For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.


For South America’s leftist leaders as well as edgy entrepreneurs, coke is a signifier of defiance. Peruvians have a long history of chewing coca leaves and using the plant for other traditional purposes, but now their government promotes coca products partly as a way to resist U.S. pressure to eradicate coca. And in pledging $1 million to fund two coca food-processing factories in Bolivia, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez must be delighted to have found yet another way to poke a stick in the eye of “el Diablo.”

The Fake Real Thing
“It was always the plan to let negative publicity move us forward,” says Jamey Kirby, the man behind Cocaine, an energy drink recently launched in the United States

.

The Real Real Thing
Coca toffees from Peru contain coca alkaloids, a mild form of the active ingredient in cocaine. Peruvian companies also produce coca cookies, energy bars, honey, and soda.

“I insist that [coca leaf] can be consumed directly and elegantly in salad.”
-Peruvian president Alan Garcia, December 2006.
Peru is the world’s No. 2 cocaine producer

.

How to Kill a Rainforest, for $4,975 Tax Dollars an Acre
—Koshlan Mayer-Blackwell

After six years and billions of dollars, Plan Colombia—the United States’ ambitious program of aerial spraying aimed at wiping out Colombia’s illegal coca harvest—has succeeded mostly in pushing coca growing into new areas.

Worse, data from the U.N. show that Plan Colombia has failed to significantly reduce the country’s cocaine output, and on the streets of the United States, blow is cheaper than before the spraying began.

Coca sprayed since 2000

1.8 million acres (nearly the size of Yellowstone Park)

Retail price of Roundup herbicide needed to cover that area

$91 million

Amount paid to Dyncorp to oversee eradication in 2005

$174 million

Coca cultivation in 2000

337,000 to 404,000 acres

Coca cultivation in 2005

212,500 to 356,000 acres

Area of primary forest replaced by coca fields since 2000

241,000 acres

Percentage of coca detected in 2005 that was found in areas where coca had not grown previously

44%

Percentage of area sprayed in the coca-rich district of Putumayo that actually contained legal crops or forest

40%

Change in U.S. street price of cocaine from 2000 to 2005

-29%

“The fight for coca symbolizes our fight for freedom. Coca growers will continue to grow coca. There will never be zero coca.” –Bolivian president and former cocalero Evo Morales, February 2006. Bolivia is the world’s
No. 3 cocaine producer

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate