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Coca leaves on Machu Pichu

The area sown with coca, the key ingredient in cocaine and crack, is at an all-time low. That’s according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which released its annual World Drug Report Thursday, crediting the record to a 25 percent reduction in Colombia’s fields, one of just three countries where coca is grown. Read more»

Believe it or not, there are things going on in South America right now that have nothing to do with Brazil's soccer mega-event. Read more»

For the rest of the world, guinea pigs may be perfectly cute, low-maintenance pets, or disposable lab test subjects. But in the Andes, where the species evolved, they have a very different use — lunch. Read more»

A coca field

Last October an American anti-drug pilot was fumigating Colombian coca fields when Marxist guerrillas opened fire at his crop duster. Two bullets hit his left leg but the pilot managed to land safely in a cow pasture. He was lucky. Three weeks earlier, rebel gunfire brought down another anti-drug crop-dusting plane, killing the American pilot on board. Read more»

A bowl of coca leaves at the Novotel in Cusco, Peru.

Peru is on the brink of officially confirming its unwanted status as the world’s top producer of cocaine and other illegal coca plant derivatives. Read more»

A coca farmer in Columbia with his crop.

The annual United Nations survey on coca plant production in the Andean region serves as a kind of drug war report card — yet it’s hard to tell whether Colombia is passing or failing. Read more»

Bolivia’s fabulously rich silver mine has claimed thousands of victims, yet the men keep coming. Read more»

High-rise condos sprout up after a construction boom in Brazil's upper-middle-class neighborhood of Barra de Tijuca (shown in the distance beyond the Joatinga district) in Rio de Janeiro.

Latin America has long been a case study in the social ills brought by sharp economic inequality, its class-stratified societies marked by too few haves and too many have-nots. As the region’s middle class grows, poverty falls. But who deserves the praise? Read more»

Coca leaves

Panettone, a traditional Christmas sweet bread, usually includes raisins, candied fruit and what flour. But Bolivian coca growers have modified the recipe to include flour made from coca leaves. Read more»

The Department of State, which received more $1 billion for international counter-narcotics programs last year, doesn’t have a central database to track its anti-drug programs. Read more»