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Imagine a post-drug war world. After decades of brutal violence, huge costs and corrupting cartels, the Americas are trying to picture it. They produce and ship the bulk of the cocaine that enters the US, the world's top user. Now leaders are discussing alternatives to the war on drugs, such as decriminalizing or legally regulating parts of the drug trade. The taboo is broken. 'Legalize it' is gaining ground.

Peru backs the US in the war on drugs

As some Latin American leaders call for legalization of narcotics, Peru — a leading coca grower — remains opposed. A former anti-drug czar turned dissident explains why.

Soberon now argues for subsidies and tax breaks to encourage alternative crops such as coffee or cacao. And with the drugs research center, he is working to introduce stevia, the natural, spectacularly sweet alternative to sugar, as a new crop.

He also believes the Peruvian government needs to make a greater effort to integrate rural communities into Peru’s dramatic economic growth, including more schools and better medical attention in the Andes.

In Aucayacu, one of the main coca-growing areas, some 400 miles east of Lima, in a typical high-school class of 120, just two will ever make it to university, says Soberon.

And most of the other top-performing students will end up either sucked into the drug trade, prostitution or some form of dead-end work such as driving a moto-taxi.

“That has to change,” he says.