- Longtime downtown Cape bartender Marcellus Jones remembered by friends (6/12/18)2
- Peter Kinder resigns federal agency post, concludes position unnecessary and waste of tax dollars (6/16/18)2
- Stormy Daniels to visit East Cape Girardeau (6/13/18)20
- Singer Neal Boyd dies after struggle with health issues (6/12/18)1
- Feeding deer in Bollinger, Cape and Perry counties prohibited soon to help curb spread of CWD (6/13/18)7
- Cape man charged with stabbing, killing dog for revenge (6/8/18)9
- Couple charged in beating death at Brick's (6/13/18)
- A community rallies behind Honorable Young Men's Club (6/16/18)
- New Zaxby's restaurant open in Cape (6/13/18)3
- New urban dance studio opens on Broadway (6/15/18)2
Poppy eradication program under way
MARJAH, Afghanistan -- Armed with assault rifles and fistfuls of American dollars, government agents drove deep into Afghanistan's biggest poppy-growing region Wednesday to begin enforcing a plan to eradicate the opium-bearing crop.
As soldiers with Kalashnikov rifles and grenade launchers looked on, tractors chewed up fields of poppy in one part of Helmand province, which produces most of Afghanistan's opium. Farmers said they had little choice but to accept state compensation money.
"They have gunmen, they have cars, they have force," said Durjan, a 23-year-old farmer who planned to plant beans where poppies once stood.
"We have no option."
At the urging of the United Nations and foreign governments, the weak Afghan government is rushing to wipe out the crop that provides the raw material for heroin just two weeks before most farmers harvest the plant.
Afghanistan was once the source of 70 percent of the world's opium. The Taliban successfully banned poppies in 2000, but farmers quickly planted them again as the U.S. bombing campaign helped push the Islamic militia from power late last year.
The government initially offered poppy farmers $250 to destroy a jirib, an Afghan land measure equivalent to half an acre, but farmers in Helmand said the compensation did not cover their cultivation expenses and staged violent protests.
On Sunday, security forces shot and killed eight farmers who were protesting the state poppy policy in the Helmand district of Kajaki.
The government has since raised the amount of compensation to $350 per jirib, said Shabaz Ahmedzai, an adviser to interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai.
The amount is closer to the $400 farmers say it costs them to plant a jirib, but still far less than the $1,700 they could expect to receive if they harvested the poppies.
Durjan said he expected to be paid $1,750 by the government for his five jiribs.