Colombia Stems 5-Year Cocaine Boom Amid Trump Threats to Cut Aid
(Bloomberg) -- Colombia has halted a five-year surge in cocaine production, according the to U.S. government, reducing the risk that President Donald Trump will follow through on his threat to cut the country off from aid and loans.
Potential cocaine output fell 1.4% last year, to 887 tons, from a record of 900 tons in 2017, according to the annual report by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Production of the drug in Colombia more than quadrupled between 2012 and 2017, according to U.S. figures, bringing violent chaos to the countryside and threats from Trump that he could “decertify” Colombia as a partner in the war on drugs. That would put the U.S.’s closest ally in South America into the same rogue category as Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuela and cut the country off from some aid and loans.
The White House report will bring relief to the government of President Ivan Duque, which stepped up eradication programs after taking office last August.
Duque wants to resume aerial spraying with weedkiller of coca plants, from whose leaves the drug is extracted. The previous government suspended this in 2015 after a report by the World Health Organization said that the herbicide glyphosate was probably carcinogenic.
Duque faces political and legal challenges to being able resume spraying, and in the meantime the government is sending in teams of civilians to dig up coca shrubs by hand, accompanied by police escorts. The illegal armed groups who profit from the trade sometimes attack the eradication teams with sniper fire, and plant landmines in the coca fields. At least 11 people have been killed and 84 injured in operations to eradicate coca this year.
The surge in output was also blamed on a variety of other causes, including the drop in the price of gold, which cut the profits in illegal mining, another big earner for the mafia, and a weaker peso, which increased the value of cocaine exports in local money.
Even after the drop in output last year, Colombia still produces more cocaine than Peru and Bolivia combined, and more than it did in the 1980s and early 1990s, when Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel was spreading terror.
To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Bristow in Bogota at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Robert Jameson at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.