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Jungle Sweep Uncovers 57 Drug Labs

August 23, 2002

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LIMA, Peru (AP) _ Police destroyed 57 crude drug laboratories in the Peruvian jungle and burned 38 tons of coca leaf, a spokesman said Thursday.

Agents discovered the labs during sweeps of a remote area 200 miles southeast of Lima on Aug. 6 and Aug. 15. Farmers at the sites were turning coca into raw paste, an intermediate form of cocaine, a police spokesman said on condition of anonymity.

The find was worrisome because it showed that coca farmers were producing paste and not just growing coca, Raul Quintana, head of police anti-drug operations in the region, told the newspaper El Comercio.

For years, peasants have grown coca and sold it to drug traffickers who processed the leaf into paste before smuggling it into Colombia, where it was refined into cocaine and exported to the United States and Europe.

Authorities have reported increasing production of paste by farmers in coca-growing valleys in Peru. Peru is the world’s second largest cocaine producer, behind Colombia.

No one was arrested in the latest busts because the farmers who ran the labs fled before police arrived, the spokesman said. The busts were made in the Apurimac River valley, one of the two main drug-producing corridors in Peru’s eastern jungle.

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