US & Colombia Announce Goal To Tackle Cocaine Production

By Kelly Burch 03/07/18

The countries will partner to reduce the amount of cocaine being produced and the amount of coca leaf being grown. 

coca farmers in the field

Government officials and security forces from the United States and Colombia will work together to cut the amount of cocaine produced in the South American nation by half in the next five years. 

The goal was set in a meeting on March 1 between U.S. and Colombian officials. 

“This effort includes the national implementation of a comprehensive anti-narcotics strategy that aims to reduce estimated cocaine production and coca cultivation by 50% by 2023,” U.S. Under Secretary of Political Affairs, Thomas Shannon, said in the meeting with Colombia’s Foreign Minister, Maria Angela Holguin, according to Reuters

Details about how the reduction would be achieved were not released, but the countries indicated that they would work together to reduce the amount of cocaine being produced and the amount of coca leaf, the main component of cocaine, being grown. 

“On the issue of security and the fight against a world drug problem, we continue to unite, and we know that by working together we can one day make Colombia a drug-free country,” Holguin said in a statement. 

Although opioids dominate the headlines in the United States, cocaine use has seen a resurgence in recent years that is concerning to law enforcement officials.

According to a recent New York Times report, cocaine remains the second deadliest drug in the United States, killing more Black Americans than opioids do every year. 

“We have multiple drug problems in the U.S.,” said Keith Humphreys, a professor at Stanford University School of Medicine who advises governments on drug prevention and treatment policies. “We need to focus on more than one drug at a time.”

Last August, a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) official in Miami said that a tidal wave of cocaine was bound for the U.S., fueled by an increase in coca production in Colombia ahead of peace talks between rebel groups and the government. 

"I talk about it as really an approaching tsunami of cocaine getting ready to hit the global market,” Coast Guard Adm. Christopher Tomney, the director of Joint Interagency Task Force South, said at the time

In fact, the amount of cocaine coming into Florida suggests that production is at an all-time high. 

“We’ve never seen cocaine production at these numbers, which tells you there is more cocaine being produced now than at the height of the Medellín and Cali cartels,” Justin Miller, intelligence chief for the DEA’s Miami field division, said last June. “That’s significant.”

Most of the cocaine in the United States comes from Colombia, and the U.S. government has invested heavily in trying to stop the Colombian drug trade.

Between 2000 and 2015, the U.S. gave Colombia about $10 billion for military and social programs aimed to curb cocaine production, and the U.S. now provides the country about $400 million annually. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.