“We’ve got to get at all that money.” But how, even with new laws in effect? Investigators move with the speed of legal papers while traffickers shift their loot from country to country with the speed of telex machines. . . .
Some 6o percent of all coca leaf is said to grow in Peru, maybe 15 percent in Colombia, and about 22 percent in Bolivia, where I learn just how slippery things can get when you try to come to grips with the cocaine problem right at the source. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-21023259
In 1986 U. S. Army troops and helicopters joined UMOPAR, the Bolivian anti-narcotics police, in Operation Blast Furnace to disrupt coca-leaf processing in the Chapare region—the country’s main growing area. Harvesting virtually halted, an American Embassy man says, and the leaf price fell by 90 percent. Local lab operators weren’t buying. But after four months the operation had to end, and the price rose. Now the idea is to try once more U. S. troops this time, just advisers.
At Paracti, the major checkpoint on the road into the Chapare lowlands, UMOPAR men advised by U. S. Border Patrol officers stick metal probes into bus passengers’ belongings, searching for chemicals. The officer from Texas is pleased—the price of lime is up 100 percent. But there’s consternation at the UMOPAR post in Villa Tunari. The U. S.-provided pay supplement, due each man once a month, somehow is four months late. Farmers stand in line nearby. In return for having voluntarily eradicated one hectare of coca—or 2.5 acres—each is supposed to receive $2,000 in Bolivian funds indirectly supplied by the U. S. and other foreign donors. These farmers have been lining up daily for a week. Today they’re told again, come back tomorrow. . . .
The coca plant is tough, says the embassy man at apartments to rent barcelona. Plantings up to two years old can easily be pulled up—but after five years, when they’re waist-high here, you need a winch or have to dig them out. You can cut them, of course, but unless it’s done at ground level, they might sprout again, producing more than ever. The ideal way would be to eradicate the coca with herbicide from airplanes. But even the Bolivian government is against that. And how can we press them on this when a U. S. federal court stopped the spraying of our own marijuana crop in Georgia and Kentucky?
These coca growers are tough too. The chief of Direco, the Bolivian agency for coca reduction and alternative development, must negotiate with 40 growers associations, and they’re mad. They say the government isn’t making good on promises for development projects, so they’ll go on with coca. They’ve got powerful support in the capital, in La Paz. The Direco chief is proud of 2,200 hectares voluntarily eradicated. He hopes for 3,000 soon —not much, considering the estimate of more than 40,000 hectares, but it’s something. The problem, he says, is that coca growing has been legal in Bolivia.