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Colombia laments lack of progress in war on drugs

YahooNews, September 21, 2006

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Colombia has made painfully little progress in its war against illegal drugs despite all its efforts and the country needs more support from the international community to succeed, President Alvaro Uribe said on Thursday.

With $3 billion in U.S. help, the Colombian government is trying to eradicate fields where peasants are growing coca, the plant from which cocaine is made.

Despite this, the

United Nations said in June that coca cultivation in Colombia rose eight percent in 2005.

 

Colombia says profits from cocaine buy many of the weapons used by Marxist rebels and far-right paramilitaries fighting in a war which has dragged on for more than 40 years. Thousands of people are killed or forced from their homes each year.

"In the fight against illicit drugs I express with anguish that progress has been small when compared to the sacrifice made by the people of Colombia and the willingness of the government to eradicate (coca plants)," Uribe told the U.N. General Assembly.

"The efforts made in the numbers of extradited citizens, the confiscation and sprayed areas as enormous, but the results are not proportional," he said.

Since 2000 the Colombian government has almost halved coca cultivation through a campaign that relies on spraying of herbicides to kill the crop as well as on law enforcement.

Despite this the country still accounts for 70 percent of global cocaine production of 910 tonnes, in part because coca farmers are becoming more efficient.

Uribe said his government needed more money to compensate peasants who had switched from coca to other crops.

"I ask the world - why is there not less rhetoric and more effective commitment so that Columbia ... may finally and definitively overcome the scourge of coca?" he said.

"We are willing to revise our strategy, to improve it, but we need the entire world to get involved with us."