Colombia remains the world’s largest producer of cocaine, with a record increase in its coca leaf crops and drug manufacturing potential.
Illicit coca plantations increased by 17% to 171,000 hectares in 2017 from the previous year, and cocaine production capacity increased by 31% to 1379 tonnes, an estimated market value of 2.7 million tonnes. billions of dollars, unpublished figures since these data began to be compiled in 2001, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
“I want to express my deep concern about the amount of money that illegal drugs generate,” said Bo Mathiasen, UNODC’s representative in Colombia, whose annual report was released Wednesday in Bogota.
In 2016, the total area of coca, the leaf of which is the raw material for cocaine, was 146 000 hectares and the production capacity of the drug was 1 053 tonnes, according to a figure revised by UNODC that previously reported of 866 tons.
According to Bo Mathiasen, not only are there more crops, but they are also more productive because of varieties that are more resistant to disease, requiring less agricultural care and less government action.
Current plantations produce 33% more leaves than in 2012.
Increase in seizures, but also in production
UNODC has welcomed the 20% increase in cocaine seizures, with 435 tons in 2017, but emphasizing their “slower pace than increased production potential”.
And she expressed her “deep concern about capital from the drug economy,” which undermines Colombia’s efforts to build peace after more than half a century of war, strengthens illegal armed groups and threatens stability of the state.
Bo Mathiasen also warned that the border regions of Ecuador and Venezuela were the most affected by the narcoplantations.
The most concerned department is the Nariño (south-west), on the Pacific coast, with a surface area of coca as large as for all Peru, second country of the world in terms of illicit plantations.
Drug gangs and dissident groups of the former FARC guerrillas, disarmed and turned into a political party since the peace agreement of 2016, vying for control of this strategic area for the export of cocaine to the United States. United, first consumer in the world.
A total of 64% of the illegal plantation increases were recorded in the departments of Antioquia (north-west), Cauca (west), Putumayo (south) and Norte de Santander (north-east).
And 80% of crops have been in the same place for 10 years, said the UNODC representative.
Colombia remains the leading coca farmer and producer of cocaine in front of Peru (43,900 ha) and Bolivia (24,500 ha).
An “integral policy” of fight against the traffic
“The report presented to us today by ONUC is really very worrying,” said Minister of Justice Gloria Maria Borrero.
She assured that the government would fight against drug trafficking through a “comprehensive policy”, which will be communicated in the coming weeks and will go from prevention to the forced eradication of narcoplantations.
Colombian President Ivan Duque, who has been in power since August 7, pledged to remove at least 140,000 hectares of narcoplantation during his four-year term, the rise of which Washington is worried about.
He questioned the anti-drug strategy of his predecessor Juan Manuel Santos, which focuses on voluntary substitution of illicit plantations through agreements with farmers.
The previous government attributed the increase in narcocultures in recent years to the compensation paid to these farmers or “cocaleros”, as provided for in the pact signed with the former FARC guerrilla .
In this historic agreement, backed by the White House, the former rebels pledged to contribute to the fight against drug trafficking, which was used to finance their armed struggle.
President Duque plans to resume glyphosate aerial spraying, suspended since 2015 because of the potential damage of this weed killer on human health and the environment.
The United States, whose President Donald Trump has sharply criticized the increase in narcoplantations, support this initiative.
Devon Lipport is the lead editor for Global News Tribune. Devon has written for many publications including the New York Post Vanity Fair and TODAY. Devon is based in New York city and covers issues affecting local communities. In addition to following the day-to-day life of the Big Apple, Devon also has a passion running and can often be found jogging in Central Park