"For a long time, the statistics on eradication of illicit crops have been mistaken. It's incredible that nobody has realized that Colombia produces much more cocaine than the reports say," said Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos back in June.
He was responding to the release of report on his country's cocaine production conducted by US, UN, and Colombian experts at the request of the Colombian government. Now, the Colombian newsweekly Cambio has published an article based on that report, and the rest of us get to understand what Santos was talking about.
|eradication: much pain, no gain
According to the report, the UN, the US, and the Colombian National Police have all seriously underestimated total cocaine production in the country, currently the world's leading cocaine producer. The Colombian police estimate was 497 tons in 2005, while the US estimated 545 tons, and the UN estimated 640 tons. But the authors of this most recent report estimate that cocaine production last year was actually a staggering 776 tons, or nearly half again as much as the US or Colombian police estimates.
The Colombians undertook the new survey after noticing that despite massive seizures of tons of cocaine, the price of the drug stayed stable. Investigators visited 1,400 coca growers and ran tests at more than 400 plantations. They found that growers had improved their growing techniques and were now able to produce not four harvests per year, but six.
According to Cambio, "That explained why the strategies designed to confront the phenomenon have not produced the expected results and the drug trade is flourishing as much or more than before."
cocaine bricks (source: US DEA)
The research results raised questions about the effectiveness of the much-criticized aerial fumigation program financed by the United States. Colombian and US officials had suggested the lack of results from spraying herbicides was because traffickers had large stocks of cocaine warehoused. "Without a doubt, that's a big mistake," Colombian anti-drug police subdirector Carlos Medina told Cambio. "The narcos don�t need to store cocaine because the market demands coca and more coca."
The US has about $5 billion invested in this farce so far. One can't help but wonder when the politicians in Washington will notice all those tax dollars going down the rat hole.
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