Colombia’s next president will have to resist internal and external pressures to reactivate aerial spraying of illicit crops. Between 2002 and 2015, some 3.8 million acres of coca were eradicated by aerial spraying, according to the Colombian Observatory on Drugs. The practice was suspended in 2015, and Colombia currently has 360,000 acres of coca crops — not far from the 356,000 acres reported in 2001, according to the United Nations.
Despite pressure to combat the illicit crop, it would be a mistake to restore the old strategy, as it was ineffective in reducing illicit crops and had negative consequences on health, the environment, and the local legitimacy of the state. Evidence shows that without strengthening the rule of law at the local level, brief reductions of coca crops achieved by forced eradication are not sustainable. The next president should instead implement peace agreement policies that strengthen the rule of law at the local level and can achieve better results in the long term.
Uprimny is a lawyer and researcher at DeJusticia.