Colombia’s new president-elect on Monday will receive a detailed report on how Colombia’s drug trade is worse then ever before.
The report was partially revealed on Friday by Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas, who presented Colombia’s worst coca cultivation statistics ever.
Villegas will have left office in August when a new government takes office. The new president will have to solve a problem no head of state before him was able to solve.
Coca cultivation in Colombia
War on drugs: the perpetual defeat?
Villegas told press that 188,000 hectares were used to grow coca in 2007, 23% more than last year and more than ever before.
Decades of costly and aggressive counter-narcotics efforts failed to prevent another cocaine boom. Potential cocaine production in 2016 was seven times higher than in 1993, the year iconic drug lord Pablo Escobar was killed.
Between the hunt for Escobar and today, almost every strategy has been tried and all have failed.
Colombia’s latest controversial idea is to obligate each army recruit to spend his three months in the army manually eradicating coca, a tremendously dangerous job because of the landmines used to protect their crops.
Presidential candidate Ivan Duque has vowed to resume aerial fumigation despite knowing that the aggressive use of pesticide does not solve the problem. It only kills all vegetation until new crops are planted.
His rival, Gustavo Petro, has vowed to develop the agriculture sector and remove the necessity to resort to the production of illicit drugs.
The peaceful method
Outgoing President Juan Manuel Santos, who has rejected the repressive “war on drugs” for years, has supported the United Nations’ claim that only rural development can gradually reduce the incentive to get involved in the cultivation of illicit crops.
Many of the more than 100,000 families that now depend on coca couldn’t grow other crops because the infrastructure to transport their produce to the market does not exist.
Furthermore, coca growing areas are increasingly moving away from civilized areas, creeping their way into the almost endless Amazon forest where law enforcement is virtually impossible.
The United States, which has been working with Colombia to curb cocaine trafficking for decades, seems to also have given up on its war on drugs.
Rather than demanding immediate results, Washington DC agreed to a “comprehensive strategy” that would include crop substitution and economic development.
Such comprehensive strategy, however, is slow as it would require the economic development of areas that traditionally have been neglected or even abandoned by the state.