The government of Colombia signed a $315 million USD deal with the United Nations on Friday to compensate farmers switching to safer crops from coca, used to make cocaine.
“This historic agreement is a unique opportunity to turn the tide against Colombia’s coca cultivation and help farmers embrace alternative development,” said the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, or UNODC.
Executive Director Yury Fedotov said in a statement in Vienna that he “congratulated the Colombian government not just for its ceaseless efforts to find peace, but also for its recognition that the pursuit of peace requires tangible solutions to the crimes that fuel and feed conflict.”
The UN considers the reduction of illegal drug crops to be part of its mission to reduce violence in the country.
Mr Fedotov signed the deal with Colombian leadership in Vienna as part of his organization’s mission to “monitor the country’s policy to reduce illicit crops and to strengthen rural development, as a crucial part of the country’s ongoing peace-building efforts.”
Currently, farmers earn $300 per month for every hectare of of the raw cocaine crop of coca they grow. The government in Bogatá and the UN want growers to switch to coffee and cacao.
However, Bogatá says it is being challenged by armed militant groups that aim to capture areas where coca is traditionally grown to take advantage of the financial gain cocaine can return.
Colombia has made progress in this area as the communist Farc rebel group gave up their final weapons over the summer of 2017 ending 52 years of guerrilla warfare with the state.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or Farc, once controlled much of the coca growing territory.
However, upon the group’s disbandment of its armed wing, it agreed to give up its control over the drug production zones and promote the switch to safer crops.
Observers say the delays in the Farc deal were taken advantage of by local farmers who planted coca with hopes of being offered subsidies later to switch to other crops.
The armed groups Bogotá warn of are others who have taken advantage of Farc’s disarmament.
The issue of illegal drugs, particularly cocaine, goes back to the control of substances by international criminals, such as billionaire Pablo Escabar in the 1980s and 90s, and their powerful cartels.
The United States has been heavily involved in the anti-drug campaign in Colombia for some 50 years, even during the reign of corrupt administrations and a scared populace.
More details to follow. Image 1 of Colombian government and UNODC from UNODC Twitter.