Los Angeles Times

As reform efforts fail, Colombian farmers see no other way forward than to continue growing coca

TANDIL, Colombia - The anti-narcotics police arrived here in the heart of Colombia's cocaine industry in October to destroy the coca crop. The community was determined to save it.

Roughly 1,000 farmers, some armed with clubs, surrounded the hilltop camp that police had set up in a jungle clearing and began closing in on the officers.

The police started shooting. When they were done, seven farmers were dead and 21 were wounded.

"Several friends and neighbors died on the ground waiting for medical assistance," said Luis Gaitan, 32, who protected himself by hiding behind a tree stump.

In the end, the police crackdown appeared to have little result.

Gaitan and others soon returned to growing coca, the raw material of cocaine. The remote municipality of Tumaco, where Tandil is located, produces 16 percent of Colombian coca - more than anywhere else in the country.

If Colombia ever had a chance to choke off its cocaine industry, this last year might have been it. The U.S.-backed government ended a five-decade civil war with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, better known as the

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