INTRODUCTION: Colombia's new-appointed Director of Customs, retired Army General Jose Maria Rivas, recently announced the launch of a new campaign to stem the flood of smuggled goods across the country's borders.
GV Police trucks arriving at village of Lerma.
SV Police walking through fields of crops and wading through river. (2 SHOTS)
SCU Policeman with walkie-talkie crouched beside bush.
GV Local people watching ZOOM OUT TO SV policeman uprooting cocaine plants.
SV Family of local people standing in doorway of home as line of armed police walks past.
SV Policeman putting leaf specimen in plastic bag.
SV Police uprooting cocaine bushes.
GV PAN Bare patch of land from which cocaine plants have been uprooted.
SV Villagers watching as policeman picks plants from ground.
GV Police burning cocaine plants.
SV PAN ALONG Shed near Barrancas.
SV Soldiers ripping roof off shed PAN ALONG sacks of marijuana.
GV Sacks of marijuana and villagers looking on. (2 SHOTS)
SV Soldiers building fire underneath sacks of marijuana as villagers watch. (2 SHOTS)
SV & GV Sacks of marijuana burning. (5 SHOTS)
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Background: INTRODUCTION: Colombia's new-appointed Director of Customs, retired Army General Jose Maria Rivas, recently announced the launch of a new campaign to stem the flood of smuggled goods across the country's borders. Colombian's 3,000-strong customs force has been almost powerless against the sophisticated methods of marijuana and cocaine smugglers. Now the police have joined in the drive against drugs.
SYNOPSIS: On Thursday (4 June) police raided the village of Lerma, 800 kilometres (500 miles) south of the capital. For years the local peasants have grown and sold cocaine. But recently the size of the crop has increased as the price has risen. On weekly market days the harvest is exchanged for stolen motorcycles, cars and other consumer goods, and the plants are transported to secret laboratories for processing. In its refined powder form, the drug can be shipped to the United States or smuggled through airport customs.
During Thursday's raid police uprooted more than 63,000 cocaine plants from four plantations round the village. They also seized about 14,000 seeds which had been stored in preparation for the next sowing.
Unprocessed, the crop was worth about 250,000 dollars (US) on the clack market, but on the streets of New york or London the refined cocaine would sell for many times that sun.
Colombia's National Association of financial Institutions (ANIF) estimated trade in marijuana last year topped 2.5 billion dollars - 200 million dollars more than the country's official top export earner coffee. In a second raid on Thursday, police discovered three thousand sacks of marijuana in a jungle cache near Barrancas. The crop was neatly stored and police believe it was due to be shipped to the United States.
US authorities say five tonnes of Colombian marijuana is sold in Boston each year. As with cocaine, the street value is far higher than the sums received by Colombia's peasant farmers. While they watch their livelihood going up in smoke, they are seldom arrested. Police and customs men are more interested in finding the businessmen who fund the drug trade.