Cultivation of coca crops in indigenous reserves in southwest Colombia is increasing, said head of anti-narcotics police department, general Luis Alberto Pérez Alvarán on Monday.
According to Perez, drug-traffickers are using indigenous lands in the southwestern department Putumayo to avoid interference from security forces because destruction or spraying of crops can only occur after consultation with the indigenous community, reported Radio Caracol.
In the village of Caucasia, just 500 meters from the border with Ecuador, a plan to eradicate the crops by hand has been put into action last Wednesday. The government’ goal is to eradicate over 17,000 acres of coca plant in Putumayo in 2012. Last year, nearly 9,000 acres were “cleaned”.
The biggest danger to workers and police carrying out the eradication is violent harassment and landmines laid by the 48th Front of the FARC guerrilla group who have a deal with traffickers to protect the crops. Since the launch of the manual eradication project last week, one policeman died and another one was seriously injured after stepping on a landmine, according to Radio Caracol.
The 180 workers are being protected by 120 policemen during the eradication process. Control of the area is kept by security forces based on the ground and is monitored by overhead flights.
This manual coca eradication project was put into action one month after July’s march when 5,000 local farmers protested against FARC landmines and the government’s policy on the aerial spraying of illicit crops.