For thousands of years now South American indigenous people have been growing the plant coca. These coca plants have been found to make the drug known today as cocaine. Columbia has been known today to be the world’s number one producer of cocaine. In many parts of Columbia these coca plants are what are fueling their economy and putting food on the tables of the peasant farmers growing these plants. The Columbian government has started to take action and put a stop to the illegal growth of cocaine. However, it is a long slow process that I don’t think will stop the growth of these coca plants because of the need to grow and make cocaine for these farmers and the high demand coming from the cartels and other groups.
Columbia was Latin America’s 4th largest economy a few years back but it also has a high poverty rate of about 24% or more. The farmers living in the rural areas are among this poverty rate. They lack power the best way to make a living and survive is by working in the coca fields. Sometimes another crop is making more money than coca but coca never goes down. There is such a high demand for cocaine in countries all around the world that the price is always an above-average price. This is like an insurance policy for these people. “Because of the lack of state control, the necessary amount of land is available for all kinds of illegal or informal activity. Colombian coca farmers use approximately an accumulated area of between 169,000 hectares to produce the country’s cocaine,” according to the UNODC. More than 100,000 Columbian farming families live off coca.
As I mentioned earlier, the government is making an effort to reduce the amount of cocaine being made and sold illegally to other countries but it hardly is making a dent in the amount of cocaine being made yearly. The government has tried alternate crop development but the amount of money that is made growing coca plants is much higher than what you could make growing for example bananas, breadfruit, and other crops. When farming families decide to sign up for a crop substitution program, the cartels and other criminal groups are threatening these families and killing them for going away from growing coca. They want them to continue tending coca bushes. The government is also going through and seizing cocaine and destroying crops.
As we learned in the class, there are some powerful cartel groups involved in the illicit drug trade of cocaine. One example of a powerful cartel group is the Medellin Cartel led by Pablo Escobar. They were destroyed in 1993 but they were a ruthless organization. They would kidnap or murder those who interfered with their business. They even killed government officials, politicians, and innocent bystanders. “And as the state attempts to reclaim lands ceded by the rebels under the peace deal, it is often finding those challenging it over the crops aren’t drug trafficking organizations at all, but farmers’ unions and civil society groups. At times the conflicts between the two have turned deadly. This was the case last October, when farmers blocked the military from entering coca farms outside the southern city of Tumaco and officials opened fire, killing a number of civilians,” according to the New York Times. I found this to be very interesting how the farmers are joining the fight and blocking the military from entering.
All in all, the farmer’s lives in Columbia are being forced into being all about coca. With them lacking wealth and a bad economy in the areas they live in it seems if they want to live and support their families they will forever be growing coca for these various drug trafficking groups.
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