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19/08/2011 | US says Peru pledges drug cooperation

A.F.P.

Peru's new government has assured Washington it would continue close collaboration on counter-drug efforts despite suspending a coca eradication program, the State Department said Tuesday.

 

The government of Peru's President Ollanta Humala announced Wednesday it was temporarily suspending a coca eradication program in the Upper Huallaga Valley in the east central part of the country while it evaluates the effort.

"We do not believe that the temporary suspension of eradication this week represents a permanent shift in the Peruvian government's counternarcotics policy," the State Department said.

Peruvian officials "at the highest levels" assured the US embassy on Wednesday "of their intention to continue close collaboration in the fight against narcotics trafficking and criminality, and to work together to continue to reduce the cultivation of illegal coca in Peru," it said.

The Huallaga region, a remote, mountainous rainforest area, is the second largest in Peru for production of coca leaf, which is used to make cocaine.

According to a United Nations report, Peru in 2010 became the world's largest producer of coca leaf, overtaking Colombia, where production has seen a steady decline.

The 2011 UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report says Peru had 61,200 hectares (150,000 acres) of coca under cultivation in 2010, two percent more than in the previous year.

Peruvian officials estimated that the amount of cocaine produced in the country in 2010 was 330 tons, close to the estimated 350 tons produced by Colombia.

The election of Humala, who was sworn in July 28, has raised questions about the government's anti-drug policy because of his party's links to major coca leaf producers. Coca leaf is still legal in the country for traditional and medicinal uses.

Former Peruvian interior minister Fernando Rospigliosi said the indefinite suspension "sends a bad signal."

"It says to the coca producers and guerrillas, 'Go ahead, plant your coca, nothing will happen,'" he said.

GoogleNews (Estados Unidos)

 


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