The Bush administration claims good progress in wiping out coca crops in the Andean region, says the New York Times. Some officials say that by the end of this year there will be no significant plantations of mature plants to feed Colombia’s cocaine production. Officials involved in aerial spraying in Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia warn that pilots are increasingly vulnerable to attacks by guerrillas as they go after plantations in remote areas. The downing of four planes and the death of a pilot in Colombia last year prompted some officials to question the future of the spraying.
Estimates on the Colombia fields for 2003, prepared by the Central Intelligence Agency, show a 21 percent decline in the cultivation of coca, from which cocaine is derived. Peru registered a drop of 15 percent; Bolivia showed a 17 percent increase. The overall figures show a regional reduction of more than 15 percent last year and production totals at their lowest level since estimates began in 1986. Colombia accounts for 80 percent of the cocaine reaching the United States.
Even with the progress, officials acknowledged that the supply of cocaine has been so vast for so long that it is unlikely there will be a marked effect on American streets for some time to come.