03 March 2003
U.S. Says Colombia Remains World's Leading Producer of Cocaine
(State Dept. details illicit drug activities in Americas and world)
By Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington -- With cocaine continuing as the greatest drug threat to
the United States, the Bush Administration's central focus in
counter-drug activities in 2002 was again the Andean region, and
especially Colombia, according to an annual report by the U.S. State
Department on illicit drug-related activities in the Americas and
around the world.
The 2002 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, released
March 1, said that Colombia remains the world's leading producer and
distributor of cocaine and a significant supplier of heroin to the
The report found that in addition to supporting independent drug
traffickers and cartels, the drug trade serves as a major source of
funding for the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC),
and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a paramilitary
organization. Both groups are described as terrorist organizations by
the State Department.
However, the negative news is balanced by the report's findings that
the government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is making good on
its promise to crack down on extralegal armed groups and the illegal
drug trade that funds them. Uribe has "instilled a sense of confidence
in Colombians," the report said, adding that he has passed an
"ambitious legislative agenda to restructure the state and formulated
a National Security Strategy clearly defining government goals and
developing a practical work plan to achieve its objectives."
The report said the U.S.-supported aerial crop-eradication spraying
program in Colombia had a record year in 2002. The Colombian National
Police Anti-Narcotics Directorate sprayed about 122,700 hectares of
coca (the base crop that is processed into cocaine) and 3,000 hectares
of opium poppy (the crop required to produce heroin). The total for
coca is a record high, representing a 45-percent increase over the
amount sprayed in 2001. The poppy total is 67 percent higher than the
amount sprayed in 2001.
Another piece of positive news is that Colombian farmers are beginning
to have confidence in a program offering alternative growing
opportunities. The program, supported by the U.S. Agency for
International Development, benefited 20,128 families and supported
15,742 hectares of legal crops in both coca- and poppy-growing areas.
Regarding other nations in the Andean region, the report said that
Peru is the second-largest cocaine producer in the world and a major
exporter of high-purity cocaine and cocaine base to markets in South
America, Mexico, the United States, and Europe.
Poppy cultivation and opium trafficking continue to increase in Peru,
the report found, as evidenced by the steady rise in opium seizures by
the Peruvian National Police. Colombian narcotics traffickers supply
Peruvian farmers with seeds and offer technical assistance and cash
loans. These activities are primarily concentrated in the northern
central part of the country, although poppy may also be grown farther
south in the Huallaga Valley. Peru also produces marijuana that is
The report said that the pace of eradication in Peru accelerated in
the last four months of 2002 after it had temporarily slowed when
Peru's government faced social unrest from coca farmers and other
civic sectors. Subsequently, a number of factors spurred greater
cooperation that enabled the Peruvian government to eradicate the
target goal of 7,000 hectares of coca for the year. These factors
included Peru's interest in qualifying for Andean Trade Preference and
Drug Eradication Act benefits from the United States, a new U.S.-Peru
bilateral alternate development agreement, and a pilot participatory
eradication program. The report said Peru is considering an
eradication plan for 2003 that sets a minimum goal of 12,000 hectares.
On the subject of Bolivia, the report said that overall, the country
trails far behind its neighbors Colombia and Peru as a supplier to
world markets of coca base and cocaine hydrochloride. Bolivia's
cultivation of coca is about half what it was at its peak in 1995,
dropping from 48,600 hectares to 24,400 hectares in 2002.
However, the report added that Bolivia's prior success in eradicating
huge swaths of coca cultivated in the Chapare region is "challenged"
by a 23-percent increase in coca cultivation as of June 2002. Despite
eradicating nearly 12,000 hectares of coca, constant replanting
required the administration of Bolivian President Gonzalo Sanchez de
Lozada to pursue a multi-year counternarcotics campaign in the
Chapare. Alternative-development initiatives in the Chapare continue
to provide legal alternatives to coca, the report said.
Successes in interdiction in Bolivia, which have significantly
disrupted the traffic and transit of drugs and precursor chemicals
over recent years, have been somewhat offset by adaptations by
Bolivian traffickers to a limited and changing supply of precursor
chemicals, the report said. Bolivia also remains a transit country for
Peruvian cocaine base. Over the years, the Bolivian government has
undertaken several projects to reduce domestic demand for illicit
The report called Ecuador "a major transit country for drugs and
precursor chemicals." Armed violence on the Colombian side of
Ecuador's northern border renders interdiction especially difficult,
according to the report. With most drugs exiting the country via
maritime commercial containers, Ecuadoran counternarcotics police --
with help from the United States -- are working to substantially
enhance port-inspection facilities and introduce drug-detecting
technology into their ports and airports. The United States continues
to provide equipment, infrastructure and training to improve Ecuador's
counternarcotics performance and has seen "tangible results," the
Turning to Mexico, the report found that the United States achieved
"unparalleled" levels of cooperation with its southern neighbor in
fighting drug trafficking and other transnational crimes in 2002. The
Mexican government unveiled what the report said was an "ambitious"
National Drug Control Plan in early November that called upon Mexican
society and institutions to wage a frontal assault against all aspects
of the drug problem, including production, trafficking, and
The report said Mexican authorities continued to achieve "impressive"
results in arresting leaders of major drug-trafficking organizations,
undermining criminals' capabilities to operate both in Mexico and the
United States. In addition, Mexico's government extradited a record
number of fugitives to the United States in 2002. However, the report
said many U.S. requests, including those for extradition of major drug
fugitives, were denied, "raising concerns about future cooperation."
Even with its successes against drug trafficking, Mexico remains the
major transit country for cocaine entering the United States, the
report said. About 65 percent of cocaine reaching the United States
passes through Mexico and waters off the Pacific and Gulf coasts. The
eastern Pacific, in particular, remains a preferred transit route for
the smuggling of cocaine from South America to the United States.
While Mexico produces less than five percent of the world's opium
poppy, geographical proximity to the United States allows cultivators
and processors to supply a disproportionately large share of the U.S.
heroin market, the report said. Marijuana grown in Mexico provides a
significant supplement to that grown by domestic cultivators in the
United States. In addition, Mexican traffickers figure prominently in
the distribution of drugs -- particularly cocaine, heroin,
methamphetamine, and marijuana -- in U.S. markets.
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
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