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Colombia’s Coca Boom

Behind the Failure to Eradicate the Crop

A farmer cleans a coca crop in Cauca, Colombia, January 27, 2017. Jaime Saldarriaga / Reuters

Over the last seven years, the government of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has worked strenuously to dissociate the country from its image as a cocaine exporter. In 2016, Santos struck a peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the guerrilla group that for years stood watch over coca farms and had become the wholesaler and arbiter of the cocaine trafficking business. Santos had hoped that the deal would not only end decades of fighting, but also paralyze the drug trade and starve other criminal groups of revenue. And yet Colombia’s cocaine production is booming. Last year, it produced its largest coca crop in nearly two decades.

Washington has looked on disapprovingly. “More coca, more cocaine, more cocaine, more security problems,” Kevin Whitaker, the U.S. ambassador to Colombia, told El Tiempo, just days after the White House threatened in mid-September to decertify the country as a

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