July 17, 2008

Things Go Better With Coca

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — geoff @ 9:43 pm


Good morning, music lovers. Today we head over to the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, the site of Sunday’s Art On The Wharf Festival. I shot this series of photos back in June, as I never ceased to be amazed by sea lions in their “rafting” formation. The up close and personal shots are from the boat landing where you can walk up and be within a few feet of those barking beauties. The one thing you can’t experience through these images are the sounds of snorting and breathing as the lions of the sea relax in the bay. And it’s one of those things that one, or perhaps two can only experience at the edge of the continent.

On Wednesday we spilled the mustard about a hot dog war that is raging in the U.S. On another battle front, the U.S. has been waging a “war on drugs” for decades and here’s a news flash, we aren’t winning. In a recent United Nations study, it was reported that Colombian peasants devoted 27 percent more land to growing coca last year. The U.N called the increase “a surprise and a shock” given the intense efforts to eradicate cocaine’s raw ingredient. When President Bush was asked for his reaction, he said it was more of “shock and awe.” The thirst for the cold, crisp taste of coca knows no season.

The good new is that the estimated cocaine production increased only slightly in Colombia and other Andean nations to about 994 metric tons in 2007 from 984 metric tons the year before as cultivation has shifted to smaller, less-productive plots in more remote locations. Coca is on the highway to anywhere and always good to the last drop. I’m just glad they reported in under 1,000 metric tons. And by the way, who is venturing deep into jungles of guerilla territory and counting all this tonnage? The accounting firm of Whitney Houston and Robert Downey Jr.?

The net increase in 7Up and coca farmland came despite record U.S.-backed eradication efforts that disrupted the growing cycle, says General Oscar Naranjo, the chief of Colombia’s police. “These young crops are less productive, both in the number of leaves and in terms of the potency of the leaf.” Coca farmers in remote locations can’t get chemicals needed to process the leaves as easily and complain that it is really difficult to get any decent food to go. Coca is that ice cold sunshine and pure as sunlight.

Still, coca farmers are aggressively tearing down forests to make way for crops and laboratories, and the young plants will eventually produce much more coca if eradication efforts don’t keep up. So what they’re saying is no matter how much money and poison we spray on this country there’s really no way to stop the coca. Coca is the pause that refreshes.

“The increase in coca cultivation in Colombia is a surprise and shock: a surprise because it comes at a time when the Colombian government is trying so hard to eradicate coca; a shock because of the magnitude of cultivation,” said Antonio Maria Costa, director of the U.N. Office on Drugs, Crime and Soft Drinks. Coca is around the corner from anywhere. You can’t beat the feeling.

In all, 382 square miles of coca cultivation were found in Colombia last year, up from 301 square miles in 2006. Total cultivation in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia – the world’s three principal sources of coca – grew 16 percent to 181,600 hectares, or 701 square miles. Coca adds life and what you want is a coca.

Costa noted in his statement that “just like in Afghanistan, where most opium is grown in provinces with a heavy Taliban presence, in Colombia most coca is grown in areas controlled by insurgents, Frito banditos and real estate agents.” It’s Red, White and Blue You and good till the last drop.

Farmers are quickly replanting and minimizing the damage from aerial spraying by planting herbicide-resistant hybrids and coating plants with cane juice, said Bruce Bagley, an international studies professor at the University of Miami. “Areas that have been sprayed have then been brought back into production,” Bagley said. “It’s time for aerial spraying to give way to other programs.” I say, have a coca and a smile.

Washington has spent more than $5 billion to help Colombia combat its long-running insurgency and the world’s largest cocaine industry. That’s because it’s the real thing. About 80 percent goes to the military and 20 percent to social efforts to wean farmers off coca. If I read Professor Bagley’s analysis, the eradication program in Colombia has been a complete failure. Opium production is at an all-time record high in Afghanistan. Coca is the best friend thirst ever had.

Let me sum up the situation with a slogan from 1939. Whoever you are, whatever you do, wherever you may be, when you think of refreshment, think of ice cold Coca Cola. I know I do. Enough said. Because of Art on the Wharf, no blog on Monday, but coming up on Wednesday, we’ll show you some colors you’re going to want to tell your friends about. So enjoy the sea lions, have a fabulous weekend and I hope to see you on Sunday. Aloha, cola fans.

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