Drug trade still fueling Colombia violence

July 27, 2008 at 9:16 AM

PASTO, Colombia, July 27 (UPI) -- Even though its large cities remain relatively quiet, drug trade and rebel violence still grip much of Colombia's countryside, local officials say.

Reports that the lack of spectacular attacks in cities such as Bogota and Medellin may be signaling an end to the country's decades-old civil war are premature, they contend. With a United Nations report showing the cultivation of coca, the plant used to make cocaine, jumped 27 percent in 2007 to 244,634 acres in Colombia, officials say the struggle by armed factions in rural areas still unrelenting, The New York Times reported Sunday.

"The armed groups are like malaria, evolving to resist eradication and killing with efficiency," Narino Gov. Antonio Navarro Wolff told the newspaper in the city of Pasto. "If anything, Narino shows the guerrillas may have lost their chance for victory but not their ability to cause suffering."

With coca cultivation rising, violence in rural areas such as Narino, Putumayo, Meta and Antioquia is apparent almost every week, the Times said.

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