For a number of years Peru has carried the ignominious title of the World’s number one coca grower and producer of cocaine.
Physical evidence of this industry, capable of turning out 340 tons of cocaine a year, remains largely invisible however. To find it you have to cross, deserts, jungle and rivers until you reach some of the remotest parts of the Andean mountains, for it is here where the combination of cool temperature, lots of sunlight, and rocky mineral rich soil, produces plants capable of yielding the highest levels of cocaine.
Growing coca at lower elevations has been tried before, but the cocaine yields have been significantly lower or non-existent. Therefore, the rule has always been: go high to get high.
A new report from film maker Guillermo Galdos has revealed that coca cultivators have developed a new super strain of coca capable of withstanding wet climates and producing high cocaine yields at low altitude.
It is now being grown prolifically throughout the Amazon basin where coca labs are now hidden within the very coca plants they process.
The news comes in the same week that U.S ambassador Brian Nicholls congratulated Peru for its record destruction of 35,856 hectares of illegal coca.
This follows adoption of a number of hardline measures designed to combat coca cultivation which include expanded chemical spraying campaigns, destruction of drug landing strips and the reviving of a controversial law authorising aircraft suspected of carrying narcotics to be shot down.
Despite the measures, anti-narcotics agencies have always known that they are fighting a losing battle. With the revelation that there is a coca plant capable of flourishing in the Amazon, the question really is not how much more coca will be produced but how far it can be expected to travel.
Anecdotal reports of coca’s spread throughout the Southern Hemisphere, even as far as Congo, have been floating around for a while. Last year the UN Office on Drugs and Crime confirmed the discovery of a plantation in Chiapas Mexico, close to the Guatemalan border, a first in Mexico’s history.
Sanho Tree, fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies told Vice News:
“My only question is why it took so long…it’s got cheap labor, remote land, and good climate. Add corruption, crushing poverty, and poor infrastructure for other types of commerce and you’ve got a perfect storm.”
Many policy makers and drug enforcement agencies must be asking themselves just how many tropical regions of the world fit the same description.
Watch the video below for a link to Guillermo Galdos report: