Coca, Cocaine and Drug Trafficking

40 Pages Posted: 14 Feb 2019

See all articles by Hernando Zuleta

Hernando Zuleta

Universidad de los Andes, Colombia

Date Written: February 11, 2019


The increase in the area cultivated with coca in Colombia has cast doubt on the country’s anti-drug strategy and has encouraged skepticism about the possibility of a complete and definitive peace. Furthermore, this perception of failure has given rise to policy proposals based on the idea that illicit crops are a criminal issue, not a development one.

This paper is a complete review of the available evidence and aims at organizing the information related to this debate and shedding light on the convenience or inconvenience of certain policies. There are six highly relevant facts: (i) With respect to reducing cocaine supply, the efforts in seizures and destruction of infrastructure are more efficient than the efforts in eradication. (ii) Seizures and destruction of infrastructure may help in reducing coca plantations. (iii) There is no evidence to support the hypothesis that the consumption of cocaine in Colombia has increased. (iv) Most regions of the country have seen a decrease in the amount of coca crops. However, at least one armed group is present in the regions where the cultivated area has increased. (v) Coca growing municipalities are, on average, poorer than the rest of the country. These municipalities have a low tax revenue, and reduced levels of connectivity and institutional development. (vi) The increase in the consumption of cocaine in the United States is concentrated in a specific age group and in certain states. This fact makes it difficult to relate the increase in consumption to an exogenous increase in the supply.

Keywords: Illicit crops, drug traffic, internal conflict, development

JEL Classification: H56, H71, K14, N46, O12, O13

Suggested Citation

Zuleta, Hernando, Coca, Cocaine and Drug Trafficking (February 11, 2019). Documento CEDE No. 2019-09, Available at SSRN: or

Hernando Zuleta (Contact Author)

Universidad de los Andes, Colombia ( email )

Carrera Primera # 18A-12
Bogota, DC D.C. 110311

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