Peru Families Struggle as Coca Farming Plots Are Eradicated

Rodrigo Abd / AP

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NUEVO CANAVERAL, Peru --Thousands of Peruvians are losing their livelihoods to a government campaign to destroy coca, the plant used to make cocaine, and being offered paltry compensation, or none at all.

A record 55,000 hectares (just over 210 square miles) of coca were destroyed in 2013-14 - dropping the Andean nation to No. 2 behind Colombia in land area under coca cultivation, The Associated Press reported.

Peru nevertheless remains the world's top cocaine-producing nation, and its most dense coca fields grow undisturbed far from Duran's ravaged plot of less than a hectare (2.5 acres).

The two-year effort has yielded a 30 percent decrease in the amount of Peruvian land planted with coca, and the government says it's on pace this year to destroy another 35,000 hectares (135 square miles) - an area the size of Philadelphia.

"For the first time in the country's history we have broken the rise in coca leaf production (used) for drug trafficking," President Ollanta Humala said last month after the United Nations announced the latest numbers.

According to Peru's government, 42,000 families got financial support or help with alternative crops last year after their coca fields were destroyed. But many of the 95,000 families affected by eradication get no assistance or, like Edma Duran, have rejected what was offered. Government workers destroyed her family's coca plot.

"This is what we live off," says Duran, who lives with her husband and six children in a village of 110 people that lacks electricity, phones and running water and is five hours from the nearest doctor.

The Associated Press

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