Coca In The Andes

Coca, the raw material for cocaine, is grown exclusively in the Andean region of South America. Cocaine production constitutes a threat to U.S. security and the well-being of our citizens. According to U.S. Government estimates, ninety-five percent of the cocaine entering the United States originates in Colombia. Peru and Bolivia are the other Andean nations with significant levels of coca cultivation, but most of the cocaine produced from Peruvian and Bolivian coca is trafficked within South America or to Europe and Asia.

Targeting cocaine at the source consists of disrupting coca cultivation, cocaine processing and trafficking in Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia along three vectors: eradication, interdiction, and organizational attack. However, the important measure is not cultivation. It is production potential – the amount of cocaine that can be produced from the cultivation of coca that is the important measure. Due to stressors on the cultivation, the potential production that can be produced from a given cultivation of coca can vary. One significant stressor is eradication – it is capable of making coca fields less productive by reducing the yield of cocaine from given coca fields: by repeatedly eradicating fields, the fields can no longer produce four crops a year, for example, reducing their output, sometimes by as much as 50 percent; 100 percent if a farmer abandons it because he gets tired of losing his investment due to eradication efforts.

What Is Being Done 

Voluntary, manual, and aerial spray eradication are important elements in the strategy for reducing potential coca base and cocaine production in the Andean Ridge. Eradication affects drug traffickers and terrorist groups, such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), before they can be market the cocaine, reducing the illicit drug proceeds that support their operations. Aerial eradication, used only in Colombia, is an important tool in remote and insecure areas where manual eradication is cost prohibitive or too dangerous. Manual eradication has grown in importance as a complement to aerial eradication; however, as eradicators become more effective, they have increasingly become the target of mines and explosive devices from cultivators and terrorists trying to protect their illicit crops. The Colombian government reported 32 police, military, and civilian eradicator fatalities and nearly 150 injured personnel as a result of improvised explosive devices, sniper fire, and other attacks during their manual eradication operations in 2010. 

In several interviews with former coca growers in Peru and Colombia, they overwhelmingly reported that the single most important factor in motivating them to move to licit crops was the threat of eradication. The former coca growers indicated they are happier growing licit crops for which they have a reasonable market, even though they knew they would not make as much money per hectare as they did with coca. These former coca growers said that while growing coca may pay more, growing coca was not worthwhile due to the associated violence, threats to their families, and other problems that resulted from coca cultivation. They also indicate that security is a necessary requirement for their successful transition from coca to licit crops, as they could not have made the transition if criminal/terrorist groups still operated in the area.

In the Andean Ridge, the reduction of coca cultivation and cocaine production is possible through closely coordinated security, eradication, and alternative development programs. To successfully transition coca-growing areas to the legal economy, a combination of security, eradication, and alternative development programs is necessary, in a proportion that depends upon the unique local conditions in the area. The most effective way of reducing the production of illicit drugs is through the expansion of governance into marginalized areas so that all citizens can have access to government services, protection from terrorist or criminal groups and a licit manner in which to earn a living.

Colombia

Coca eradication increased significantly in Colombia from 2001, peaking in 2008. It has tapered off since then, but production potential remains stable, thanks in large part to Colombia’s National Consolidation Plan that targets key cultivation with a mixture of eradication, security, state presence, and alternative development. 

The expansion of security by both the Colombian military and police into areas long dominated by coca cultivation and illegal armed groups has allowed the Colombian government, for the first time, to focus on establishing government presence and integrated rural development in these areas. The United States continues to support the Government of Colombia in stemming the flow of drugs produced abroad and reducing the devastating consequences of drug production, trafficking, and consumption. As part of a multiyear strategy, the United States is transferring operational and funding responsibility for counternarcotics and security programs to the Colombian government as part of a larger multiyear strategy designed to consolidate state presence and economic development in historically marginalized regions. The United States Government continues to implement an integrated, sequential assistance approach designed to have a greater impact on consolidating the gains made in Colombia. 

