After promising to radically change Colombian drug policy, the administration of President Gustavo Petro has announced plans this month to reduce forced eradication efforts that, for decades, have remained one of the country’s chief strategies to curb coca, the raw ingredient in cocaine.
Illegal coca farming is big business in Colombia. The country is the world’s largest cocaine producer, and the cultivation of the coca plant recently hit record levels, with the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) estimating that 204,000 hectares (504,095 acres) were dedicated to its production in 2021.
In an effort to combat the drug trade, Colombia has historically deployed security forces to fumigate and manually remove coca crops from the ground. But the left-wing Petro administration has promised to shift tactics, moving away from policies that disadvantage subsistence farmers and promising instead to pursue drug-trafficking leaders.