Colombia’s authorities claimed Tuesday they had seized more cocaine in the first three months of 2017 than in the same period ever before.
The country has experienced an almost unprecedented boom in coca cultivation and cocaine production over the past year, producing more of the illicit drug in 2016 than at any time in history, according to the United States.
Consequently, authorities have seized more than 103 metric tons of the drug in the first three months of 2017, Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas announced.
The drugs would have a total street value of $3 billion pesos, according to the minister.
The total volume of confiscated drugs is a staggering 35% higher than in the same period last year when 77 metric tons were taken off the market.
Villegas made the announcement just days after Police found a record 6 metric tons of cocaine in the northern coastal city of Barranquilla.
These drugs allegedly belonged to the Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AGC), a paramilitary group that controls much of the cocaine export along the country’s Caribbean and Pacific coasts.
After decades of trying to combat drug trafficking, Colombian traffickers and their Mexican associates are shipping more cocaine to consumption markets in North America, Europe and South America than ever before.
In a radical policy shift and as part of a peace deal with demobilizing FARC guerrillas, the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos has promised to prioritize crop substitution over eradication, a strategy proven successful in Peru, the world’s second largest producer of cocaine.
However, coca farmers have revolted in several parts of the country, claiming the government is failing to provide the substitute crops while illegal armed groups are threatening the farmers to continue production and not take part in any crop substitution program.
The resistance coming from the coca farmers and the government’s inability to assume provide basic public security in the remote regions where most coca is grown makes it uncertain whether the government’s plan to eradicate as much as 75% of coca this year is even close to realistic.