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02/09/2014 // Virgen de la Candelaria Festival // Puno, Peru

candelaria

Days of drinking and dancing in costumes like these to celebrate the patron saint of Puno, Peru.

Peru Gears Up For Coke Conflict

Peru was the top cocaine producer in the world back in the 1980s, and recently returned to reclaim the title. The Andean nation is trying to push coca crops back out of the country, using many of the same methods it did in the 1980s. It could be violent:

“If the government finally decides to implement eradication in the Valley of Apurimac-Ene, it will be really a challenging issue to tackle,” head of the Center for the Investigation of Drugs and Human Rights in Lima Ricardo Soberon told Generation Progress. “I think that the conflict will increase between producers, peasants, armed forces, Shining Path, you name it.”

There are early signs pointing in that direction. According to a report in Peruvian newspaper La Republica, remnants of the Shining Path, the brutal Maoist guerrilla group that ravaged the country in the 1980s and 1990s, have begun to organize coca growers to confront Peruvian drug police.

The United States provided about $100 million to Peru’s eradication efforts in 2013. A U.S. State Department’s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) shows Peru’s increased counternarcotics budget, police system reforms, and modest reductions in coca production.

Soberon argues that there’s nothing to celebrate. “Eradication, as a matter of policy, has been a failure,” Soberon said. “The crops always are replaced.”

The movement of production in response to eradication efforts has been called the “balloon effect,” after the way air in a balloon moves when it is squeezed in someone’s hand. A recent article in the New Yorker reported that a plantation half the size of Long Island could meet the entire world’s demand for cocaine.

The rest, including how other American nations are handling drugs differently, at Generation Progress.