Thursday, October 4, 2007
From latimes.com: From his dugout canoe in the Napipi River, Jefferson Rojas spotted what he was after: a 40-foot-high jagua tree, its canopy dotted with dozens of thick-skinned fruits the size of tennis balls.
Rojas pulled his boat to shore, macheted his way through thick foliage and with his telephone lineman gear quickly scaled the tree. He lopped off the fruits, which fell with thuds to the floor of the jungle.
Why did Rojas go to such lengths for a fruit that isn't even ripe? Because the body-marking market has caught on to what indigenous tribes here in Choco state have known for centuries: Jagua is an excellent source of nonpermanent tattoo ink.
Ink that eventually makes its way to the biceps or backsides of trendy teenagers thousands of miles away might appear to have a tenuous connection to Plan Colombia, the seven-year program that has funneled $5.4 billion in U.S. taxpayer money into fighting drug traffickers and guerrillas. But with the current fiscal year, which began Monday, more of those funds are to go to economic projects such as Rojas' tattoo ink venture and fewer to finance the Colombian military and anti-coca spraying than in past years.
The initiative will soon take on a "softer" profile, at the insistence of the Democratic-controlled U.S. Congress. It is expected to contain more money to fund "alternative development" programs to encourage farmers to grow legal crops and steer clear of joining armed groups. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]