Bolivia Eradicates Coca Leaf Fields!

  Bolivia Eradicates Coca Leaf Fields!

Posted by FoM on December 21, 1998 at 19:45:13 PT

LA PAZ, Bolivia -- Bolivia eradicated a record 28,660 acres of coca fields, or nearly a quarter of the crop fueling the country's cocaine processing industry, the country's president said Monday. 
President Hugo Banzer made the announcement in the Chapare, a lush tropical region in the heart of the country where 80 percent of the country's coca leaf is cultivated. Nearly all of it is processed into cocaine. ``This is an important step in taking Bolivia out of the cocaine trafficking circle,'' said Banzer. When he was sworn in August 1997, Banzer vowed Bolivia would no longer produce cocaine when he left office in 2002. The eradication was carried out with the support of police and army troops over the opposition of coca leaf farmers. The government's initial goal, part of an agreement with the U.S. government, was 18,530 acres. Last year, the government eradicated 14,800 acres of coca. In Washington, Bob Weiner, spokesman for Clinton's drug policy director Gen. Barry McCaffrey, said the announcement by the Bolivian president ``shows that the Andean region is making substantial progress in reducing drug production.'' McCaffrey is pleased with the efforts in Bolivia as well as those made by Peru over the past few years to curb cocaine production, Weiner said. The intensified efforts by the Bolivian government and its forces to destroy coca plants led to several confrontations and 13 deaths in the Chapare, located 550 miles east of La Paz. Human rights groups have also complained of abuses by anti-drug forces. At least 200,000 Bolivians depend directly or indirectly on coca leaf cultivation in this country of 8 million. The Bolivian government paid farmers $2,500 per 2.5 acres of old coca plants destroyed voluntarily. New coca fields were considered illegal, and were destroyed without compensation and often with the use of force. 

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