"A record and historic figure in the war against the first link in the drug trade," the police said
BOGOTA -- Colombian authorities have eradicated since last January 224,478 hectares (550,000 acres) of coca, the raw material of cocaine, the police anti-narcotics division said Tuesday.
More than half of that total was destroyed by spraying the illegal crops with the toxic herbicide glyphosate, sold in the United States under the name Roundup.
The spraying campaign is carried out by a fleet of airplanes and helicopters, some of them provided by the United States, which has also deployed personnel in Colombia to help with that task.
The anti-narcotics police said that 95,323 hectares (235,365 acres) have been destroyed manually by eradication groups reporting to the presidential agency.
It is "a record and historic figure in the war against the first link in the drug trade," the police said.
The overall figures indicate that Colombia has reached its goal of eradicating 230,000 hectares (561,000 acres) of coca in 2008.
Colombia registered at the end of 2007 an area of 99,000 hectares (244,400 acres) of coca, according to the annual study of illegal crops released in mid-June this year by the Bogota delegation of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
The area was 27 percent greater that that documented in 2006 by the UNODC.
Police reported that 11 agents of the anti-narcotics police died this year while carrying out fumigation tasks, while another 49 were injured, most of them in attacks by illegal armed groups including guerrillas.
The police said that six civilians engaged in eradicating coca crops manually died this year and 31 more were wounded in rebel attacks or accidents with anti-personnel mines in the coca fields.
In the course of the year, the anti-narcotics authorities also discovered and destroyed 270 laboratories.
Colombia receives roughly $500 million a year in U.S. military aid to battle the drug trade and leftist rebels.
Despite Bogota's efforts, Colombia remains the world's leading producer of cocaine.