,000 hectares of coca this year.

    Soberon pointed to the success of President Ollanta Humala’s government in fighting drugs, demonstrated by the seizure of 955 kilos of cocaine by Peruvian authorities last week. He also pointed out that the authorities had closed 18 unlicensed gas stations, as part of attempts to control the chemicals used to refine cocaine in Peru’s biggest coca growing region, the central Apurimac and Ene River Valley (VRAE).

    In September, President Humala announced that his government plans to spend $20 million on software, enabling authorities to track the purchase and sale of chemicals used to produce cocaine.

    Humala took office in July, and has shown his intention to reform drug policy. He initially caused some concern in the United States by suspending coca eradication for a week in September.

    However, Humala has since called for greater counternarcotics cooperation with the U.S, relieving any fears that his administration would not participate in U.S. anti-drug efforts. Since then, the head of the U.S. military’s Southern Command has visited the VRAE region and expressed U.S. commitment to assisting the Peruvian government in its the fight against the Shining Path guerrilla group, which is heavily involved the drugs trade in the region.

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