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Government: Colombia manual coca eradication most in decade

December 31, 2020 GMT
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Soldiers uproot coca shrubs during a manual eradication operation in Tumaco, Colombia, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Ivan Valencia)
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Soldiers uproot coca shrubs during a manual eradication operation in Tumaco, Colombia, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. (AP Photo/Ivan Valencia)

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Colombia manually eradicated 130,000 hectares of coca crops in 2020, the highest figure in the last decade, the government said.

The figure easily tops the 94,670 hectares of coca manually eradicated in 2019 and the 59,977 hectares in 2018, according to a government report.

“These 130,000 hectares eradicated translate into an affectation of about US$301 million to drug trafficking organizations, if the average price of a hectare of coca is taken as a reference, and represents about 115,440 kilos of cocaine that were no longer produced,” Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said in Tumaco, in southwest Colombia, while observing military operatives eradicating coca fields. Trujillo was accompanied by U.S. Ambassador Phillip Goldberg.

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While carrying out eradication this year, security forces were attacked 22 times while on patrols and deactivated 148 explosive devices. Between 2018 and 2020, 25 members of the security forces and four eradicators lost their lives due to the actions of illegal groups using antipersonnel mines and snipers.

Illicit crops continue to be one of the main problems in Colombia. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported a reduction in 2019 with 154,000 hectares of coca cultivations, compared to 169,000 in 2018, however, it warned that production continues to be strong.

In Tumaco, the defense minister defended the resumption of aerial spraying with glyphosate, assuring that fewer lives would be put at risk. The government is preparing for the use of glyphosate, which was banned by the Constitutional Court in 2015 until there are conclusive studies on the impact on health and the environment.