Cablegate: Colombia Total Coca Eradication Is Down in 2009
O R 131530Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0714
CIA WASHINGTON DC
DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC ROUTINE
DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC ROUTINE
DIRJIATF SOUTH J2
AMEMBASSY LIMA ROUTINE
DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC ROUTINE
SECDEF WASHINGTON DC ROUTINE
AMEMBASSY LA PAZ ROUTINE
AMEMBASSY KABUL ROUTINE
CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL ROUTINE
DEPT OF STATE AIR WING PATRICK AFB FL
INFO ONDCP WASHINGTON DC ROUTINE
UNCLASSIFIED BOGOTA 003604
DEPT FOR INL/LP
DEPT FOR INL/R
DEPT FOR WHA/AND
E.O. 12958: DECL: N/A
TAGS: SNAR SENV KCRM PTER CO
SUBJECT: COLOMBIA TOTAL COCA ERADICATION IS DOWN IN 2009
REF: BOGOTA 673
Correction Reason: CORRECTED COPY: ADDEE ADDED
1. (SBU) Summary: Citing record coca eradication in 2008, the USG and United Nations reported significant declines in Colombian cocaine production potential and coca cultivation in Colombia last year. Total coca eradication in 2009 is projected to be approximately 157,000 hectares, 32 percent less than in 2008. Reduced funding for eradication programs is a primary cause for the overall decrease in eradication. Total manual eradication through November 7 stood at 46,794 hectares, short of the 70,000 hectare eradication goal. The aerial eradication program is on track to reach its 2009 target of 100,000 hectares. The Colombian government (GOC) has reported a total of 40 fatalities during manual eradication operations in 2009, surpassing the 26 fatalities in
2008. Embassy Bogota is encouraging the GOC to reduce its focus on total hectares eradicated in favor of an eradication strategy aligned with the GOC’s National Consolidation Plan that would make eradication permanent and eliminate a source of funding for illegal armed groups, reduce violence and consolidate security and state presence in key coca growing areas. End Summary.
Total Eradication Down in 2009
2. (SBU) Total coca eradication in 2009 is projected to be approximately 157,000 hectares, 32 percent less than the 2008 eradication total of 229,227 hectares (ref a). Manual eradication of coca through November 7 totaled 46,794 hectares. With less than two months left in the year, post optimistically estimates that total manual eradication in 2009 will be approximately 57,000 hectares, well short of the 2009 manual eradication goal of 70,000 hectares. Reduced funding for manual eradication, an overall drop in coca cultivation resulting in more dispersed coca, and an increase in attacks against manual eradicators have all contributed to the slower pace of eradication in 2009. The aerial eradication program eradicated a total of 89,931 hectares through November 8 and is on track to reach its 2009 eradication goal of 100,000 hectares. Note: Coca eradication goals in 2009 for aerial and manual eradication were reduced by 30,000 hectares each due to reduced funding for eradication programs. End Note.
3. (SBU) Citing record coca eradication in 2008, the USG and United Nations reported significant declines in Colombian cocaine production potential and coca cultivation in Colombia last year. The USG’s Crime and Narcotics Center (CNC) recently reported that cultivation in 2008 was down 29 percent compared to 2007, from 167,000 to 119,000 hectares – the largest ever reported decline in cultivation by the CNC and the first reported drop since 2002. The USG, crediting sustained aerial eradication operations in 2008, also reported a decline in cocaine production potential of 39 percent, from 485 metric tons (MT) in 2007 to 295 MT in 2008. The United Nations (UN) reported an 18 percent drop in cultivation in 2008, down to 81,000 hectares, and a 28 percent fall in cocaine production potential to 430 MT. Given reduced eradication pressure in 2009, coca cultivation estimates may well report a bounce in coca cultivation in 2009. Inter-censual coca cultivation monitoring undertaken by the United Nations so far in 2009 has revealed a slight to moderate increase in Colombian coca cultivation.
Funding Shortfall Nearly Cancels Manual Eradication
4. (SBU) Phase IV of the 2009 manual eradication campaign, scheduled to begin in mid-October, was delayed until November 10 due to funding constraints at Accion Social, the Colombian government’s (GOC) civilian agency responsible for implementing the manual eradication program. In late October, the Ministry of Defense agreed to transfer 15 billion pesos (approximately USD 7.5 million) to Accion Social and avoid cancellation of Phase IV manual eradication operations. A police proposal to provide additional security for civilian eradicators and increase the pace of eradication at the end of the year was also cancelled due to a lack of funding.
5. (SBU) An estimated 130 to 140 mobile eradication groups (GMEs – 31 civilian eradicators per GME) will work under police and army protection to pull up coca in seven departments, including the main coca growing regions of Narino, Guaviare, Meta, and in Putumayo along the Ecuador border. Manual eradication operations will be carried out for the first time in Nukak National Park in Guaviare – reported by the UN in 2008 to be the national park with the most coca in Colombia. The GOC, also behind in its 2009 goals to eradicate 500 hectares of poppy and 150 hectares of marijuana, has begun eradication operations of poppy in Cauca and Narino in southwestern Colombia and marijuana in the Sierra Nevada in northeast Colombia. As of November 5, the GOC has manually eradicated 303 hectares of poppy and 85 hectares of marijuana.
