Peruvian farmers vow to defend cocaine trade - despite U.S.-backed drug war
Destitute farmers depend on coca as their only source of income
The war on drugs is not simple or cut and tried. Cocaine fuels gun battles on city streets here and abroad, and the high cost of coke addiction runs high - in both dollars and human lives. In Peru, however, many indigent farmers rely on the coca leaf as their only source of income. These farmers are now saying that they will fight to the death to protect their only "cash" crop - in spite of a U.S.-backed anti-drug campaign.
In spite of the high cost cocaine wreaks upon the world, indigent farmers in Peru are reluctant to part with their only cash crop.
Peruvian president Ollanta Humala, has vowed to finally tame and control drug cultivation in the VRAE. Forced coca eradication, implemented by sending in heavily armed police to uproot the plants by hand is part of this plan.
Anti-drug czar Carmen Masias has remained silent about the precise dates, but is expected in the next 12 months.
The Peruvian government is preparing to expropriate more than 1,100 acres of farmland on the valley floor to build a new military airbase. This strategy is largely in response to attacks from the feared Shining Path rebels to pave the road into the VRAE. The Shining Path launched a civil war in the 1980s and early '90s that cost 70,000 lives.
Insurgents since that time have been cornered into the far reaches of the VRAE, from where they still launch occasional attacks. More than 100 police and soldiers have been killed in and around the valley since 2008.
"There will be serious conflict," one coca farmer says. "There will be another guerrilla group. Not like Shining Path but a new one. No one is going to put up with having their crops destroyed. Of course, people are going to rise up."
"We don't know what we will do if they destroy our coca," another farmer laments, who has a large family to support. "What am I supposed to feed them? We are just farmers. We don't make [cocaine] paste or cocaine."
There's a hitch: the deadly cocaine trade has left most of the region's farmers trapped in a vicious circle of poverty and dependence on the drug traffickers.
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