Peruvian President Alan Garcia appears determined to spark an open confrontation with the county's hundreds of thousands of coca growers. Two weeks ago, we reported on a coca grower strike in Tocache. That was resolved last week with an agreement to end forced eradication of coca crops there. Now, Garcia has declared that forced eradication will resume
and, for good measure, he is threatening to use military force to wipe out the numerous backwoods labs that process coca leaves into cocaine.
Peru, the world's No. 2 cocaine producer, should launch air strikes and machine-gun attacks to destroy jungle drug factories and airstrips used by traffickers, President Alan Garcia said on Monday. Garcia said a day earlier the destruction of coca crops would resume in one of the most-important cocaine-making regions in the South American country. Officials had made a deal with local farmers to halt the eradication.
"We've got to finish every last cocaine factory and every last airport. Use the A37 planes, bomb and attack these airports, these cocaine factories with machine guns," Garcia said, directing his comments to the country's interior minister, who is in charge of the police that lead the fight against drugs.
Peru is the second-largest producer of cocaine in the world after Colombia.
"I'm not willing to be blackmailed ... I'm not going to be a straw doll or puppet of the political fears," said Garcia, who took office in July.
According to official figures, Peruvian police raided 718 cocaine factories last year and seized 14.7 tons of partially processed cocaine. They also destroyed more than 25,000 acres of illegal crops of coca, the plant used to make cocaine.
While Garcia appears to be seeking confrontation, his leading rival, Peruvian Nationalist Party leader Ollanta Humala, who came in a close second to Garcia in last year's elections, has a better idea: Buy up the crop
. According to Humala, $250 million over four years would buy 90,000 tons of coca leaves, which could be processed into legitimate nutritional and medicinal products, and would provide a window of opportunity for coca farmers to switch to alternative crops.
Humala said he is worried about growing social conflict in the coca zones. Garcia, on the other hand, seems determined to exacerbate it.