By Mike McDonaldANTIGUA, Guatemala (Reuters) – Guatemala is considering subsidizing alternative crops for poppy farmers in order to curb the production of narcotics and raise funds for social programs, a senior government official said on Tuesday.
The government could offer seeds for potatoes, corn and peas to farmers who grow poppies in northwestern Guatemala along the border with Mexico, where powerful drug cartels buy the plants and convert them into heroin, said Eunice Mendizabal, anti-narcotics deputy minister.
The Central American nation, with tight budget constraints, spends close to $2 million annually eliminating poppy plants. It is struggling to contain cartels that use the isthmus as a transit point to ship drugs to the United States.
“Every time we perform an operation to eradicate poppies, that area becomes more conflictive,” Mendizabal told Reuters at a conference to discuss alternatives to the drug war.