ACAPULCO, Mexico – Soldiers eradicated fields of coca – the raw material of cocaine – and a clandestine drug lab in the southern state of Guerrero, the Mexican army said.
“Six coca plantations and a crude laboratory for the processing of opium paste and coca leaf were found,” Lt. Col. Enrique Benitez Campoy said during a press briefing on Monday’s operation in the municipality of Atoyac de Alvarez, 180 kilometers (112 miles) southeast of Acapulco.
The coca, which covered a total of 2 hectares (4.4 acres) of land, was spotted on Feb. 9
Mexico’s powerful drug cartels do a brisk trade in smuggling cocaine to the United States, but they must obtain the product from South America because the Aztec nation does not offer the conditions for large-scale cultivation of coca, a plant native to the Andes.
The only previous discovery of a coca plantation in Mexico came in 2014 in the southern state of Chiapas, bordering Guatemala.
“Here we are at 900 meters (2,950 feet), but the result of the combination of climate, heat and altitude is that coca can be grown,” Benitez Campoy said.
The various chemicals found in the drug lab, including some that have yet to be identified, were handed over to officials of the federal Attorney General’s Office in Acapulco.
Opium poppies and marijuana are grown extensively in Mexico and security forces have experience in eradicating those crops, but it’s a different story with coca.
“We had not carried out this type of procedure,” Benitez Campoy said, adding that coca is more difficult to uproot than poppies.
“So, to destroy the plantations, we employed the manual method and incineration,” the officer told reporters.
The street price of a kilogram of cocaine in Mexico is roughly $12,500 and each hectare of coca leaf can yield as much as seven kilograms of cocaine.
No arrests have been made in connection with the coca fields and drug lab.
Mexican authorities say that a half-dozen organized crime outfits operate in Guerrero.