HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Colombia Trumpets UN Study Showing Record Drop In Coca
Pubdate: Tue, 18 Mar 2003
Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Copyright: 2003 Globe Newspaper Company
Author: Phil Stewart, Reuters
Bookmark: (Cocaine),


BOGOTA -- Colombia, the world's largest supplier of cocaine, said yesterday
that new evidence showed the harvest of coca leaf dropped by a record 30
percent in 2002, a finding it hailed as a major victory in the US-backed war
on drugs. 

The data came from a UN study, which was based on satellite imaging taken on
Dec. 31, 2002, and showed a far more dramatic reduction in the output of
coca -- cocaine's raw ingredient -- than was seen in an earlier US survey.

President Alvaro Uribe, whose country is home to 60 percent of the world's
coca, has pleased the United States by dramatically increasing the pace of a
US-funded drug crop-spraying program since he took office in August.

''Uribe's pledge to permanently eradicate coca from our territory is
irrevocable. It isn't about dealing with a problem, but ending a nightmare
for the Colombian people,'' Interior Minister Fernando Londono said at a
UN-Colombian government news conference in Bogota.

Most of the 105,600-acre fall in coca production was due to the forced
eradication campaign. The acreage removed from production would cover an
area more than double the size of Washington, D.C.

Lower coca acreage slashed Colombia's cocaine output by 22 percent to 480
tons, compared with 617 tons in 2001, said Klaus Nyholm, head of the UN Drug
Control Program in Colombia. He said the spraying campaign should be
supported with initiatives giving peasants an alternative to drug crops.

''It has to be backed up with alternative or rural development programs and
it hasn't been so far. I don't think you can fumigate yourself out of the
problem,'' he said.

Uribe's predecessor, President Andres Pastrana, put more emphasis on
unsuccessful voluntary eradication programs after protests by impoverished
farmers angered by spraying.

The current government's aggressive attack on drugs is key to its war
against leftist guerrillas and far-right paramilitaries, who use cocaine to
help fuel their four-decade-old war, which claims thousands of lives a year.

The United Nations said Colombia slashed its cultivation of coca leaf from
357,818 acres in 2001 to 252,217 acres last year.

The figure shows much less coca than seen in a US survey released last

The survey estimated a 15 percent decline in the national harvest, from
420,000 acres in 2001 to 357,000 acres in 2002.
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