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Heading Down South America Way

Submitted by Phillip Smith on
Very early on January 12, I will board a plane in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and that night I will be sleeping in a hotel in downtown Lima, Peru. That will be the first of 21 nights in the Drug War Chronicle's Coca Tour 2007, which will take me deep into the indigenous Andean coca heartland (but not to Colombia, where, for the most part, coca production is not tied to ancient tradition but to the global cocaine market). I will be meeting with coca farmers, coca growers' union leaders, academics, harm reductionists, and government officials in Peru and Bolivia, as well, I hope, with US government officials in the embassies in Lima and La Paz. I will spend a week in Lima and the vicinity, then take a tourism break to visit Machu Picchu and the ancient Inca capital of Cusco. From there, it'll be a bus ride across the 12,000 foot high altiplano to the Bolivian border and on to La Paz. I'll spend 10 or 11 days in Bolivia, where I hope to travel to both major coca producing areas, the Chapare and Las Yungas. The road from La Paz to Las Yungas, from the heights of the Andes to the edge of the Amazon basin is known as "the world's most dangerous road." Yee-haw! In Peru, I'm working on setting up meetings with ENACO, the Peruvian government coca monopoly, as well as with DEVIDA, the anti-drug agency. Maybe I'll even have to try some of that coca salad President Garcia was praising this week. In Bolivia, I'll be talking to the Ministry of Coca, NGOs, and companies that produce coca products, as well as growers and union leaders. I will be blogging from the Andes throughout the journey. Stay tuned.

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