Colombia’s Cocaine Production Decreased in 2011

By Dialogo
August 02, 2012

Colombia’s cocaine production capacity has plummeted in the last few years, ranking the country below Peru and Bolivia on this measure for the first time since 1995, according to a new U.S. government report released on July 30.

Colombia had a production capacity of 195 metric tons of pure cocaine in 2011, a decrease of 25 percent compared to the previous year and 72 percent compared to 2001, when the record of 700 metric tons was reached, the report said.

Last year’s figure is the lowest since 1994, according to Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, upon presenting the report at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

For the first time in 17 years, Colombia now has a smaller production capacity than that of Peru (325 metric tons in 2010) and Bolivia (265 metric tons in 2011), Kerlikowske said.

The report from the drug czar’s office contrasts with a similar UN report presented last week that found an increase in coca cultivation and only a slight decrease in cocaine production.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which continues to rank Colombia as the leading cocaine producer, cultivation increased 3 percent in 2011 (64,000 hectares planted), while cocaine production fell only 1.4 percent (345 tons).

In contrast, Kerlikowske’s office estimated that coca cultivation in Colombia decreased from 100,000 hectares in 2010 to 83,000 last year, the lowest figure since 1997.

Kerlikowske also explained that the discrepancies between his office and the UN were the result of the methodologies used and of U.S. measurements with cutting-edge technology. The U.S. government has been in conversations with UNODC in order to unify their criteria, he asserted.

Colombia’s results in the fight against drug trafficking “are historic and have tremendous implications, for the United States and the Western Hemisphere, and globally,” Kerlikowske said. “We don’t just have a far safer Colombia, we have a vibrant Colombia that is an active partner in helping with the drug and criminal issue in the region,” Kerlikowske stated.

For its part, the government of Peru, which according to Washington has become the top producer of cocaine, has been actively cooperating with Washington, he added. “President (Ollanta) Humala is clearly focused on cooperation with the United States and on reducing production,” he said.

In the past, Kerlikowske has defended a “third way” in the fight against drugs, one that combines police efforts, investment in economic development, treatment of addicts, and decreasing demand.

The United States, the world’s leading user, says that it has succeeded in reducing domestic cocaine use by 39 percent since 2006.