The anti-narcotics police arrived in the heart of Colombia’s cocaine industry last month to destroy the coca crop. The community was determined to save it, the Los Angeles Times reports. Roughly 1,000 farmers, some armed with clubs, surrounded a hilltop camp that police had set up in a jungle clearing and began closing in on the officers. The police started shooting. When they were done, seven farmers were dead and 21 were wounded. The police crackdown appeared to have little result. People soon returned to growing coca, the raw material of cocaine. The remote municipality of Tumaco produces 16 percent of Colombian coca, more than anywhere else in the country.
If Colombia ever had a chance to choke off its cocaine industry, this last year might have been it. The U.S.-backed government ended a five-decade civil war with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which fueled its rebellion largely with drug proceeds. The peace agreement promised new economic opportunities for the poor villages where coca production has long been the major source of employment and cash payments to persuade coca farmers to grow legal crops instead. As the latest clash illustrates, things have not gone as planned. Coca cultivation last year nationwide expanded to 361,000 acres. That’s triple the 2013 total and the most acres since 2000, when the U.S. launched the multibillion-dollar aid program Plan Colombia to combat drugs and terrorism. The U.S. gets 92 percent of its cocaine from Colombia, which exported record quantities in 2016, according to the U.S. government.