Coca production in Colombia remains as a latent threat both to the peace agreement and to the country's relationship with the United States. That is why one of the main challenges Colombia is this year, it is to gain better results with eradication of illicit crops. Also, the country has to make a successful transition to licit crops, which hundreds of farmers still refuse.
From Colombian government`s point of view, 2017 was a year of accomplished goals in terms of illicit crops eradication. According to statements by Luis Carlos Vallegas, Defense Minister of Colombia, last year 50,000 hectares of coca were forcedly eradicated. The figure corresponds to a territory similar to the whole Singapore´s size.
Colombian authorities also reported that during 2017, more than 400 tons of pure cocaine were seized on the Pacific sea lanes. This merchandise confiscated in the wholesale market in New York would be sold for a value of 12,100 million dollars.
However, the country's efforts to illicit crops eradication and control drug trafficking appear to be insufficient for the United States. As indicated by the American ambassador in Colombia, Kevin Whitaker, "more coca means more cocaine and more problems of public safety and public health in the two countries."
Is the peace agreement guilty?
Government critics also question the country's practices to eradicate illicit crops. In accordance to the defense minister's statements, in 2017 such crops reached 200,000 hectares. This, according to experts, could be due to peace agreement deals and the subsequent reduction of forced eradication of crops to avoid clashes between authorities and the former guerrilla group.
Additionally, the situation of farmers who refuse to replace the growing of coca with other sources of legal production, complicates the erradication. Farmers are concern because of the money they would lose while a new legal crop grows.
According to an American Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) report, the earnings of an average coca grower increased by 120% between 2012 and 2016. As the report said, drug trafficking last year was dominated by criminal gangs formed by paramilitary remnants and by members of demobilized FARC. Therefore, the report indicates that growth of illicit crops and distribution of coca around the world, especially towards the US, will depend to a large extent on the implementation of the peace agreement.
The peace agreement, signed between Colombian government and FARC, came with a commitment by the government for investments in rural development. However, the expectations for rapid transformation are higher than results. Farmers argue that without economic resources and guarantees, the transition to licit crops will not be possible.
A report published by InSight Crime argues that in some regions of Colombia, a kilo of coca is sold for 2 million Colombian pesos ($ 682 dollars). The geographical conditions of many of the fields where coca is grown, make it impossible for any lawful economy to prosper.
These factors hinder the government's commitment to completely eradicate the existence of coca crops, since by opting to suspend forced eradication, fumigation, and the presence of authorities in production areas, illicit control will depend largely on volunteer eradication.
LatinAmerican Post | Krishna Jaramillo
Copy edited by Marcela Peñaloza