HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html US Help For Anti-Drug Efforts Shifts Funding From Peru And
Pubdate: Mon, 14 Feb 2005
Source: Financial Times (UK)
Copyright: The Financial Times Limited 2005
Author: Hal Weitzman
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


President George W. Bush's budget proposals could undermine drug 
eradication efforts in the troubled Andean region, according to critics of 
the administration.

The White House plans to increase assistance to President Alvaro Uribe of 
Colombia, its key ally in the region, in a bid to help consolidate 
impressive recent progress in aerial eradication of coca, the raw material 
for cocaine.

But the financial assistance to Peru and Bolivia is to be cut by up to 16 
per cent at a time when coca production there is increasing by as much as 
13 per cent a year.

US officials say there is no evidence of a "balloon effect", by which 
eradication of coca production in one area simply displaces it into a 
neighbouring country or region.

But according to John Walsh of the Washington Office on Latin America, a 
think-tank: "Declaring the balloon effect dead now is a bit like jumping 
from a plane and believing that the law of gravity has been suspended 
because you haven't hit the ground yet."

Overall, Mr Bush is asking for a modest increase in funding to the State 
Department's Andean Counterdrug Initiative from $725m (UKP390m) in 2005 to 
$734.5m for the next fiscal year. But the figures reveal a change in focus: 
the savings made by cutting bilateral assistance will be channelled into 
aerial interception and aircraft repair programmes, both heavily centred in 
Colombia, where 124,000 hectares of coca plantation were wiped out in 2003.

Peru, the biggest coca producer after Colombia and the second-largest 
recipient of anti-drug aid in the region, will suffer the biggest cuts. The 
budget request reduces its allocation from more than $115m this year to 
$97m in 2006. Aid to Bolivia will be trimmed from more than $90m to $80m.

Administration supporters defend the decision as representing the most 
effective use of resources. "President Uribe of Colombia has set a target 
of eliminating all drugs and has been aggressive about taking the country 
back from the narco-terrorists," said a senior congressional Republican aide.

"Meanwhile, the president of Peru [Alejandro Toledo] has been half-hearted 
about it and still depends on manual eradication. It's obvious where the 
funding should go."

Critics say that the approach neglects the importance of demand - mainly in 
the US and Europe - and pays too little attention to the rural poverty that 
makes coca growing attractive for many small farmers. Growers have been 
able to sidestep eradication programmes by improving crop yields, 
interspersing coca among other plants and cultivating more remote areas.

"Perversely, the success of eradication efforts mean that the challenge has 
grown, not diminished," said Mr Walsh.

Authorities in Lima worry that the focus on Colombia ignores the increasing 
scale of the problem in Peru.

Nils Ericsson, head of the state anti-drugs agency, said on Friday that 
cocaine production in Peru had increased by 13 per cent last year to 160 
tons, with a US street value of about $2bn. Mr Ericsson predicted that at 
current growth rates, Peru's cocaine trade will double within four years 
unless the US and Europe boost anti-drug aid. "This growth represents a 
threat to democratic institutions and the risk of a resurgence in terrorist 
movements," Mr Ericsson said.

According to the Peruvian interior ministry police have already seized 
three tons of cocaine this year, about half the amount intercepted on 
average in a year.

While Washington sees Peru as lacking resolve in coca eradication, Bolivia 
is viewed as even less dependable. A June 2004 report on Bolivia by the UN 
Office on Drugs and Crime noted "worrying signs that coca cultivation is. 
.on the increase" in Yungas region east of La Paz.
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