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Last Updated:11/25/03

Discrepancy between U.S. and UN figures on coca cultivation in Peru and Bolivia
By CIP Intern Kathryn Williams
November 25, 2003


Is massive herbicide fumigation in Colombia reducing the supply of cocaine, or is it just pushing coca cultivation over Colombia's borders, into Peru and Bolivia? Neither the United States' nor the United Nations' preliminary estimates for the area's coca cultivation in 2003 offer a definitive answer.

A November 17 State Department press release, citing "survey-sampling techniques and satellite imagery," found that overall levels of coca cultivation in Peru and Bolivia were 1,400 hectares (or 2 percent) lower in 2003 than in 2002. These numbers contradict preliminary UN estimates.

The State Department's "2003 Coca Cultivation Estimates for Bolivia and Peru" reports that, while cultivation in traditional coca-growing areas has remained steady or even increased, net coca cultivation in the two countries has dropped to 59,600 hectares, from 61,000 at the end of 2002. A 17% increase in coca cultivation in Bolivia in 2003, it said, was offset by a net 15% decrease in Peru. [1]

However, Klaus Nyholm, the Colombia director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, has said coca cultivation in the two countries may have grown by as much as 21%. During a September 16 release of preliminary estimates for Colombia, Nyholm noted that Peru and Bolivia could experience a nearly 15,000-hectare increase in 2003. [2]

In response to the discrepancy between its own numbers and UN estimates, the White House argues that UN data collection techniques differ from U.S. government methods. However, some Peruvian observers have questioned US findings that drug cultivation has decreased in that country. Roger Rumrill, a Peruvian anti-drugs expert, told Reuters that Peruvian officials, under U.S. pressure for progress in its international "War on Drugs," have been inflating eradication figures. [3]

[1] United States, Department of State, "State Dept. Issues 2003 Coca Cultivation Estimates for Bolivia and Peru" (Washington: State Department, November 18, 2003) <http://usinfo.state.gov/xarchives/display.html?p=washfile-english&y=2003&m=November&x=20031118105938nesnom0.6506616&t=usinfo/wf-latest.html>.

[2] "U.S. says coca area up in Bolivia, down in Peru," Reuters, November 18, 2003 <http://famulus.msnbc.com/FamulusIntl/reuters11-17-144932.asp?reg=AMERICAS>.

[3] "Peru says beats coca eradication target," Reuters, November 19, 2003 <http://famulus.msnbc.com/FamulusIntl/reuters11-18-165242.asp?reg=AMERICAS>.

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