Peru has now overtaken Colombia as the largest cocaine exporter in the world. Some regions produce huge quantities of coca leaves and coca paste – which is then turned into pure cocaine destined for Europe, Asia and Latin America.
Until recently, the government did very little to tackle the problem – making Peru an obvious choice for drug traffickers looking to move from Colombia, where they were hunted by the police and US-backed troops.
At times, the government tried a policy of eradication – that is the forced elimination of coca crops by burning or spraying them with chemicals. But many consider this strategy a failure because farmers found other plots of land for coca production.
However, the government of Ollanta Humala, Peru’s new president, is taking a different approach to tackling the problem: getting tough on traffickers and encouraging farmers to grow other crops instead of coca.
Inside Story Americas discusses with guests: Luis Del Valle, a journalist and filmmaker; Kevin Casas-Zamora, the former vice president of Costa Rica; and Sanho Tree, the director for the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and an expert on the ‘war on drugs’.