The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has released its latest survey of coca cultivation in Bolivia, which finds that the amount of coca grown in the country has fallen for the third straight year.
As La Razon and the Wall Street Journal report, coca leaf cultivation in Bolivia fell by 9 percent last year compared to 2012, and now stands at around 23,000 hectares (56,800 acres). The figure is the lowest level recorded by the UNODC since 2002, and represents a 26 percent drop since 2010.
The Bolivian government has attributed the reduction to its unorthodox approach to coca cultivation, which relies on a mix of regulation of legal crop quotas and eradication of surplus and illicit plots. Praising what he called a “record” drop, President Evo Morales noted that the country is on track to meet its goal of reducing coca cultivation to 20,000 hectares (49,420 acres) by 2015, and even suggested the benchmark could be met ahead of schedule.
However, just because the total area used to grow coca has fallen does not necessarily mean cocaine production in Bolivia has decreased. As the Associated Press notes, the UNODC does not estimate potential cocaine production based on its coca cultivation observations. The omission is important, because reports suggest the methods used to make cocaine in the country are increasingly becoming more advanced, relying less on open air maceration pits and more on sophisticated labs. As a result, a greater concentration of cocaine alkaloids can be extracted using less raw coca.
Still, estimating total cocaine production is an inexact science at best. The most well-known estimates come from the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), which has asserted that Bolivia’s potential cocaine production increased since 2006 even though the amount of coca grown there has fallen.
But the accuracy of the ONDCP figures is doubtful. As the Andean Information Network pointed out, last year the office quietly readjusted its estimates of Bolivia’s cocaine production potential for 2011 -- dropping it to 190 metric tons from 265 -- after its methodology was questioned by independent analysts. No explanation was given for this modification, nor for retroactive decreases made to ONDCP estimates of the previous five years, potentially amounting to a tacit admission that they were inflated.
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- The Miami Herald reports on Brazil’s attempts to promote sustainable tourism during the World Cup, a move that has earned praise from some environmentalist groups.
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