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 end to any relationship which, as a function of rebellion, may have presented itself with this phenomenon.’ And for now everything indicates that they have complied. As an organization the FARC has exited from its intermediary role as a buyer of coca base between farmers and narcos. Today, the laboratories and cocaine routes don’t belong to it, although they still exist. The ‘de-narcotization’ of the FARC is one of the main causes of the drop in coca base prices in hamlets from Nariño [southwest Colombia] to Catatumbo [northeast Colombia], where people are burying their kilos of processed coca waiting for new buyers to return and for prices to improve. They’re not stupid, they’ve lived through this before and they know that the coca market will stabilize sooner rather than later.”
With the FARC truly out of the drug trade, and Colombia’s state dithering in filling the governance vacuum in most previously FARC-dominated areas, several regions of the country may soon see a very violent competition to determine who will be the next dominant coca-base buyer and processor. Ariel Ávila, of the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation think tank, is calling this “criminal anarchy.” This could get ugly.