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Colombia and the UN Introduce New Measures to Reduce Cocaine Production

On Friday, Nov. 3, the government of Colombia and the United Nations signed a $315 million agreement which aims to reduce cocaine production in Colombia. The agreement provides a financial incentive for Colombian farmers who receive compensation by transitioning from growing coca to growing other crops such as coffee or cacao.

Source: AFP Joe Klamar

Currently, farmers can earn upwards of $300 USD, or 910,000 Colombian pesos, for each hectare of coca grown but are required to allot a percentage of their earnings to dealers. The UN backed agreement offers farmers the same amount of money for destroying coca along with additional subsidies and benefits from the Colombian government.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime identifies Colombia as one of the top global drug producers. Yury Fedotov, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, describes “this historical agreement” as a “unique opportunity to turn the tide against Colombia’s coca cultivation and help farmers embrace alternative development.”

However, stopping coca production is more complex than simply compensating farmers. For years, cocaine cultivation and trade has funded the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), the largest active guerrilla group in Colombia.

Rafael Pardo Rueda, Colombian Minister of Labor, recognized the difficulty of the task:  “Reduction of coca crop areas is not an easy task in terms of administrative or logistical procedures, nor is it an easy task in terms of being a reduction of an illegal rent to an illegal group.”

Source: BBC

Source: BBC

Founded in 1964 as part of a left-wing political party, the FARC stood up for the rights of workers and peasants facing inequality. They are now widely regarded as a terrorist group due to the use of extortion, drug trade, kidnapping, murder, and other terrorist tactics in order to exert political influence.

In Dec. 2016, the Colombian government ratified a revised peace agreement to end the 50 year-long conflict between the Colombian government and the FARC after a plebiscite rejected the initial peace agreement earlier last year.

As a result of the pact, the FARC agreed to disarm and replace the production of coca with that of other crops in exchange for their established legitimacy as a political party and reintegration into mainstream society.

In sum, compensating farmers might not be enough to eliminate the production of cocaine in Colombia. According to a UN 2017 World Drug Report, the global demand for cocaine is still high. These findings indicate that cocaine might still be too lucrative a drug to fully eliminate.