War on drugs

Cocaine production, consumption spike in South America

United Nations report says it is confident peace process in Colombia will help combat drug

South America continues to lead global cocaine production and consumption, according to the UN’s 2016 International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) report, which was presented in Vienna and Bogota on Thursday. “South America remained virtually the sole supplier of cocaine to drug abuse markets around the world,” it notes, adding: “The prevalence of cocaine consumption increased markedly in the region.”

US Drug Enforcement Administration agents lead a suspect away.
US Drug Enforcement Administration agents lead a suspect away.AP

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Referring to other studies by the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), and the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the INCB report attributes the increase to the amount of land dedicated to coca plant cultivation in Colombia, which from 2014 to 2015 rose by almost 40%, from 69,000 to 96,000 hectares.

It attributes the rise, at least in the short term, to the peace process in Colombia.

“The expectations surrounding negotiations on the peace process may have contributed to raising farmers’ hopes about the benefits of prospective alternative development programs and acted as motivators for further illicit cultivation, which, combined with the cessation of eradication by spraying of glyphosate by the authorities in 2015, accounted for the almost doubling of coca bush cultivation in the country,” explain the authors of the report, adding that, at the same time, illegal cultivation in Bolivia and Peru has fallen.

The UN is concerned at the spread of plant-based psychoactive substances

The INCB report also addresses consumption, noting: “The abuse of coca paste is concentrated in South America, and the annual prevalence of cocaine abuse continues to increase, although cannabis remains the most widely used controlled substance in the region.”

According to CICAD: “Last year, the annual prevalence rates of abuse of cocaine among secondary school students were higher in South America than in North America, Central America and the Caribbean.”

Meanwhile, the UN body also expresses its concern at the spread of plant-based psychoactive substances such as Salvia divinorum, khat, hallucinogenic mushrooms, ayahuasca and Cacao sabanero, the psychoactive component of which is the alkaloid scopolamine, also known as burundanga.

“In the past, they were destined solely and exclusively for the religious rites of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. However, data from the most recent surveys show that young people from other backgrounds were abusing such substances,” it says, noting that in Colombia, the use of such substances was higher than that of LSD, ecstasy or methamphetamine.

The amount of land dedicated to coca cultivation has nearly doubled in Colombia

The INCB report takes a detailed look at the situation in Colombia. The UN is confident that in the longer term, the peace process, the incorporation of the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) into civilian life and the crop-replacement programs to end the cultivation of coca bushes will help to reduce drug production and use, of cocaine in particular.

“One of the pillars of the agreement is related to drug matters and related crime,” it notes, adding that it will continue to be “at the disposal of the authorities in the implementation of the agreement, within the sphere of its mandate, regarding the implementation of the international drug control treaties.”

English version by Nick Lyne.

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