NAS Support to Manual Eradication
6. (SBU) NAS Bogota assistance for manual eradication in 2009 has included air lift and material support. Through October, NAS-supported DIRAN aircraft flew 318 hours in fixed-wing and 2,313 hours in rotary-wing aircraft; and NAS-supported COLAR Aviation Program flew a total of 23 hours in rotary-wing aircraft. The combined operation cost for all flight hours is close to USD three million. Hundreds of flight hours, not captured in this total, were flown during the detection and planning phases of the manual eradication campaign. Other assistance in 2009 has included logistical support, mine detectors, communications equipment, backpack sprayers, canines, and herbicide.
FARC Attacks Against Manual Eradication up in 2009
7. (SBU) As of November 9, the GOC has reported a total of 40 fatalities during manual eradication operations in 2009 -- including 25 security personnel, 14 civilian eradicators and one United Nations-hired topographer injured, many resulting in amputations caused by landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). NAS Bogota is exploring ways to improve the capacity of the Antinarcotics Police to detect landmines and IEDs. Note: The number of reported fatalities is based on records held by the Colombian National Police, Colombian Army, Accion Social, reports from the field and press reports. Complete reporting of fatalities during manual eradication will not be available until the end of the year. End Note.
8. (SBU) Sniper fire, ambushes, landmines, command-detonated IEDs, and mortar and cylinder bomb attacks against manual eradication groups are to blame for the deaths and injuries. In 2009, there has been an increase in the number of hostile fire attacks against slow moving columns of security forces and civilian eradicators and night-time mortar and cylinder bomb attacks on manual eradication camps. The police have reported near-daily hostile fire incidents against police-protected GMEs in Caqueta and parts of Narino. Other hot spots for manual eradication have been northern Antioquia and the southern region of the Macarena Consolidation Zone (PCIM) in Meta. Attacks on manual eradication were so frequent and deadly in the PCIM that GOC officials requested aerial eradication operations there in August after declaring the PCIM off limits to spray in mid-2008 (ref c). In 2008 the GOC reported 26 fatalities while eradicating a total of 95,731 hectares, a rate of one death per 3,682 hectares eradicated. By comparison, the rate in 2009 has been one death per 1,170 hectares eradicated.
9. (SBU) The rise in attacks on manual eradication groups is attributed to an increase in manual eradication operations in dangerous Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) -controlled territory and more aggressive hit-and-run tactics by the FARC to protect lucrative coca cultivation and production operations. According to FARC deserter accounts and GOC analysis, forced eradication has impacted a key source of FARC revenue by cutting coca cultivation and reducing the FARC’s ability to obtain sufficient amounts of coca leaf to process into cocaine (ref d).
Manual Eradication: Chasing Hectares
10. (SBU) The manual eradication annual hectare goal ensures that GOC eradication planners send GMEs to areas with the highest concentration of coca and that present fewer logistical challenges to insert and supply GMEs and their accompanying security forces. Repeat visits within the calendar year would suppress replanting, encourage respect for the rule of law, and help establish territorial control, but are rarely executed because of lower contributions to year-end goals. The result is a manual eradication strategy that is not optimal in preventing replanting and making eradication gains permanent.
11. (SBU) The GOC’s coca eradication strategy, instead of focusing on total hectares eradicated, should seek to attack replanting and sharply reduce cultivation in GOC consolidation priority regions to eliminate a vital source of funding for illegal armed groups, reduce violence, and consolidate security and state presence in coca growing areas. Finding the right mix of voluntary and forced aerial and manual eradication is key to increasing the effectiveness of eradication and will depend on the characteristics of a region -- the density of coca cultivation, the presence of licit agriculture and the potential for alternative development. NAS Bogota is exploring options to encourage and assist the creation of quick strike manual eradication groups to eradicate low concentrations of coca mixed with licit crops and attack replanting to reinforce alternative development and foster the conditions required for a transition from coca to the licit economy.
12. (SBU) Reduced funding for coca eradication programs is largely the root of the drop in coca eradication in 2009. While aerial eradication is on track to reach its 2009 goal, manual eradication results have disappointed after record eradication in 2008. Manual eradication’s lackluster results in 2009 are the result of fewer resources, lack of political will to increase the number of security forces to protect GMEs and, ironically, the success of eradication in 2008 in reducing overall coca cultivation and leading to more dispersed coca fields. As resources for eradication decline, the Colombian eradication strategy needs to adapt in ways that would suppress replanting and encourage sustainable reduction in coca in the key cultivation centers. Abandonment or reexamination of the annual hectare goal, attacking replanting, and integrating eradication planning with Colombia’s consolidation effort will allow for a coherent post eradication strategy that provides alternatives to coca farmers, consolidates security and instills a culture of legality in coca growing regions.