Peru now top cocaine producer, followed by Bolivia
Peru is reportedly now the world's top cocaine producer after Colombia's output fell sharply last year, putting the former leader in third place behind Bolivia
Los Angeles Times
BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Peru has regained its former distinction as the world's top cocaine producer, according to the annual White House report issued Monday that said Colombia's output fell sharply last year, putting the former leader in third place behind Bolivia.
The report by the Office of National Drug Control Policy diverged from a U.N. monitor's report last week that estimated Colombian cocaine production at a much higher level. No reasons were given for the disparity in the reports, which usually track each other closely.
The White House report estimated Peruvian cocaine production last year at 358 U.S. tons, followed by Bolivia with 292 tons and Colombia at 215 tons. It's the first year since 1997 that Colombia has not led in global cocaine output in the report. The recent figures represent a 25 percent drop from White House estimates that Colombia produced 286 tons of cocaine in 2010, topping all producers.
Peru was the world's leading producer of the drug through most of the 1980s and 1990s, before Colombian narco traffickers introduced crops here in a bid to form vertically integrated cocaine cartels. Both the White House and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime use satellite imagery, on-the-ground monitoring, seizures and other indicators to come up with their estimates of potential cocaine production numbers.
The U.N. survey on July 25 pegged potential Colombian cocaine output last year at 380 tons and said output had declined only about 1 percent from the year before. The U.N. did not release Peruvian and Bolivian output estimates, which are due out next month.
In prepared remarks to a Washington think tank on Monday, the director of the White House office described Colombia's reduction as "historic" and credited "strategic pressure across more than one administration in both the United States and Colombia" for the decline.
Gil Kerlikowske, the director, was referring to Plan Colombia, a U.S. taxpayer funded program to combat drugs and terror that has funneled $8 billion to Colombia since 2000, the largest U.S. foreign aid program outside the Middle East and Afghanistan.
"The security threat that the United States and Colombia faced in 1999 is gone," Kerlikowske said. "We don't just have a safe Colombia, we have a vibrant Colombia that is an active partner in helping with the drug and criminal issue in the region."
Colombia is helping train anti-narcotics police and pilots in Mexico and Central America.
Speaking in the city of Rio Negro on Monday, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos hailed the report as confirmation of his strategy of "cutting terrorists' financing sources." Authorities claim that the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia uses drug trafficking profits to finance its war against government forces.
Much of Plan Colombia money has gone to finance aerial spraying of cocaine plantations. In addition, alternative economic development programs under the auspices of USAID and increased law enforcement presence of Colombian army and police have also been factors in cocaine output declining, drug trafficking experts say.
The White House also claims that cocaine use in the United States has declined by 39 percent since 2006, based on indicators including the decline in cocaine overdose deaths, positive workplace drug tests, retail drug purity and cocaine seizures in the United States.
But rising cocaine consumption in Europe and Asia have partly compensated traffickers for the apparent decline in U.S. cocaine demand, analysts have noted.
Kraul is a special correspondent. Special correspondent Jenny Carolina Gonzalez in Rio Negro contributed to this story.