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In historic achievement, Colombian cocaine production plunges...or does it?

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For the first time since 1995, Peru and Bolivia have overtaken Colombia as the world’s leading producers of cocaine, the United States said this week.

Speaking to an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the president of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Gil Kerlikowski, said the latest estimates showed Colombian cocaine production down 25 percent from 2010 and an impressive 72 percent from 2001 – its lowest levels since 1994.

This is a “historic” achievement, said Mr. Kerlikowske. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was quick to laud his country’s “breakthrough.”

Based on the US data, Peru is now the biggest cocaine producer in the region, a reputation it held in the 1980s and 1990s, before Colombia rose to drug producing and trafficking notoriety. This latest role reversal might imply something of a “balloon” effect, where production is quashed in one country, only to have cultivation and production pop up with more force next door.

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