Cocaine on the Upswing in Peru

US attempts to quell trafficking stagnate in coca-based economy
By Kate Rockwood,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 23, 2008 3:48 PM CDT
Police officers stand in front of the destroyed police station of Acobamba, Peru. An armed group stormed a police station near a cocaine-trafficking route in Peru's southern highlands.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – Peru's cocaine business is growing again, sparking a spate of killings, threats, and US-funded attempts to stop it, the Los Angeles Times reports. Coca bush plots have increased by a third since 1999 to feed markets in Europe, East Asia, and Brazil—but growers are hard to collar because they work piecemeal, without the flashy kingpins of old. "We're up against an army of ants," said Peru's top anti-drug cop.

Peru has closed landing strips and roads used by traffickers, but the business continues—second only to Columbia in worldwide trafficking. Meanwhile, some 65,000 Peruvian families make a living from the coca leaf. "Here, there is no alternative to coca," a farmer said. "They come and they offer us a few chickens and some cacao. How am I to survive on that?"