Aerial shot of coca crops in Yungas

Bolivia has reduced coca production for the second straight year, according to a United Nations study, a trend that the UN attributes to government efforts to contain illegal production of the crop.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) says Bolivia’s coca production dropped by 7 percent from 2011 to 2012. (See full report in PDF) This follows an 11 percent reduction from the year before.

The biggest drop came in the largest coca growing region of the country known as Yungas de la Paz, which went from 18,200 hectares to 16,900 hectares, according to the UNODC. 

The agency says that two major factors played a role in the drop: 1) the government’s efforts to “eradicate/rationalize” the size of the fields; 2) the drop in yield due to the long periods in which the fields have been cultivated.

Bolivia allows 11,000 hectares of coca to be grown legally for local sale and consumption in traditional forms.

bolivia coca graph unodc story

InSight Crime Analysis

The results may surprise some in the US government who say that Bolivia is not complying with its commitments to lower drug production and trafficking. Bolivia has expelled most US anti-narcotics agencies, while the US announced in May it was shutting down its last remaining offices there.

Still, there are some contradictory figures in the report. The price of coca went down five percent, according to the UNODC, a fact that could suggest an increase in supply.

Seizures of cocaine paste and processed cocaine, or cocaine hydrochloride (HCl), also went in opposite directions. Cocaine paste seizures rose significantly, according to the report, suggesting that Bolivia is becoming a more regular supplier of the rising crack cocaine markets in neighboring Argentina and Brazil.

HCl seizures, meanwhile, were down, which may not necessarily mean that cocaine production has dropped. What is not known -- and what the UNODC says it is studying -- is the current yield of Bolivian coca. Still, the US Office of National Drug Control Policy, in its most recent statement on cocaine production in the region, says that overall production of cocaine in Bolivia is down to an estimated 155 metric tons, from 190 metric tons in 2011.

In Colombia, yields have risen even while the number of hectares under coca cultivation has dropped, accounting for the steady production of HCl throughout this period when one would expect a more dramatic drop in cocaine production.

The report also follows the declaration of another major export industry leader, coffee, that its producers were switching to coca. That declaration was, however, more speculative than scientific.

Bolivia Coca Crops (Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime)

bolivia coca boliviamap unodc story

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

Local police and justice officials are convinced that the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) has strengthened its presence along the East Coast of the United States. The alarm follows a recent spate of violence -- of the type not seen in a decade -- which included dismembered bodies and...

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

In the last decade, homicides in Guatemala have obeyed a fairly steady pattern. Guatemala City and some of its surrounding municipalities have the greatest sheer number of homicides. Other states, particularly along the eastern border have the highest homicide rates. Among these are the departments of Escuintla...

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

Special Agent David LeValley headed the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington office until last November 8. While in office, he witnessed the rise of the MS13, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and other smaller gangs in the District of Columbia as well...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

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...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

When someone is murdered in Guatemala, police, forensic doctors and government prosecutors start making their way to the crime scene and a creaky, antiquated 20th century bureaucratic machine kicks into gear. Calls are made. Forms are filled out by hand, or typed into computers, or both. Some...