At the urging of local officials last year, peasant farmer Uwaldo NarvaÍs convinced his neighbors to pull up their cash crop of coca, the raw material from which cocaine is refined, and sow bananas, plantains, and rice instead. Perhaps he agreed to do this because he wanted his fellow farmers to benefit from the promised agricultural subsidies of the U.S.-supported Plan Colombia, which aims to eradicate coca leaf production in the country. Perhaps his recent conversion to evangelical Christianity had convinced NarvaÍs that he must stop contributing to the corrupt cocaine trade. But not even his wife knows for sure why NarvaÍs signed on. He did not live long enough to explain.

As president of the community council of Vereda MedellÍn, a farming settlement three miles south of Puerto AsÍs on the Putumayo River, NarvaÍs himself had cultivated 25 acres of coca and profited nicely. Local processing labs, operated by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), bought NarvaÍs's coca and profited nicely, as well.

In turn, these labs sold the drugs to international cartels to help finance their long-running civil war.

Officials estimate that 402,000 acres of coca plants are under cultivation in Colombia, one of the world's most fruitful coca-producing regions. Each year, about 330 tons of Colombian cocaine, with a street value of about $8,600 per pound, illegally find a way to American drug abusers, according to U.S. officials; another 220 tons go to Europe.

Colombian and U.S. officials are working cooperatively in a costly program to curb cocaine production in Colombia, hoping to reduce cocaine exports to the United States and cripple FARC's economic power. The Bush administration has named a new regional program the Andean Initiative, ...

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