Eradication of the crop in Colombia, the world’s No. 1 cocaine-producing nation, has been the cornerstone of a multibillion-dollar U.S. aid package.”The increase in coca cultivation in Colombia is a surprise and shock: a surprise because it comes at a time when the Colombian government is trying so hard to eradicate coca; a shock because of the magnitude of cultivation,” the UNODC’s executive director, Antonio Maria Costa, said in a statement.
He noted, however, that almost half of Colombia’s coca comes from just 10 of the country’s 195 municipalities. “Just like in Afghanistan, where most opium is grown in provinces with a heavy Taliban presence, in Colombia most coca is grown in areas controlled by insurgents.”
Washington has spent more than $5 billion in Colombia over the past seven years to combat both a long-running insurgency and the world’s largest cocaine industry, a business that helps fund a five-decade armed conflict.
Some Democrats in the U.S. Congress are criticizing the heavy military focus of U.S. aid to Colombia. About 80 percent of the money goes to the military while only 20 percent is dedicated to social projects designed to wean farmers off coca.
One reason for the rise in coca cultivation is that farmers are quickly replanting the crop, finding ways to minimize the effects of aerial spraying. Bruce Bagley, a professor of international studies at the University of Miami, says the dispersal of coca into smaller patches has made it more difficult to attack by aerial spraying. (AP)