Colombia targets repeat of last year's coca eradication in 2021

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BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia has set its sights on destroying 130,000 hectares (321,237 acres) of coca – the chief ingredient in cocaine – in 2021, matching eradication levels last year, President Ivan Duque said on Monday.

The South American country faces pressure from the United States, the main destination for cocaine, to counter coca cultivation. The area covered by coca crops soared to 212,000 hectares in 2019, with a potential production output of 879 tonnes a year, according to the U.S. government.

“In 2020 we also seized more than 500 tonnes of cocaine hydrochloride, another objective we are keeping for 2021. The fight against drugs will continue to be a key focus and will continue to combine all the available tools,” Duque said at the end of a security meeting in the Caribbean city of Cartagena.

In 2019 Colombia’s police and armed forces destroyed 100,000 hectares of coca and seized 428 tonnes of cocaine.

Duque is looking to restart aerial fumigation of coca crops with the herbicide glyphosate, which is quicker than manual eradication.

Spraying with the herbicide was suspended in 2015 after the World Health Organization said it could potentially cause cancer.

The government is in the process of complying with standards set by the Constitutional Court to resume the fumigation.

Drug trafficking has long fed Colombia’s internal armed conflict, which has left more than 260,000 dead. Leftist guerrilla groups, criminal gangs and local cartels all make money from the trade, according to security sources.

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