Adam Isacson

Still trying to understand Latin America, my own country, and why so few consequences are intended. These views are not necessarily my employer’s.

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Cocaine

The past week in Colombia’s peace process

(Week of September 16-22) UNODC Publishes Its 2017 Coca Cultivation Estimate The UN Office on Drugs and Crime published an executive summary of its 2017 estimate of coca cultivation and cocaine production in Colombia. The UN agency has usually produced this document, in complete form, in June or July of each year. Among the latest […]

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Ouch, this statement did not age well.

This is William Brownfield, then the assistant secretary of state for narcotics and law enforcement affairs, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on August 2, 2017: Tranche one in this four-stage Colombian strategy was the southwest. Down in Tumaco and the province of Nariño. We are unable to support that because the FARC has, […]

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Video: “The Origins of Cocaine” book event

Here is video of yesterday afternoon’s WOLA event with Paul Gootenberg and Liliana Dávalos of Stony Brook University. They’re the editors of The Origins of Cocaine, a new book that finds a striking overlap between today’s South American coca-growing areas and the zones where governments carried out failed development and colonization projects 50 years ago. […]

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24 years of coca and eradication in Colombia

Over the years I’ve been inadvertently building a big collection of “graphs that need periodic updating, which makes them more complicated.” This one depicts coca cultivation in Colombia, and efforts to eradicate it, since 1994. There are two measures of coca cultivation, from the United States and the UN. Eradication has mostly occurred through aerial spraying […]

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The past week in Colombia’s peace process

(Still catching up. This is the week of April 15-21.) Ecuador Will No Longer Host the ELN Negotiations The president of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, announced April 18 that his country will no longer host the ongoing peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the ELN. Government representatives and guerrilla leaders had held five rounds of […]

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Coca in Colombia: what are the options?

Revised 9:00AM on 4/29/18: I added two more options to the table based on a suggestion from Twitter user @gabrielvc. Colombia’s government, faced with record-high levels of coca cultivation, is considering using drones to spray herbicides over the fields. This is less indiscriminate and risky to public health than spraying from aircraft, a program the […]

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Honduras went zero-for-100 in 2016

“The number of inbound flights to Honduras allegedly trafficking cocaine dropped 30 percent between 2015 and 2016, according to estimates from the United States government,” reads a letter to the New York Times editor, published yesterday, from the Honduran Presidency’s minister and adviser for strategy and communication. But what happens when flights or boats suspected of […]

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2016 suspect trafficking maps

These U.S. government maps were on display at today’s Senate Colombia hearing, but weren’t in anyone’s published testimony. Click on them to see them enlarged. That route from southwest Colombia and Ecuador to Mexico and Guatemala is really striking. Also striking is the relative absence of vessels headed to Nicaragua, El Salvador, Cuba, and Haiti.

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Peace-ocracy

Colombians complain constantly about their government’s ossified bureaucracy. But when they get a chance to approach a problem in a new way—with a sweeping peace accord—this is what happens: In the executive branch, there are at least six entities or authorities with competencies related to the illicit crops issue, including the Defense Ministry. In addition, […]

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The U.S. government’s strident approach to Colombia’s coca boom

The “answers” in this imagined dialogue are direct quotes from Wednesday’s Senate testimony of Amb. William Brownfield, the longtime assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs. This “imagined conversation” format is a bit goofy, but it illustrates how knotted and constrained the U.S. approach to coca is right now. Q: Colombia’s […]

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UNODC’s Colombia coca estimate is out

On July 14 the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released (PDF) its 2016 estimate of coca cultivation in Colombia (the dark blue line). It shows a lower estimate than the U.S. government’s (the green line), but a sharper rate of increase over 2015. UNODC identified four reasons for the increase: Some coca farmers “have […]

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Podcast: “U.S.-Colombia Relations ‘in a Challenged Place'”

It’s nice to put one of these out again, for the first time in 2 1/2 months. Relations between the United States and close ally Colombia have hit their roughest patch in years. The situation is aggravated by the Trump administration’s much darker view of the FARC peace accord, and open disagreement about how to […]

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Trafficking routes over time

Below this text, in reverse chronological order, are some maps from U.S. Southern Command that I’ve collected over the years. They show the tracks of aircraft or boats that Southcom and its Key West, Florida-based “Joint Interagency Task Force South” (JIATF-South) component has suspected of trafficking drugs (or other illegal things). These give you a […]

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The FARC really appears to be abandoning coca—which may mean violence

This is a remarkable paragraph in a Semana magazine column from Daniel Rico, a former Colombian government counter-drug official who now analyzes the cocaine trade and security at the Ideas for Peace Foundation, a Bogotá think tank. In last year’s peace accords, Rico writes, “…with regard to narcotrafficking, the FARC committed itself to ‘put an […]

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