Anti-narcotics police in a coca field

Colombia has outlined plans to mitigate surging coca cultivations -- one of the biggest threats to lasting peace in the country -- as the FARC guerrillas' demobilization process moves slowly forward.

The Colombian government will aim to eradicate 100,000 hectares of the cocaine-producing plant this year despite only uprooting 17,593 hectares in 2016, according to El Tiempo. (See InSight Crime's graphic below)

17-01-09-colombia

The ambitious goal amounts to more than the 96,000 hectares of coca cultivations believed to be present in Colombia in 2015, based on figures from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Sources consulted by El Tiempo predict that cultivations may have risen to 130,000 hectares in 2016, a figure unseen since a peak of 145,000 hectares in 2001, according to UNODC estimates.

Eradication efforts will be split evenly between the voluntary substitution of coca crops for legal alternatives, and forced eradication by state forces. To carry out the job, the army will reportedly have specialized manual eradication brigades totaling 20,000 troops.

SEE ALSO:  Coverage of Coca

These developments come only weeks after a milestone for the peace process unfolding with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC), who control the lion's share of the country's coca crops.

On December 28, Colombia's congress approved an Amnesty Law outlined in an agreement signed by the rebel army and the Colombian government. This law is a key requirement in providing judicial guarantees for FARC members who hand over their weapons, but it has been strongly criticized by opposition politicians. When implemented, it will grant pardons for thousands of guerrillas not considered responsible for crimes against humanity, and possible freedom for imprisoned rebels.

There have been some hiccups since the demobilization phase began at the start of December 2016, including delays in readying in the zones where guerrilla fighters will temporarily gather to surrender their weapons and prepare for reintegration into society. Nonetheless, FARC troops are slowly moving to their designated areas.

InSight Crime Analysis

These ongoing developments show that the wheels are finally in motion for Colombia's "post-conflict" plans, yet they also draw attention to the biggest obstacles ahead.

The cocaine trade is a huge source of income for dissident FARC members as well as other criminal organizations that are already moving into areas left behind by the demobilizing rebels. And despite Colombia's surge in coca cultivations, eradication fell sharply last year. This is mainly due to the government's controversial decision in 2015 to ban the aerial fumigation of coca crops, a method that represented over 80 percent of total eradication the previous year.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of FARC Peace

Many have opposed this change, including the United States government. It is possible that Colombian officials had their North American allies in mind when setting the 2017 eradication goal; US congressional representatives recently suggested withholding "post-conflict" aid to the country unless significant changes are made to the peace deal. Moreover, US Vice President Joe Biden advised Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in December 2016 to focus on the fight against drug trafficking in order to maintain good ties with incoming US President Donald Trump.

While it will be difficult for Colombia to achieve its eradication goal, it may have more resources to do so, as former FARC members convicted of grave crimes will be expected to participate in crop substitution efforts.

Another significant challenge will be to provide viable economic alternatives for coca growing communities to secure long-term change. However, there are doubts about the government's capacity to fill the state void in these areas in the imminent future.

Investigations

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

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

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.

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Olfato. It is a term used quite often in law enforcement and judicial circles in Central America (and other parts of the world as well). It refers to the sixth sense they have as they see a crime scene, investigate a murder or plow through the paperwork...

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...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

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. In rural sectors, uniformed BACRIM armed with assault rifles still patrol in...

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...

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...

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs. 

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...