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Coca cultivation up
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UN drug monitoring agency finds coca crops increased by 16 percent in Bolivia, Colombia and Peru over past two years.

In late February, the United Nations marked 100 years of multilateral drug control, but a recent report found that anti-drug policies have not helped curb these substances.

On Jan. 19, the International Narcotics Control Board, a United Nations agency, released its 2008 report that found an increase of 181,600 hectares of coca crops in Bolivia, Colombia and Peru in 2007, an increase of 16 percent over 2006.

Colombia´s efforts to eradicate coca, the raw material in cocaine, both of which Colombia is the world´s top producer, had little impact as coca crops in that period there increased by 27 percent, the report said. Increases were more moderate in Bolivia and Peru: no more than 5 percent. Colombia is home to 55 percent of the area of illicit coca crops planted in South America, Peru 29 percent and Bolivia, 16 percent, the report added.

But the agency found that despite an increase in the surface area of coca crops, the harvest was smaller with an increase of just 10 metric tons compared with 2006 to 994 metric tons.

The agency harshly criticized a declaration by the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, signed by former presidents, such as Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, and writers such as Mario Vargas Llosa and Paulo Coelho, as well as other politicians and human rights experts who stated that repressive policies to curb drug production have been a complete failure.

“The prohibitionist policies based on the repression of production and the interdiction of trafficking and distribution, as well as the criminalization of consumption, have not led to the expected results,” said the statement, titled “Drugs and Democracy in Latin America: Toward a change in paradigm.” “We are further than ever from the proclaimed objective of drug eradication.”

“Latin America continues to be the world´s largest cocaine and marijuana exporter, it has become a growing producer of opium and heroin, and it is starting to produce synthetic drugs.”

The statement proposed a decriminalization of the possession and sale of certain illegal drugs.

“Colombia is a clear example of the repressive policies promoted globally by the United States,” the signatories said.

“Despite significant advances in its fight against the drug cartels and a reduction in levels of violence, the area of illicit crops and flow of drugs has increased again.”

They added that drug use should be treated as a public health issue, where addicts can receive help, not being criminalized, as is the policy in some European countries, which they said “has been proven to be a more efficient and humane” course of action.
—Latinamerica Press.

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