Foreign Policy magazine lists its "Top 10 Stories You Missed in 2008." Number 2 is "Colombian Coca Production Increases."
Coca is a serious destabilizer—keeping Colombia’s rebels armed and the country’s progress in check. But after almost a decade, U.S.-assisted efforts to reduce the crop’s production in Colombia haven’t just failed; they’ve been downright counterproductive. Plan Colombia was meant to improve security, stamp out drug cultivation, and improve law and order after a decades-long conflict with leftist militants. But coca cultivation rose 15 percent between 2000 and 2006, an October 2008 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) study found. A separate U.N. study found that in 2007 alone, the area of land hosting coca crops rose 27 percent. To put it mildly, something is not working.
Coca, the base crop for cocaine, has funded the operations of various paramilitaries and the rebel group FARC for decades. Although Colombian military operations have severely hampered FARC’s activities during the last several years, the drug trade continues apace. Aerial spraying and manual eradication have had temporary effects, but coca farmers tend to grow the lucrative crop again because there’s rarely an equally profitable alternative. The GAO reckons that many farmers have moved to more remote areas to avoid the eradication efforts. Meanwhile, the market value of coca rose by roughly $450 per kilogram in 2007 to more than $2,000.The United States has spent $6 billion on Plan Colombia, but Colombia still supplies 90 percent of U.S. cocaine. Time for a rethink on the drug war?
Hard to argue with. Unless you are drug czar John Walters, who writes, "Our policy has been a success -- although that success is one of Washington's best kept secrets."