To Deal With Colombia’s Coca Bonanza, Keep Calm and Honor the FARC Peace Deal (E)
Colombia right now is closer than it has ever been to solving its illicit drug problem. This may be a surprising contention, since the country just measured record-breaking cultivation of coca, the plant used to make cocaine.
Yet the landmark peace deal between the Colombian government and the country’s principal guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, has eliminated the most prominent obstacle to consolidate democratic governance over the vast rural areas where coca is cultivated. Or, at least it has eliminated the handiest excuse for longstanding inaction. Passed in November, the peace accord, along with President Juan Manuel Santos’ declared commitment to new counternarcotics approaches, offers at least the outlines of a kind of Marshall Plan for Colombia’s countryside, which has suffered from generations of neglect.
The Trump administration’s budget request for 2018 calls for a $10 million cut in State Department-run counterdrug aid to Colombia—part of an overall 35 percent aid cut for Latin America. This falling American support is hardly any incentive for the Santos government to shift away from the course outlined in the peace deal and return to the past.
In the face of Colombia’s coca boom, patience and perseverance are needed most. The Santos government’s eradication efforts will probably bring some reduction in the much-watched statistic of cultivated hectares, taking some political pressure off next year. Success doesn’t depend on Santos, ultimately, but on his successor continuing and intensifying the peace accords’ commitment to investing in rural areas.
If Colombia’s political leadership slacks off again, allowing violent criminals to fill the vacuum, it will have blown a huge opportunity. And Colombia’s stubborn coca problem will only persist. World Politics Review