FARC Peace Deal Could Shift Tide of Colombia’s Drug War

FARC Peace Deal Could Shift Tide of Colombia’s Drug War
A counter-narcotics police officer organizes seized packages of cocaine during a presentation to the press, Necocli, Colombia, Feb. 24, 2015 (AP photo by Fernando Vergara).

The latest figures released by the United Nations indicate that Colombia has retaken the title of world’s largest cocaine producer, with some 69,000 hectares of land used for growing coca. After years of declining production, the U.N. estimates cocaine production in Colombia will increase by 52 percent this year.

Only two years ago, Peru overtook Colombia as the top producer of coca and processed cocaine, as Bruno Binetti and Ben Raderstorf explained in their WPR feature this week. “Unlike most of its neighbors, Peru lacks a comprehensive strategy to fight drug trafficking, instead preferring to downplay the issue . . . Moreover, police corruption is well-documented, and initiatives to reform the security forces have been sporadic and ineffective.”

In Colombia, on the other hand, there is a strategy to fight drug trafficking: Plan Colombia, a U.S. military and diplomatic initiative targeting drug cartels and insurgent groups. But as Adam Isacson wrote last month, U.S. aid to Colombia and Plan Colombia will have to be recalibrated if a peace deal with the guerilla group known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, is reached:

For Washington, assisting post-conflict Colombia will mean breaking a framework established back in 2000, when the first “Plan Colombia” U.S. aid package paved the way for nearly $10 billion in assistance, over two-thirds of it for Colombia’s armed forces and police. On Oct. 1, Secretary of State John Kerry and Santos discussed how to reorient aid to give it “a new direction,” in Kerry’s words. This likely means less funding for the security forces and more for agencies working with victims, ex-combatants, small farmers and others affected by Colombia’s 51-year-old conflict.

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