Legislators and businesspeople from the United States praised the quality of Peruvian coffee and cacao, as they celebrated the successful policy of replacing coca crops in the fight against drug trafficking in the Inca country.
Both products were tasted on Thursday by hundreds of people at the headquarters of the U.S. Congress.
The crops have been produced on land taken from illegal coca plantations in the valleys of Peru's Amazon and rainforest.
"This is a success story," said Peruvian Ambassador to the United States Carlos Pareja. "It's a battle where cacao
is defeating coca, where coffee
is pushing back the illegal coca crops," he added.
According to the Peruvian diplomat, the policy of crop substitution undertaken by the Government of Peru —within the framework of U.S.-Peruvian cooperation in the fight against illicit drug trafficking— is paying off thanks to a strategic cooperation alliance between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
, the National Commission for Development and Life without Drugs (Devida) and local governments.
For her part, Women and Vulnerable Populations Minister Ana Maria Choquehuanca —who is currently in Washington D.C. to participate in an OAS Permanent Council's special session— affirmed crop substitution demonstrates the government's commitment to advancing in the eradication of drug trafficking, prior to Peru's Independence Bicentennial (2021).
"We are accompanied by seven mayors and an alderman from the regions of Ayacucho, Cajamarca, Junin, Huanuco, Pasco and Piura," she expressed.
"All of them have come to testify that it is possible to defeat drug trafficking by promoting effective policies to replace crops, thus restoring affected populations' dignity and improving their income levels," Sierra y Selva Exportadora program Chairman Alfonso Velasquez said.
As is known, Sierra y Selva Exportadora is designed to promote economic activities —originated in Peru's Andean and jungle areas— that allow growers to attach themselves to national and international markets.
The Peruvian coffee
and chocolate tasting event was
attended by a dozen prominent U.S. lawmakers —many of them
members of the U.S. Congressional Caucus on Peru
, an association of U.S. legislators aimed at promoting bilateral relations between the peoples of the United States and Peru, as well as between their respective governments.
"From the U.S. Congress, we can help Peruvian farmers grow coffee
instead of coca," said Utah Republican Representative Chris Stewart. "We are going to boost all our efforts so that it continues to be a success story," he added.
For his part, Congressman Gregory Meeks, Democratic representative for New York, invited attendees to demand —at U.S. supermarkets— "coffee and chocolates from Peru because they are part of the excellent tradition of Peruvian cuisine."
"Some of the best restaurants in the world are in Peru," he explained. Meeks once again invited attendees to visit the Inca country, "where there are wonderful places to explore."
Congressmen Paul Cook (R-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), David Price (D-NC), and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) attended the event. Also present were Robin Kelly (D-IL), Tim Walberg (R-MI), Grace Napolitano (D-CA) and former Congressman Baron Hill.
The "Coffee and Cacao
Day in the United States Congress" was organized by the Peruvian Embassy in the United States and Sierra and Selva Exportadora. The event's purpose was to demonstrate the success of the policy of replacing crops to eradicate the illegal coca leaves production in Peru and also to find new export markets for both products.