- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 4, 2002

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.
That view was also espoused by the Peruvian ambassador to the United States, Allen Wagner, who told The Washington Times last night that "the fight against drug trafficking in Peru has not suffered any setback."
The agreements between the Peruvian anti-drug agency and coca farmers deal with the "temporary suspension of the eradication programs in order to initiate immediately a coordinated eradication program in which the farmers will receive resources to replace coca cultivation with alternative crops."
Peru's action followed a series of violent protests by coca farmers against drug-eradication efforts.
It came just three months after President Bush visited Peru and promised to triple anti-drug money for the nation to $195 million.
Friday's meeting between Peruvian officials and farmers who grow coca ended two days of anti-U.S. strikes and protests in central Peru, in which growers sought to end both types of programs.
Coca farmers have decried a lack of compensation when government forces come and chop down their plants. Unlike in neighboring Colombia, aerial spraying is not used in Peru.
Farmers have also complained that programs in which they are paid to grow such substitute crops as vegetables have not worked.
The move frustrates U.S. hopes of stopping the rising cocaine production throughout the region, analysts said.
A further increase could threaten Peru's ability to receive aid from the United States and international agencies such as the World Bank.
"Our drug policy to Peru has been based on eradication and interdiction," said Adam Isacson, senior associate at the Washington-based Center for International Policy.
The change "could even effect Peruvian certification status next year," he said.
Peruvian officials said they formed a commission to evaluate the efficacy of U.S. drug strategy and to find ways to ensure that money for crop substitution goes directly to farmers instead of middlemen.
Crop-substitution programs in some regions have also been suspended until the commission reaches an agreement.
CARE, an Atlanta-based organization that has promoted alternative-development strategies in Peru for the U.S. Agency for International Development, met yesterday with the commission.
CARE has halted its program for alternative-development strategies in Apurimac Valley, one of four areas where it has operated for the past year, spokesman Allen Clinton said in a statement.
The sudden change will not soften the United States' stance toward Peruvian cocaine production, the DEA's Mr. Hinojosa said.
"We're obviously concerned," he said. "We're not going to let this stop our drug efforts down there."
The United States supports and trains coca-eradication brigades in Peru that are supposed to uproot 13,000 acres of plants this year.
But coca acreage currently 86,000 acres has been increasing, raising doubts about the effectiveness of eradication efforts.
As strikes and riots have become commonplace in Peru, President Alejandro Toledo has told coca farmers he supports alternative-development programs over eradication efforts, which most farmers oppose.


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