UN Recognizes Colombia’s Fight against Drugs and Removes It from Observation List
By Dialogo March 03, 2011
The UN International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has removed Colombia from its list of countries meriting “special observation” for drug production and trafficking, as a “word of encouragement” for its efforts in that field, the organization announced on 1 March.
“Colombia is coming off the special observation list in 2011,” Camilo Uribe, a member of the board and its rapporteur, declared at a press conference in Bogotá.
“It’s a word of encouragement from the board, so that this country continues to fight,” the board member added, before specifying that Colombia nonetheless continues “to be the world’s largest producer of cocaine up to now.”
“This doesn’t mean that cultivation, trafficking, and consumption have disappeared; it means that state institutions have been strengthened, that the judicial system has been empowered,” he maintained.
According to United Nations data, Colombia produced around 410 tons of cocaine in 2009, making it the world’s leading producer of that drug.
Nevertheless, it fell out of first place in the production of coca leaf, a place now occupied, according to the most recent data from 2009, by Peru, which had not been in that position since 1997.
Uribe specified that the decision was taken at the INCB’s most recent meeting, which ended on 4 February and at which it was decided “to evaluate the countries that have stayed on the list.”
“Being on that list is not a sanction of any kind, to make that clear,” he added.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos expressed his delight that his country has come off the INCB list, on which, he said, “we were for very many years,” unfortunately.
“It’s not only the number of tons of cocaine seized by the police or the Army or the National Navy; it’s the drastic, phenomenal change that’s been seen” in the fall in coca production, Santos said during a public event in Vistahermosa, in the central department of Meta.
In his turn, Interior and Justice Minister Germán Vargas received the news “with pleasure.” “We continue confronting the challenge of reducing supply and demand. Day after day, for decades, Colombia has been working (against drug trafficking). No other country has sacrificed so much in the fight against drugs,” he emphasized.
The UN agency’s annual report on drugs was released on 2 March.
The expert explained that although Colombia launched an aggressive eradication policy in 2002, a reduction in estimated cocaine production, which has gone from around 670 tons a year to less than 500, was only seen beginning in 2008.
Before that date, he explained, traffickers succeeded in “tripling” coca-leaf productivity.
Colombia has also reduced the cultivation of poppies, the base for heroin production, going from around 7,000 hectares in 2002 to around 267 hectares in 2010.
Finally, Uribe warned about the situation of Peru and Bolivia, countries he invited to strengthen their “measures to reduce supply,” in order to prevent a “balloon effect,” the migration of production and trafficking from one country to another when repression increases.
That effect resulted in cultivation “moving from Peru to Colombia at the end of the 1970s, and now we don’t want it to return to Peru or to any other country in the region,” he concluded.