Coca cultivation is surging in Peru, making the country a contender to surpass Colombia as the world’s largest exporter of cocaine, reports the New York Times. The increase offers a window into one of the most vexing aspects of the American-financed war against drugs in Latin America, which began in earnest four decades ago. When antinarcotics forces succeed in one place — as they recently have in Colombia, which has received more than $5 billion in American aid this decade — cultivation shifts to other corners of the Andes.
Mexican and Colombian drug trafficking rings are expanding their reach in Peru, where two factions of Shining Path guerrillas are already competing for control of the cocaine trade. The traffickers — fortified by the resilient demand for cocaine in the United States, Brazil and parts of Europe — are stymieing efforts to combat the drug’s resurgence here and raising the specter of greater violence in a nation still haunted by years of war. “The struggle against coca can resemble detaining the wind,” said Gen. Juan Zárate, who leads the country’s coca eradication campaigns.