Colombian authorities carrying out manual eradication of coca crops

The Colombian government is doubling down on efforts to contain the expanding cultivation of coca crops, underscoring some of the persistent difficulties associated with combating the country’s illicit drug trade.

During a press conference on March 10, Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas said that the country is concerned over an increase in coca crops, as noted by the US and the United Nations

The amount of land used for coca cultivation already saw a 40 percent increase between 2013 and 2014. Villegas implied that according to more up-to-date data, coca cultivation saw another significant increase between 2014 and 2015.

El Tiempo reported that unnamed officials told the newspaper that there may now be between 80,000 to 100,000 hectares of coca in the country, up from around 69,000 at the end of 2014. (See the chart below, which uses estimates from the United Nations.)

16-03-11-Colombia-Coca

 

During his press conference, Villegas attributed the trend of increasing cultivation to the growing profitability of the drug trade, which has been driven by improvements in agricultural technology and greater profit margins brought about by the devaluation of the Colombian peso with respect to the US dollar and European euro.

Villegas also accused guerrilla group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC) of encouraging coca cultivation. He said the guerrillas were fueling “false expectations” among farmers by telling them authorities would create development initiatives in areas where coca is cultivated, should the FARC and the government sign a peace deal. 

SEE ALSO: Coverage of the Peace Process with the FARC

While the defense minister expressed concern at the rise in coca cultivation, he also highlighted ongoing efforts aimed at disrupting the drug trade. So far this year, Villegas said authorities have destroyed 52 percent more drug producing laboratories than they had during the same period in 2015. And he indicated that the government plans to increase manual coca eradication by 25 percent in the coming months.

Colombia’s post-conflict minister, Rafael Pardo, said the government will also continue to pursue crop substitution programs, especially in areas with high rates of coca cultivation. According to government data accessed by El Espectador, coca is cultivated in less than one-fifth of Colombia’s more than 1,000 municipalities, with just ten of those municipalities accounting for more than 40 percent of production.

InSight Crime Analysis

Both Villegas and Pardo suggested that the signing of a peace accord between the government and the FARC might provide opportunities to expand on counter-drug efforts in areas currently under FARC control. As part of the peace negotiations, the FARC and the government have agreed to cooperate on tackling the illicit drug trade by focusing on implementing rural development and drug treatment programs, and pursuing high-level criminal operators.

However, the same problems that have plagued the government’s current anti-drug efforts will likely remain in place even in the event that a peace agreement is reached. Growing coca will remain a lucrative option for many farmers in underdeveloped rural areas. And criminal organizations appear poised to move in on territory under FARC control -- perhaps with the cooperation of some of the rebels -- thereby complicating government efforts to establish a presence in these areas.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Coca Cultivation

The continuing increase in coca cultivation in Colombia has not gone unnoticed by Colombian authorities. But the public acknowledgement of the trend by officials like Villegas and Pardo, and the reiteration of their commitment to address the problem, suggests the issue will remain a priority for the government going forward.

Investigations

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

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: 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.

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...

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...

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.

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...

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.

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...