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

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

The power of Colombia's elites is founded upon one of the most unequal divisions of land in the world. As of the early 21st century, one percent of landowners own more than half the country's agricultural land.1  Under Spanish rule, Colombia's agriculture was organized on the hacienda...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Honduras is currently one of the most violent countries on the planet that is not at war. The violence is carried out by transnational criminal organizations, local drug trafficking groups, gangs and corrupt security forces, among other actors. Violence is the focal point for the international aid...

Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Organized crime and the violence associated with it is the preeminent problem in Latin America and the Caribbean today. The region is currently home to six of the most violent countries in the world that are not at war. Four of those countries are in Central America...

Special Report: Gangs in Honduras

Special Report: Gangs in Honduras

In a new report based on extensive field research, InSight Crime and the Asociacion para una Sociedad mas Justa have traced how Honduras' two largest gangs, the MS13 and the Barrio 18, are evolving, and how their current modus operandi has resulted in staggering levels of violence...

Bolivia: the New Hub for Drug Trafficking in South America

Bolivia: the New Hub for Drug Trafficking in South America

Transnational organized crime likes opportunities and little resistance. Bolivia currently provides both and finds itself at the heart of a new criminal dynamic that threatens national and citizen security in this landlocked Andean nation.

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

As Guatemala's Congress gears up to select new Supreme Court Justices and appellate court judges, InSight Crime is investigating how organized crime influences the selection process. This story details the interests of one particular political bloc vying for control over the courts and what's at stake: millions...

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...

The Urabeños - The Criminal Hybrid

The Urabeños - The Criminal Hybrid

The mad scramble for criminal power in the aftermath of the demobilization of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) is over. The Urabeños, or as they prefer to call themselves, the "Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia," have won.

Mexico's Security Dilemma: The Battle for Michoacan

Mexico's Security Dilemma: The Battle for Michoacan

Faced with the government's failure to rein in the criminals, communities across crime-besieged Mexico have been trying for years to organize effective civic resistance. Michoacan's vigilantes express the most extreme response by society to date, but other efforts have been less belligerent. In battle-torn cities along the...

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill Faces Political, Economic Obstacles

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill Faces Political, Economic Obstacles

If Uruguay's proposal to regulate the production, sale and distribution of marijuana is properly implemented and overcomes political and economic hurdles, it could be the most important drug regulation experiment in decades.