Life in the Amazon (COR-330-11)
Colombia’s battle with coca production is not a new fight; Colombia has struggled for decades with battling illicit coca production in the country. From the thousands of peasant families who grow coca leaves, to the few billionaire drug barons who direct much of the production, processing and trafficking of cocaine, earnings have enormous economic, social and political influence in Latin America. Colombia’s coca production in particular is still very serious even though it has recently fallen behind Peru as the number one producer. Coca production in Colombia has been strongly associated with increased violence and political instability throughout the entire country. Cocaine allows economic power to be bought, which influences and threatens democratic institutions. Apart from the corrupting power of such huge sums of narco-dollars on police and judicial systems, Congressmen are elected with cocaine funds, trafficking groups sustain banks and exchange rates fluctuate with the state of the trade. Coca production is also linked with deforestation, biodiversity loss, pollution, and general civil unrest. Not to mention the untold healthcare costs associated with treating the drug addicts and abusers. The production of coca also disrupts other legal economic activities, and limits others because international corporations and national companies are afraid to do business in and around the regions. The Colombian government has made great efforts to control coca production and to secure the country to make it safe for its citizens; however, these efforts have had marginal impacts. The problem of coca production in Colombia is still an issue and efforts to eradicate coca in Colombia hasn’t been easy and seems to only displace coca growing to other areas of the country. Unfortunately, the current and past strategies of coca eradication have led to undesirable outcomes such as widening inequality and negative externalities such as environmental damage, displaced persons, loss in agricultural wages, and dispersion of violence. In Colombia, military interventions and a greater government presence have had a much better return on investment since eradication appears to have the opposite effect by increasing the intensity of production. Eradication and alternative crop strategies by themselves have small effects, but alternative crop development is less expensive and can deter coca production if profitable. So markets and infrastructure are essential for alternative crop development and creating substitutes for coca production in Colombia.