PERU DECLARES ITS COCA CUTBACKS ARE OVER
U.S. Goal in Andes Dealt a Setback
LIMA – The Peruvian government has abruptly halted forced eradication of coca plants and suspended crop substitution programs in coca-growing valleys, dealing a major blow to U.S. efforts to halt cocaine production in the Andes. As a result, the U.S. operation to control illegal drug crops in Peru — heretofore considered an unqualified success — is nearly paralyzed as farmers and government officials question its effectiveness and demand changes.
The sudden development cast doubts over the future of U.S. efforts to stop the cultivation of coca plants and cocaine production throughout the region.
FROM LLAMA TRAILS TO THE CORRIDORS OF POWER
ORURO, Bolivia – After finishing third in the presidential election on Sunday, Evo Morales was cornered by supporters at a simple meeting hall in this gritty city perched 12,000 feet in the Andes. Miners with gnarled hands and weathered faces, tough truck drivers and poor indigenous women wearing traditional bowler hats – they would not let him go. Instead, they hugged and kissed him, all the while beseeching him never to back down.
It is the kind of attention any politician would crave. But Mr. Morales is not just any politician: he is a coca-chewing Aymara Indian who would nationalize Bolivia’s industries, stop payment on its foreign debt and halt American-backed efforts to end coca growing that he says have deepened the poverty of his supporters. Short of reaching those goals, he hints at the possibility of violent revolt.
ANTI-COCA PROGRAMS SHELVED TO PLACATE FARMERS
Peru, a nation hailed by the United States as an Andean success story in the war on drugs, has suspended its participation in U.S.-funded coca-eradication programs.
Also halted in the process was the related crop-substitution program, under which Peruvian farmers are paid to grow crops other than coca.
The programs were suspended after Peruvian officials met with farm representatives Friday and agreed to immediately end eradication of the coca plant — from which cocaine is made — in the Upper Huallaga Valley.
Drug Enforcement Agency spokesman Thomas Hinojosa said yesterday that the DEA was aware of the situation, but that it “is only temporary and will be back to normal” soon.
BUSH EXPECTED TO OK DOWNING OF DRUG PLANES
Operation in Latin America was halted last year after U.S. missionaries were mistaken for drug carriers and killed.
WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush is expected to approve the resumption of a program to force or shoot down airplanes suspected of ferrying drugs in Latin America, a year after the program was halted by the mistaken downing of a plane carrying American missionaries in Peru, U.S. officials say.
Once the president gives his final approval, the State Department would take over the program from the CIA, and U.S. officials said air- interdiction operations could begin in Colombia as early as this fall and would likely be expanded to Peru. The Pentagon would support the program as well, providing intelligence about suspected drug flights gathered from ground-based radar and other sources, officials said.