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Homeland Security

17 March 2003

U.N. Reports 30 Percent Drop in Colombian Coca Cultivation

(New survey records progress in global fight against illicit drugs)
Washington -- The United Nations is hailing the findings of a new
survey that indicates the amount of coca under cultivation in Colombia
dropped by 30 percent from 2001 to 2002.
In a March 17 statement, the U.N. said the survey it conducted with
the government of Colombia found that 102,000 hectares of coca were
under cultivation in 2002, compared to 144,807 hectares in 2001.
In addition, the U.N. said that for the first time in over a decade,
aggregate coca cultivation in the Andean region declined to 173,000
hectares. This drop-off represents a "major achievement in the
international fight against illicit drugs and related crime," said
Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the U.N. Office on Drugs
and Crime.
Costa added that annual world production of coca has been persistently
above 200,000 hectares and that this decline will subtract over
100,000 kilos of cocaine from world markets. The new survey also found
a decline in coca cultivation for a second straight year in Colombia,
with a nearly 38-percent reduction from 2000 to 2001.
The U.N. findings follow on the heels of the U.S. State Department's
own announcement March 3 reporting declines in cultivation and
production of coca in Colombia, the world's leading producer and
distributor of cocaine and the primary focus of U.S.
anti-drug-trafficking efforts in 2002.
Paul Simons, the State Department's acting secretary for international
narcotics and law enforcement, reported a 15-percent decline in land
devoted to cultivation of coca in Colombia. "If we can sustain this,"
he said, "there will be a continued decline which will affect the
price and availability [of cocaine] in the United States." The Bush
Administration is providing more than $1.5 billion in aid to fund
Colombia's anti-drug program under a social, economic, judicial, and
political reform package known as Plan Colombia.
Costa said that in the future, two main challenges will have to be met
concerning cultivation of Colombian coca. First, he said, Colombia's
crop reduction "needs to be matched by alternative-development
programs to provide farmers with licit incomes." Second, "governments
worldwide should concentrate on reducing demand and promoting
drug-abuse prevention," he said. "The United Nations is fully
mobilized behind such measures."
The U.N.'s Colombia 2002 survey provided maps and data showing the
location of crops and tracking the shifts that have occurred on a
year-by-year and department-by-department basis in Colombia. The U.N.
said "very significant reduction" in coca cultivation was recorded in
the departments of Putumayo, Meta, and Caqueta, where
government-sponsored eradication took place in 2002. Further crop
reductions in the departments of Bolivar, Cauca, and Vichada can be
attributed to abandonment of fields or to voluntary manual
eradication, the U.N. said.
The U.N. said that while the Colombian government's coca eradication
program and related law-enforcement measures reduce the area under
illicit cultivation and drive down the economic incentives to plant
coca fields, "sustaining the reduction in coca cultivation requires
that farmers have socio-economic alternatives."
Costa said his agency supports alternative-development initiatives in
seven departments covering 26,000 hectares and involving several
thousand families.
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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