BOGOTA - The amount of planted coca, the raw material used to produce cocaine, rose in Colombia last year for the first time since 2007, including in several rebel strongholds, according to a UN report on Wednesday that is likely to fan criticism of the government.
One of the world's top cocaine producers, Colombia, has been battling drug-funded leftist rebels and powerful gangs for decades, but billions of dollars in drugs still leave the nation each year despite a decade-long US-backed security crackdown.
The area planted with coca increased 3 percent to 64,000 hectares (158,147 acres) in 2011 versus the previous year, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said in its yearly report on Colombia's drug business.
The number, however, was still far below the 163,000 hectares (402,781 acres) planted in 2000 when the United States began spending billions of dollars to combat drug traffickers and guerrillas.
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