Colombia is undergoing a significant economic shift, moving away from oil as its primary export. Instead, the country is rapidly expanding its production and trade of cocaine. President Gustavo Petro has introduced a novel strategy to combat drug trafficking, focusing on targeting the powerful drug lords profiting from the global cocaine market. This unexpected approach has led to a surge in cocaine exports, according to estimates by experts at Bloomberg Economics.
Felipe Hernandez, an analyst at Bloomberg Economics, recently reported that revenue from cocaine exports in 2022 soared to an astonishing $18.2 billion, closing in on the $19.1 billion revenue generated from oil exports the previous year. Remarkably, this escalation in cocaine production has occurred despite government efforts to dismantle the facilities where coca leaves are converted into cocaine.
Colombia reached a historic high in cocaine production, with an unprecedented 1,738 tons manufactured last year. The cultivation of coca, the essential ingredient for cocaine production, expanded by 13%, reaching an astounding 230,000 hectares (approximately 570,000 acres) in 2022, as documented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
President Gustavo Petro, Colombia’s first leftist leader, has instigated a notable shift in the country’s approach to the drug trade. Instead of targeting coca leaf producers, who represent the weakest link in the cocaine production chain, Petro’s administration is concentrating on the influential drug lords reaping substantial profits from the international cocaine trade. Petro’s strategic pivot aims to initiate negotiations with prominent drug-trafficking groups in an effort to bring an end to the nation’s six-decade-long civil conflict through peace agreements.
However, this policy shift has inadvertently fostered the exponential growth of illegal groups involved in cocaine production, as observed by Bloomberg’s Felipe Hernandez. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) concurs, reporting a substantial 24% increase in potential coca production since 2021.
Coca leaves are the primary ingredient in cocaine production, and Colombia has traditionally held the distinction of being the world’s top producer of this illicit drug. As Colombia approaches the status of the leading exporter of cocaine, concerns regarding the consequences of this transition, both domestically and internationally, are becoming increasingly prominent.