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
  • 10
Prev Next

MS-13's 'El Barney': A Trend or an Isolated Case?

MS-13's 'El Barney': A Trend or an Isolated Case?

In October 2012, the US Treasury Department designated the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) as a transnational criminal organization (TCO). While this assertion seems unfounded, there is one case that illustrates just why the US government is worried about the future.

Criminalization of FARC Elements Inevitable

Criminalization of FARC Elements Inevitable

While there is no doubt that the FARC have only a tenuous control over some of their more remote fronts, there is no evidence of any overt dissident faction within the movement at the moment.

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

In August 2002, the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) greeted Colombia's new president with a mortar attack that killed 14 people during his inauguration. The attack was intended as a warning to the fiercely anti-FARC newcomer. But it became the opening salvo of...

Ivan Rios Bloc: the FARC's Most Vulnerable Fighting Division

Ivan Rios Bloc: the FARC's Most Vulnerable Fighting Division

When considering the possibilities that the FARC may break apart, the Ivan Rios Bloc is a helpful case study because it is perhaps the weakest of the FARC's divisions in terms of command and control, and therefore runs the highest risk of fragmentation and criminalization.

El Salvador's Gang Truce: Positives and Negatives

El Salvador's Gang Truce: Positives and Negatives

The truce between El Salvador's two largest gangs -- the MS-13 and Barrio 18 -- opens up new possibilities in how to deal with the seemingly intractable issue of street gangs. But it also creates new dangers.

Barrio 18 Leader 'Viejo Lin' on El Salvador Gang Truce

Barrio 18 Leader 'Viejo Lin' on El Salvador Gang Truce

Barrio 18 leader Carlos Lechuga Mojica, alias "El Viejo Lin," is one of the most prominent spokesmen for El Salvador's gang truce. InSight Crime co-director Steven Dudley spoke with Mojica in Cojutepeque prison in October 2012 about how the maras view the controversial peace process, which has...

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC have always had a love-hate relationship with drugs. They love the money it brings, funds which have allowed them to survive and even threaten to topple the state at the end of the 1990s. They hate the corruption and stigma narcotics have also brought to...

The Reality of the FARC Peace Talks in Havana

The Reality of the FARC Peace Talks in Havana

If we are to believe the Colombian government, the question is not if, but rather when, an end to 50 years of civil conflict will be reached. Yet the promise of President Juan Manuel Santos that peace can be achieved before the end of 2014 is simply...

The FARC 1964-2002: From Ragged Rebellion to Military Machine

The FARC 1964-2002: From Ragged Rebellion to Military Machine

On May 27, 1964 up to one thousand Colombian soldiers, backed by fighter planes and helicopters, launched an assault against less than fifty guerrillas in the tiny community of Marquetalia. The aim of the operation was to stamp out once and for all the communist threat in...

A Look Inside El Salvador's Prison Nightmare (Video)

A Look Inside El Salvador's Prison Nightmare (Video)

El Salvador's Cojutepeque jail is a perfect illustration of how prisons in this country have become the main breeding and training grounds for street gangs.