Peru Suspends Coca Eradication

By Dialogo
August 19, 2011

Peru has temporarily halted the eradication of coca plants used to make cocaine as it works to redesign its anti-drug programs, the country’s interior ministry said on 17 August.

News of the suspension in eradication work surprised and worried the United States, which has tried for years to limit coca production in Peru as part of a broader war on drugs. The United Nations says Peru is now the world’s leading coca grower and could surpass Colombia as the top cocaine producer.

“We are working on how to redirect efforts,” Interior Minister Oscar Valdes said.

He said eradication would resume “very soon” but added that the government wanted to focus more on catching major traffickers and cutting off access to supplies like kerosene used to refine coca into cocaine.

“The public must understand that the reduction of illicit crops will continue as the president has said and there will be a frontal fight against drug trafficking,” Valdes said.

The suspension of the eradication program coincided with leftist President Ollanta Humala’s reshuffling of the country’s drug policy team.

Humala, a former army officer, has said he would work closely with the United States to fight cocaine production. He has also said he expected countries that buy illegal cocaine to contribute to the effort.

Peruvian coca growers say they plant coca for traditional uses in food and religious ceremonies, though drug experts say 90 percent of coca winds up in the cocaine trade.