Colombia’s defense minister said Tuesday that he his US counterpart agreed to dramatically increase the forced eradication of coca, the base ingredient of cocaine, to 130,000 hectares.
Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo made the announcement after meeting with US Defense Secretary Mark Esper in Washington DC.
Both agreed to step up forced eradication despite the fact this strategy is widely dismissed as ineffective.
During my visit to the United States, the goal of eradicating illicit crops by 2020 was analyzed, and the analyses led us to set a goal of 130,000 hectares for this year.
Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo
Colombia vows to break records
According to Trujillo, he would hire and train an extra 2,000 policemen to meet the two countries’ target to cut the estimated 1,000 metric tons of cocaine produced in 2017 in half before 2023.
In the history of drug trafficking, Colombia’s security forces have never eradicated more than 97,000 hectares.
The minister said that the target was agreed taking the “available tools in account,” indicating that both Bogota and Washington are not counting on the resumption of the aerial fumigation of coca.
Trujillo also said that the two government take a 40% replanting rate into account, which is half of the replanting rate registered by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
The defense minister made no mention of crop substitution, which is widely seen as a more effective counternarcotics strategy.
No luck so far
Trujillo’s announcement came days after the annual report of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), which said that cocaine “availability levels increased and domestic prices decreased” in the US.
Some 90% of the cocaine consumed in the US is from Colombia, according to the DEA.
The kilogram price of cocaine remains lower than in previous years, most likely due to increased production and availability. Subsequently, many FDs reported escalating cocaine use in their AORs, correlating with increased emergency department visits and rising cocaine-involved overdose deaths. Nevertheless, some FDs reported lowered availability during late 2018 and early 2019. However, given prevailing indicators of overall increased cocaine availability, it seems unlikely this trend will persist.
Drug Enforcement Agency
In its report, the DEA did not include the latest statistics of the Center for Disease Control that said cocaine-related deaths increased 3.9% to a record rate of 4.5 per 100,000 Americans in 2018.
Despite this record number of deaths, the DEA and Colombia’s defense minister can’t complain; if US President Donald Trump gets his way, the budget for the so-called “War on Drugs” in Colombia will go from $125 million to $237.5 million in October.