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Colombia’s Petro Launches New Anti-Drug Plan With Focus on Opportunity

EL TAMBO, Colombia, Oct 3 (Reuters) – Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro on Tuesday launched a new national drug policy that will look to reduce the size of coca crops, cut potential cocaine output and prevent deforestation linked to drug trafficking, while helping transition small farmers to the legal economy.

Colombia, facing pressure from the United States to fight cocaine production, has historically under conservative governments relied on tactics like the forced eradication of coca – the drug’s chief ingredient – and prosecution of poor farmers rearing the crop.

“We want to make the first concerted effort to swap one economy with another, with the whole community,” Petro, a leftist, said during an event in El Tambo, a municipality in Cauca province, and one of the regions most affected by coca crops.

The strategy will run from 2023 to 2033 and will support regions, communities and ecosystems affected by illegal drugs, helping people to abandon illegal activities in favor of legal economies, transforming their economic and social conditions in the process, Petro said.

The policy will look to implement environmental management and measures to conserve and restore areas affected by drug trafficking, while tackling drug use with a focus on public health and human rights.

The plan will encourage the voluntary eradication of coca crops, to replace the plants with coffee, cocoa or fruit, and will see the State increase its presence in Colombia’s remote regions, the president added.

Despite the change in focus, the government will continue to target the finances of criminal organizations involved in the drug trade, which has fueled Colombia’s six decades of internal armed conflict that has killed at least 450,000 people.

The plan will be used to cut off income from drug trafficking, combat corruption and strengthen cocaine seizures, among other measures.

In 2022, coca crops covered some 2,300 square kilometers of Colombia’s territory – up 13% on the previous year – while potential cocaine output rose 24% to 1,738 metric tons, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Source : reuters