Eradication vs. Legal Coca: Colombia and Bolivia’s Disparate Drug Policies

Eradication vs. Legal Coca: Colombia and Bolivia’s Disparate Drug Policies
Soldiers uproot coca shrubs as part of a manual eradication operation in San Jose del Guaviare, Colombia, March 22, 2019 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

At his inauguration ceremony a year ago, Colombian President Ivan Duque promised a forceful crackdown on drug trafficking, especially cocaine, through “the eradication and substitution of illegal crops.” Under pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump, he is now pushing to restart aerial spraying of coca plantations using the herbicide glyphosate, which is “probably carcinogenic to humans,” according to the World Health Organization.

Meanwhile, in nearby Bolivia, President Evo Morales has taken a different route, expanding legal coca cultivation while relying only on domestic law enforcement agencies to tackle drug trafficking. This coca policy will be one of many issues on voters’ minds when they go to the polls this fall to decide whether Morales should be reelected for an unprecedented fourth term.

In this week’s interview on the Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s associate editor, Elliot Waldman, is joined by two guests: Isabel Pereira is the coordinator for drug policy at Dejusticia, a research and advocacy organization in Colombia, and Kathryn Ledebur is director of the Andean Information Network, an organization dedicated to investigation, analysis, education and dialogue on the impacts of U.S.-funded counterdrug policy. They discuss the very different approaches that Colombia and Bolivia are taking to tackle historically high levels of cocaine production, and how the United States can support a more constructive and sustainable response to drug trafficking in South America.

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Relevant Articles on WPR:
Duque Has Left Colombia’s Peace Process Rudderless
How Trump Undermined Washington’s Best Friend in Latin America
Is Bolivia’s Coca Policy Protecting Traditions, or Creating a Narco-State?
Negotiating With Growers, Bolivia Forges Its Own Approach to Coca Production

Trend Lines is produced and edited by Peter Dörrie, a freelance journalist and analyst focusing on security and resource politics in Africa. You can follow him on Twitter at @peterdoerrie.

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