This publication was produced for review by the United States Agency for International
Development. It was prepared by Vanda Felbab-Brown; Joel M. Jutkowitz; Sergio Rivas;
Ricardo Rocha; James T. Smith; Manuel Supervielle; Cynthia Watson, Management
This study provides an assessment of the success to date of Counter-Narcotics (CN) efforts under Plan
Colombia along with a set of recommendations for the United States Government (USG) to strengthen
future CN efforts directed at increasing security, decreasing coca cultivation and cocaine, and opium
poppy and heroin production in Colombia.
Plan Colombia commenced in 1999 as a multi-year effort to stem a decades’ long spiral towards domestic
violence, fueled by narcotics funding resulting from an increasingly robust drug industry. Plan Colombia
provided funding to support increased security and counternarcotics efforts, and to address issues of rural
development, rule of law, human rights, and support for displaced persons.
The assessment was carried out by a team of specialists in economic policy, alternative development, law
and security and comparative drug control. The team reviewed documents and secondary literature,
conducted interviews with relevant US and Government of Colombia (GOC), local officials, development
workers, representatives of national agencies, farmers, farm association officials and other stakeholders. It
undertook three site visits, in South of Bolivar (Sur de Bolivar), in Macarena (Meta) and in Nariño. In all
three sites, team members conducted focus groups made up of local officials, representatives of national
ministries, members of farmer associations and farmers. The team also used economic regressions and
simulations to assist its analyses.
The team examined the history of Plan Colombia, reviewed performance in areas such as implementation
of alternative development, impact of eradication, cost effectiveness, improvements in security, and
socio-economic aspects of state presence. The report looks at approaches to adjusting performance
measures for CN programs. With a view toward formulating recommendations for the future, the report
presents analyses of lessons that could be drawn from the significant reduction in poppy cultivation, the
role of alternative development and the involvement of citizens and local governments in coca reduction.
The report examines the internal balloon effect as that influences the geographic dispersion of coca
cultivation. Finally, the report reviews various elements of rural development and agricultural policy as
well as providing an estimation of the extent that families in rural areas are vulnerable to participating in
coca cultivation. (Vulnerable families are defined as families in coca growing areas that share the socioeconomic
characteristics of existing coca farmers.)
Read the full report » (external link)
The Duque government’s drug policy in Colombia is taking on a progressively ominous and counterproductive direction. It threatens to undermine the incomplete and struggling peace process, misdirect law enforcement resources, augment the alienation of coca farmers from the state and undermine human rights and drug users’ access to health services in Colombia. With their emphasis on criminalization of even drug possession for personal use and forced eradication, the announced policies clearly cater to the Trump administration’s doctrinaire and discredited drug policy preferences that harken back to the 1980s. But without sustainable livelihoods already in place, forced eradication will not sustainably reduce coca cultivation and cocaine production. The dominance of zero-coca thinking in Colombia whereby a community has to eradicate all coca first before it starts receiving even meager assistance from the state never produced positive results in Colombia.