Wednesday, June 23

Peru to surpass Colombia as biggest cocaine exporter

According to last Sunday's NYT article (its eighth on Peru in 10 months), recent and dramatic increases in Peru's production is "making Peru a contender to surpass Colombia as the world's largest exporter of cocaine." 

In other words, U.S. anti-drug efforts in Colombia have not stopped production, just displaced it. And worst yet for Peru, the violent, anarchist Shining Path guerrilla groups still lurking in Peru's jungle are growing bolder and stronger with the money.

While I'm glad this article made it to the World Section (way overdue), it fails to differentiate between coca and cocaine (see my earlier post "I drank cocaine?"). 

Coca leaves (used to make cocaine) have a special cultural significance here, especially for indigenous people. They have used coca for centuries, to chew in social settings, to brew in teas and to make spiritual offerings. Today, coca leaves are sold in most markets. 

The legalization of coca production is a controversial subject in Peru. People who support its cultivation are perceived as propping up the drug trade. People who oppose it are seen as ignoring the cultural and historical significance of the plants, as well as undermining the livelihood of legitimate coca growers. 

The NYT ignores this oh-so-important cultural detail, presenting only the USG's position that coca production should be eradicated, which Peru eventually bowed to under pressure. I'm just an observer here, but even I can tell that this issue is a little more nuanced than that. 

But the NYT does do a good job to remind us where demand for these drugs come from--the U.S., Brazil and Europe. 

(NYT posted a slideshow of related photos)

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