This week's Facebook Live talks coca and US policy

In our June 15 Facebook Live session, Co-director Steven Dudley and Senior Investigator Héctor Silva Ávalos talk about InSight Crime’s special investigation of the criminal economy in Nariño, Colombia and the impact the country’s peace process is having on the regional cocaine trade.

The conversation opened with Dudley breaking down a recent back-and-forth between US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Senator Marco Rubio about the Colombia-FARC peace process and the country’s cocaine boom. During the congressional hearing, Tillerson hinted that Colombia should resume its aerial coca fumigation program, a strategy that arguably failed to effectively address coca cultivation in the long term. And some top US officials seemed to backtrack, a contradictory dynamic that both speakers agreed seemed commonplace in the Trump administration.

Silva then talked about the local illicit economy in the Colombian department of Nariño and how it shows the complexity of the country’s coca dilemma. Silva described the first phase of the cocaine trade, beginning with the cultivation of the coca leaves by small farmers who then process it into a coca paste, which is later sold to more sophisticated intermediary groups that move it to criminal organizations who process and export the final product: the powdered cocaine.

Circling back to Tillerson’s comment on aerial fumigation, Silva explained how that approach mostly affects "cocaleros," the coca growers at the bottom of the cocaine chain.

"In the province of Nariño, coke is all that there is," he said, "There is no other crop that will produce the same kind of profits."

The absence of the FARC in coca-producing regions is strongly felt by these local communities, Silva said.

"Due to the lack of the Colombian state, the FARC, in practical terms, was the state. They were referees for a lot of things, including the economy," he said. 

At the same time, armed actors like paramilitaries and FARC dissidents, are taking advantage of the guerrilla group's demobilization, which has led to more violence in these areas, explained the field investigator.

Dudley and Silva also took a broader look at the global drug trade, where both cocaine production and consumption are increasing.

In the end, controversial strategies like aerial coca fumigation have proven to be unviable over the long term, and they ignore the role that poor economic conditions and corruption have on the growth of coca plantations in Colombia.

Watch the Facebook Live broadcast for the full conversation:

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
Prev Next

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network.

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

  Drugs Extortion Criminal Cash Flows Millions of dollars in dirty money circulate constantly around Bajo Cauca, flowing upwards and outwards from a broad range of criminal activities. The BACRIM are the chief regulators and beneficiaries of this shadow economy.

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

In May 2011, a 26-year-old prison gang leader held 4,000 members of the Venezuelan security forces, backed by tanks and helicopters, at bay for weeks. Humiliated nationally and internationally, it pushed President Hugo Chávez into a different and disastrous approach to the prison system.

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Honduras does not produce weapons,[1] but weapons are trafficked into the country in numerous ways. These vary depending on weapon availability in neighboring countries, demand in Honduras, government controls and other factors. They do not appear to obey a single strategic logic, other than that of evading...

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

The weapons trade within Honduras is difficult to monitor. This is largely because the military, the country's sole importer, and the Armory, the sole salesmen of weapons, do not release information to the public. The lack of transparency extends to private security companies, which do not have...

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Estimates vary widely as to how many legal and illegal weapons are circulating in Honduras. There are many reasons for this. The government does not have a centralized database that tracks arms seizures, purchases, sales and other matters concerning arms possession, availability and merchandising. The laws surrounding...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power.

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

As set out in this report, the legal structure around Honduras' arms trade is deeply flawed. The legislation is inconsistent and unclear as to the roles of different institutions, while the regulatory system is insufficiently funded, anachronistic and administered by officials who are overworked or susceptible to...