Sunday, June 16, 2013

With Coca Leaf, All That Goes Down Must Go Up

'Historic fall in coca leaf cultivation,' says today's El Tiempo
El Tiempo reports that Colombia's coca leaf crop has dropped to 48 hectares, a 25% drop from 2011 and a level not seen since the 1990s, when the Peruvian and Bolivian crops began shifting north.

The result, which is still preliminary and comes from a yet-unreleased United Nations report, will surely be crowed over by supporters of the War on Drugs. It shows, they'll say, that aggressive eradication does work. In this case, according to El Tiempo, the key was preventing farmers from replanting, in part by offering them economic alternatives.
Manually eradicating coca bushes near the Ecuadorian border.
(Photo: AFP/Colombia Reports)

That's well enough. But El Tiempo's story also points out that the coca leaf crops have expanded in both Bolivia and Peru, the second of which has surpassed Colombia in leaf production.

Sure, perhaps if Colombia's effective anti-coca leaf policies were applied everywhere the drug war could be won. But that ideal world won't arrive anytime soon. And, even if they did apply such effective measures across the Andean region - or even all of South America - the crop would likely just shift to Asia or Africa.

I've been waiting for an excuse to post this graph, which I found in a Washington Post piece entitled 'The most embarrassing graph in American drug policy.'

Since 1970, cocaine prices in the US have dropped, even while incarceration rates have soared.
(Graph from Carnegie Mellon University)
If the drug war was supposed to accomplish anything, it was to raise cocaine's price, discouraging use. Instead, cocaine prices have dropped over the last two decades. (The blue line and the black one with white dots. The red and black lines show the rise in inprisonment.)

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


Stuart Oswald said...

Plan Colombia a success.

Miguel said...

Maybe. But Plan Peru and Plan Bolivia are failing.