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Last Updated: Monday, 28 January 2008, 10:30 GMT
In pictures: Cocaine: Alex James in Colombia

A soldier looks out of the coca plantations

From the Black Hawk the immaculate rainforest is broken by pockets of coca fields. Planes fly beneath spraying the coca. Photographer: David Notman-Watt

'Jungla' commandos on board a helicopter

Every year the US pours money into the Colombian military as part of a controversial coca eradication plan, Plan Colombia.

Alex James talks to an informer.

Alex James talks to an informer who leads commandos to a cocaine factory in the rainforest.

Farmers harvest a crop of coca

A coca farmer explains: "We don't grow it because we want to. We grow it because we have no choice. Without it we can't survive."

A chongo hidden deep in the rainforest

There are hundreds of makeshift cocaine labs in the rainforest. Here coca leaves are turned into cocaine base.

Alex James watching coca paste being made

First the leaves are ground and mixed with cement, then petrol is added. This releases an alkaloid in the leaf.

The mixture of pasta basica

Cold water and sulphuric acid are added, then the petrol is drained to leave a paste which is boiled and mixed with another chemical.

Alex James holding coca paste in its crude form

The resulting paste is called "pasta basica". It will now be sold on to bigger labs for processing into cocaine hydrochloride.

A freshly made lump of pasta basica.

A barrel of leaves makes about 50g of pasta basica. This makes 25g of pure cocaine that will be worth about £3,000 in London.

Modelo Prison.

In Modelo prison there are 250 foreigners. Steve, a prisoner, explained: "The money's just too good... All of the Spaniards in my patio, 99% are mules and they're all here for cocaine."

Pablo Escobar's gravestone

The grave of Pablo Escobar, or "El Patron", the head of the Medellín drug cartel. He was shot as he tried to flee security forces in 1993.



SEE ALSO
Cocaine: Alex James in Colombia
28 Jan 08 |  Panorama
Key Farc role in US cocaine trade
12 Feb 07 |  Americas
Colombia's 'lost war' against cocaine
23 May 06 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Country profile: Colombia
12 Jan 08 |  Country profiles


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