The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) releases its annual survey of coca cultivation and cocaine production in Colombia in 2019. It finds that 154,000 hectares of coca were planted in Colombia that year, a decrease of 15,000 hectares from 2018. It estimates that this coca was used to produce 1,137 tons of cocaine, up from 1,120 in 2018.
Citing testimonies and evidence from contractor personnel, Semana magazine reports that forced manual coca eradication teams may have been inflating and exaggerating their results, measured in land area, by as much as 30 percent.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime and Colombia’s National Police release their estimates of coca cultivation and cocaine production in Colombia in 2019. The report finds a 9 percent reduction in coca-growing from 2018 to 2019, from 169,000 hectares to 154,000 hectares, but a 1.9 percent increase in cocaine production, to an estimated 1,137 metric tons of pure cocaine. Coca cultivation decreases most in Caquetá, Antioquia, Nariño, Bolívar, and Putumayo, while increasing in Norte de Santander and Valle del Cauca.
Coca-growing farmers confront a forced eradication operation, begun on May 26 and carried out by the military’s Omega Joint Task Force, Narcotics Police, and Police Anti-Disturbances Squadron (ESMAD) personnel in Tercer Milenio, Vistahermosa municipality, Meta. The security forces wound at least six farmers, some of them seriously. An Army statement alleges that the farmers were obligated to resist by FARC dissidents (“Gentil Duarte’s” group). The National Coordinator of Cultivators (COCCAM) contends that campesinos in this community had repeatedly voiced their desire to substitute their crops voluntarily.
Ariolfo Sánchez Ruiz, a campesino opposing an Army-led eradication operation in Anorí, Antioquia, is detained and killed by soldiers, according to local campesino organizations.
A court in Nariño orders a halt to virtual online consultations with communities in remote areas to discuss the environmental impact of renewed aerial herbicide eradication of coca. The court was responding to a complaint filed by communities fearful of being fumigated with herbicides without proper consultation. In order to restart the U.S.-backed fumigation program, Colombia’s Constitutional Court had required the environmental licensing agency ANLA to consult with communities on an eradication plan. COVID-19 had made those consultations impossible to carry out in person, so the agency had sought to perform them over internet, even though many of the affected rural communities have little or no internet access. The court’s order may delay the reinitiation of fumigation, originally expected for mid-2020.
Security forces kill Digno Emérito Buendía, a coca-growing campesino, during an eradication operation in the rural zone of Cúcuta, Norte de Santander. Three other campesinos are wounded.
The Defense Ministry launches the “second phase” of its 2020 manual coca eradication effort. 76 mobile eradication teams, each made up of 21 civilians and 42 security-force members, are to deploy around the country.
Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo says that the government is forging ahead in the fulfillment of Constitutional Court-mandated requirements for the re-starting of aerial herbicide fumigation in coca-growing zones.
- 20-year-old Alejandro Carvajal is killed in an “incident,” as the Army calls it, with soldiers accompanying coca eradication in the municipality of Sardinata, in the Catatumbo region. The Catatumbo Campesino Organization (ASCAMCAT) states that Carvajal, the nephew of a local social leader, was killed in his home.
- On March 19, the Defense Ministry had pledged to continue manual coca eradication despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Marco Rivadeneira, a well-known campesino leader who had accompanied peace accord-mandated crop substitution programs in Putumayo, is killed in Puerto Asís municipality. Three men took Rivadeneira from a crop-substitution meeting by force; his body was found shortly afterward.
- The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ office, the OAS Mission in Support of the Peace Process, and the Truth Commission are among organizations issuing statements rejecting the murder.
- Three days after Rivadeneira’s murder, the government steps up forced manual eradication operations in Putumayo’s coca-growing areas.
- The White House announces that the U.S. government’s estimate of Colombian coca cultivation increased from 208,000 hectares in 2018 to 212,000 in 2019. The declaration calls it a “stabilization” of coca cultivation. Referring to a counter-narcotics dialogue that took place on the same day, it reports, “A focus of the discussion was expanding the results of Colombia’s integrated coca eradication program by ensuring full use of all available tools, including manual eradication, alternative development, and a Colombian-led aerial eradication component, supported by rural development and rural security programs.”
- President Iván Duque makes a hastily planned visit to Washington, where he meets with President Donald Trump at the White House. Asked by a reporter about coca cultivation in Colombia, Trump tells Duque, “Well, you’re going to have to spray. If you don’t spray, you’re not going to get rid of them. So you have to spray, with regard to the drugs in Colombia.” Duque responds, “We have to combine all the elements that we have: obviously, precision spraying, but also the record highs that we reached in 2019 on manual eradication and also dismantling the drug cartels.”
- After much delay, Colombia’s Constitutional Court publishes the final text of its July 2019 decision on aerial spraying of coca-growing areas using the herbicide glyphosate. The decision laid out the steps that the government must take to re-start such a program, which was suspended due to public health concerns in 2015.
- Police carrying out manual coca eradication in the Rio Mexicano sector of Tumaco, Nariño, enter into a confrontation with residents. A farmer named Segundo Girón is killed by a bullet; three police are reported wounded. About half of the coca-growing families in the Rio Mexicano area have signed on to the peace accord’s crop substitution program, the rest did not.
- The CEO of the International Development Finance Corporation, a U.S. government body that issues loans and loan guarantees, visits Tumaco, the Pacific coast municipality that leads all Colombian municipalities in land area planted with coca. Adam Boehler promises US$5 billion in financing for private development projects, and witnesses a coca eradication operation.