On November 17, 2021, the Colombian Military Forces’ General Command (CGFM, in Spanish) reported the destruction of a mega-lab that consisted of nine buildings, in Francisco Pizarro, Nariño department.
Service members also destroyed 1,555 kilograms of cocaine hydrochloride, 1,375 kg of solid chemical precursors, 12,500 liters of liquid chemical precursors, 4,500 liters of hydrocarbons, 600 kg of dry food, a speedboat, and communications equipment.
Colonel Henry Velásquez Blanquicett, commander of the 4th Marine Brigade, said that the lab belonged to dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, in Spanish).
During the operation, authorities captured two individuals and rescued two minors. The Ecuadorian journalism agency Análisis Urbano reported on its website that narcotrafficking uses children and adolescents to work in labs for three to four months, forcing them to process coca base paste, crystallize cocaine hydrochloride, and press and pack the drug. When they are no longer useful, they replace them with other children.
The guerrilla group National Liberation Army (ELN, in Spanish) is responsible for most cases of forced recruitment of minors, followed by the FARC and the Clan del Golfo, the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo reported.
The report Survey of Territories Affected by Illicit Crops 2020, which the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime published in July 2021, shows that cocaine hydrochloride production laboratories are now larger than before.
Since 2019, Colombia has dismantled mega-labs capable of producing up to 5 tons of cocaine per month, set up in primitive areas, according to InSight Crime, an international organization that investigates organized crime in Latin America.
“It is important to highlight that the residues of chemical substances [used to manufacture cocaine] are indiscriminately dumped in the soil and water sources near the complex, considerably polluting the environment,” the CGFM said.
Since 2019, Colombian authorities have destroyed more than 331 laboratories for cocaine hydrochloride processing, reported the state-run website of the Colombian Drug Observatory. Authorities found these massive laboratories on the southern border with Ecuador and on the eastern border with Venezuela, InSight Crime added.