William Brownfield spoke to a Colombian newspaper about drug trafficking

A recent interview with William Brownfield provides an insight into how the United States views the current state of drug trafficking in Colombia, and the potential future of its criminal landscape in the midst of political change.

In conversation with Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, Assistant Secretary of State of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Brownfield revealed that despite a 50 percent drop in US cocaine consumption over the last eight years, the country has been experiencing a renewed rise in cocaine usage. Brownfield highlighted the fact that this trend -- which possibly began two years ago -- is occurring in "synchronization" with Colombia's increasing cultivation and production of the drug. The US official added that the South American nation should be seeing a further rise in cultivation in 2015.

The US official emphasized that Colombia is living through a period of complicated changes, namely the peace process with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the decision of the Colombian government to halt coca spraying with glyphosate. According to Brownfield, both factors require a rethinking of anti-drug policies in both Colombia and the United States. He suggested that the loss of coca spraying could be resolved through manual eradication, more sophisticated scientific and political strategies, and more collaboration in region.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Drug Policy

Brownfield briefly added that the vast majority of Colombian drugs pass through neighboring Venezuela, proposing that drug traffickers see the route as being the cheapest and most efficient.

InSight Crime Analysis

Brownfield's claims that cocaine consumption is increasing in the United States is a new development that could shed light on Colombia's 44 percent spike in coca cultivation in 2014. InSight Crime coincides with Brownfield's predictions that 2015 will see a further increase (of up to 50 percent) in cocaine production. While there have been various hypotheses surrounding this jump, a growing demand up north could certainly be tied to Colombia's increased supply. However, it is important to keep in mind that the imminent peace deal could actually be behind the intensity of this rise, as the FARC can use higher production as political leverage and a financial safety net.

SEE ALSOColombia News and Profiles

The US official may have a point about the need for an alternative to aerial fumigation if the government wants to keep coca cultivation under control. However, merely focusing on manual eradication is unlikely to make a significant dent on overall drug production, and is furthermore made increasingly difficult by FARC booby traps and community protests.

The passing comment Brownfield made regarding Venezuela complements estimates that around 200 tons of cocaine are smuggled in from Colombia every year. But while Colombian neo-paramilitary and FARC groups are certainly involved, some drug trafficking in the region is handled by Venezuela's own "Cartel of the Suns," believed to be controlled by high-ranking military officers.

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.

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.

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...

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: 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.