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Colombian coca crops, used to make cocaine, at an all-time high last year, UN says

Coca cultivation reached an all-time high in Colombia last year, the U.N. said, as the administration of President Gustavo Petro struggles to reduce poverty in remote areas and contain armed groups that are profiting from the cocaine trade.

The new findings on coca growing were published over the weekend by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime, which said nearly 570,000 acres of farmland in Colombia were planted with coca in 2022, a 13% increase from the previous year.

The South American nation is the world’s largest exporter of cocaine, which is made from coca leaves. Colombia provides 90% of the cocaine sold in the United States each year.

Colombia’s coca crop went down slightly from 2017 to 2020, following a peace deal between the government and the country’s biggest rebel movement, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. But planting has risen since then as smaller armed groups that profit from the drug trade take over territory that was abandoned by FARC fighters.

The justice minister said Colombia plans to tackle cocaine production by improving education, health and infrastructure in a handful of areas that are teeming with coca crops.

“The success of our drug policy should be measured in terms of the reduction of violent crime, and the reduction of poverty in those regions where coca is cultivated,” Osuna said.

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