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Peruvian anti-narcotics chief fired

 

The Americas Post - Ricardo Soberon isn't running Peru's drug war anymore. Photo Credit: ANDINA

Peru’s government on Tuesday replaced top anti-narcotics official Ricardo Soberon after just five months in office, for his refusal to support coca crop eradication efforts.

 

Soberon caused provoked controversy in August by temporarily halting  elimination of Peru’s coca crop, the world’s second largest after Colombia’s.

That move prompted complaints from U.S. Ambassador Rose Likins.  The U.S. government finances Peru’s eradication program and considers it a vital part of the war on drugs.

Interior minister Oscar Valdes had disagreed with the suspension, which violated an inaugural promise by President Ollanta Humala. Valdes was promoted to Cabinet chief in December.

Soberon did not return phone calls seeking comment.

He has previously stated that Peru should prosecute cocaine traffickers and money launderers, confiscate illegal drug shipments and halt the import of chemicals for processing cocaine, but not penalize peasants who grow coca, the raw material for cocaine.  Soberon’s anti-narcotics plan was never approved.

His departure may indicate that Humala is departing from the leftist agenda on which he initially campaigned for the presidency.  Prior to his election, Humala told coca growers that he would not aggressively implement eradication. Soberon, who worked closely for many years with coca growers, sent a similar message.

The U.S. Embassy in Lima declined to comment on Soberon’s resignation.

According to U.N. figures, Peru had 236 square miles in coca cultivation in 2010, just three square miles fewer than Colombia.  Unlike Colombia’s cocaine, most of which is smuggled into the United States, Peruvian coke is mainly shipped to Europe and the growing Asian market.

Soberon was replaced by Carmen Masias, a psychologist who has previously worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development.