That would be excellent news - if it meant advances in the drug war's REAL goals: fewer addicts and less money going to violent, illegal groups. Unfortunately, there are lots of reasons to question whether that's happening.
In the first place, the United Nation's latest coca survey found that Colombia's acreage had actually increased, albeit only by 2%. More significantly, coca acreage has clearly expanded in the world's two other producers: Peru and Bolivia.
"Each decrease in Colombia has shifted to Peru and Bolivia; the laboratories have moved to Ecuador and Venezuela and the trafficking to Central America and Mexico," University of the Andes Professor Daniel mejía told AFP.
In today's paper, El Tiempo asks U.S. Ambassador Michael McKinley about this 'balloon effect.' However, he prefers not to talk about it, concentrating instead on Colombia's accomplishments.
The ambassador seems to be suggesting that Peru and Bolivia could accomplish as much if they only applied Colombia's aggressive erraddication strategies. That a poor, highly corrupt and underdeveloped nation like Bolivia could carry out such an effort seems unlikely, but the fact is that it won't even try: Bolivia's anti-Washington government - whose Pres. Evo Morales also heads the national coca leaf growers federation - has been scaling back cooperation with U.S. anti-drug efforts and lobbied for the U.N. to legalize coca leaf chewing. In Venezuela, Pres. Chavez has completely cut anti-drug cooperation with Washington, while allegedly opening the borders wide to drug traffickers. The only reason I can think of why cocaleros haven't yet started planting in Venezuela and Ecuador is because they haven't needed to. And little Uruguay's plan to legalize and produce marijuana can't be encouraging for prohibitionists, either.
Meanwhile, use of synthetic drugs, especially methamphetamines, appears to be booming.
Colombia's reported drop in coca area is positive, but isolated, and perhaps pointless in the context of wider trends.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours