Peru Suspends coca eradication program

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PERU (BDCi) — Peru’s new government suspended a coca eradication program financed by the U.S.

The suspension was ordered Tuesday by Interior Minister, Oscar Valdes. The coca eradication program is the nation’s only anti-narcotics program and it has now been cancelled temporary.

Peru ranks close to Columbia among the world’s leading coca and cocaine distributors, according to the United Nations office on Drugs and Crime annual report issued in June.

Ricardo Soberon, the new chief of the National commission for the Development of Life without Drugs, said Wednesday that suspension was ordered so that the government can evaluate the policies.”

This is not rare since other similar suspensions of eradication programs supported by the U.S have taken place in Columbia and in Afghanistan, Soberon said.

The U.S. Ambassador Rose Likins informed reporters at the National Assembly building in Lima that she was expecting the government to inform her of the reasons for the suspension which started in January in the upper Huallaga Valley region.

“We are waiting for some communication from the government about the suspension of the coca eradication program,” said Likins.

The ambassador also said she would have appreciated notice prior to the suspension but she knows that a change of government implies new policies.

President Ollanta Humala, who was elected in June, is currently in the process of negotiating ant-drug agreements with the U.S., Soberon told the media.

However, Humala has sent mixed signals in regards to his promise to eliminate coca crops. During his earlier campaign days, he committed to a crowd in the Huallaga Valley town of Tingo, Maria, which includes those who have been agitating for the right to grow coca because they do not have other economic means.

Humala then said he would re-evaluate the government’s eradication program in the area.

The program holds nearly 900 workers in the valley in an area that has about 5,000 acres of coca unions, a small fraction of the 130,000 acres of coca in Peru at the beginning of the year.

About 15,000 acres have already been uprooted by workers.
The U.S. has already spent $10 million in effort to keep eradication programs this year.

By: Shayla Selva
Edited by: Don Weinstein
Source: LA Times
Date: August 18, 2011
Time: 11:32 A.M. PDT

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