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News Link • Drug War

Peru: Cocaine king’s riches don’t reach growers

•, Simeon Tegel
 A sea of coca leaves — the key ingredient in cocaine and crack — lies drying in the blazing sun as farmer Teodoro Alzamora complains bitterly about the grinding poverty trapping his village.

“Coca’s what gives us clothes to wear and medicine when we are sick. It feeds our children,” he says, explaining that his only source of income is the few hundred dollars, after costs, he earns per coca harvest.

“We are not ‘narcos.’ What else are we supposed to do? When we grow cassava or bananas no one wants to buy them. But they come almost every day to buy our coca.”

Below us stretches Peru’s lawless Apurimac and Ene Valley (VRAE by its Spanish initials) — which produces more coca than any other zone on the planet.

Booming production here has now helped propel Peru to surpass Colombia as the world’s No. 1 source of cocaine and other coca-derived narcotics — and placed it center stage in Washington’s decades-long, trillion-dollar “war on drugs.”

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