In the table below there appears to be a jump in cultivation from 2004 to 2005. That was not necessarily the case. Due to reporting from the Colombian Police and the Colombian Armed Forces and some informants and other intelligence sources, the U.S. increased the area inside Colombia where it looked for coca and found much more – that coca could have been there all along but we were not aware of it, because it was not in the traditional growing areas.

 

  2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 
Cultivation
(Hectares)
169,800 144,450 113,850 114,100 144,000 157,000 167,000 119,000 116,000 100,000 83,000 78,000
Production Potential
(Metric Tons)
700 585 445 410 500 510 470 280 280 255 190 175
Eradication
(Air)
84,251 122,695 127,112 131,824 134,474 164,119 148,435 129,876 101,573 97,836 103,302 98,185
Eradication
(Manual, Hectares)
1,745 2,762 4,220 6,232 37,540 42,110 64,979 95,731 60,954 43,957 34,592 30,486


Peru

Eradication efforts have leveled off at around 10,000 to 12,000 hectares a year. Peru is trying to expand on the success it has had in the Upper Huallaga Valley in the San Martin region by exporting the San Martin model to other areas of Peru. This area has successfully moved from coca to licit crops with high values thanks to intense and focused assistance from USAID and the Peruvian government, as well as permanent presence of the State.
 
 

  2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Cultivation
(Hectares)
32,100 34,700 29,250 27,500 34,000 42,000 36,000 41,000 40,000  53,000 49,500 50,500
Production Potential
(Metric Tons)
255 280 245 230 260 265 210 215 225  325 305 290
Eradication
(Manual, Hectares) 
6,436 7,133 7,022 7,605 8,966 10,136 11,056 10,143 10,025 12,033 10,290 14,171

Bolivia

On September 15, 2010, President Obama declared in his Presidential Memorandum--Major Illicit Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries:

“We recognize the efforts of the Bolivian government to combat the production and trafficking of illegal narcotics. However, during the past year, Bolivia failed demonstrably to make sufficient efforts to meet its obligations under international counternarcotics agreements or to take the counternarcotics measures set forth in Section 489(a)(1) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended (FAA). … In accordance with Section 481(e)(4) of the FAA, the determination of having failed demonstrably does not result in the withholding of humanitarian and counternarcotics assistance. It is in the vital national interest of the United States to grant a waiver so that funding for other assistance programs may also be allowed to continue.”

With the Bolivian government’s decision to expel the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in January 2009, the U.S. remains concerned over reports of foreign drug trafficking organizations establishing operations in Bolivia. Without the assistance provided by the DEA, Bolivian efforts to target and dismantle drug trafficking organizations has been severely diminished. Bolivia has sought additional support from its international partners but, to date, has been unable to make up for the loss of the DEA assistance and support. International drug trafficking organizations may be taking advantage of a perceived weak law enforcement environment to conduct their activities in Bolivia. Beginning in 2008, cocaine production in Bolivia increased due to the usage of more efficient cocaine production techniques that had been brought from Colombia.

The influence of coca growers over the government has contributed to stable coca cultivation figures, despite increased eradication numbers. The full effects of the liberalized coca cultivation policies of Bolivian President Evo Morales have yet to be seen. The United States continues to seek ways to cooperate with the Bolivian government in areas such as arresting drug traffickers, disrupting cocaine production, seizing illicit drugs and precursors, supporting alternative development, reducing demand, and training law enforcement and judicial officials. The Bolivian government continues to meet eradication goals; however, cultivation outpaced eradication for several years before a slight net decrease in 2010. The product from Bolivia is increasingly being trafficked to other nations rather than the U.S. 
 

  2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
Cultivation 19,900 21,600 23,200 24,600 21,500 21,500 24,000 26,500 29,000  29,000  25,500 25,000
Production Potential
(Metric Tons)
100 110 100 115 115 115 130 165 165 170  190 155
Eradication
(Manual, Hectares) 
9,435 11,839 10,000 8,437 6,073 5,70 6,269 5,484 6,341 8,200  10,509 >10,000