Recent reports indicate that narcotics are once again on track to surpass oil as Colombia’s leading commodity. President Gustavo Petro acknowledged on Friday that cocaine and oil have long been competing for the top export position in the country. While Petro’s opponents accuse him of creating a “narco state,” the president argues that market forces are driving the recent surge in cocaine production.
Petro took to social media platform X (formerly Twitter) and stated, “Cocaine has been Colombia’s first export product several times, and if not, the second. Everything depends on the international price of both products. If the price of oil falls, cocaine becomes the largest export, and if the international price of oil rises, it is oil [first] and cocaine the second.”
Under Petro’s leadership, Colombia has shifted its drug policy strategy by moving away from the fumigation of coca plantations. Instead, the focus has been on apprehending senior drug gang leaders. Additionally, Petro has allowed small coca farmers to retain their crops and has even reached ceasefire agreements with some of the country’s largest armed militias. Many of these militias finance their guerilla operations with proceeds from cocaine sales.
As a result of this shift in drug policy, cocaine cultivation in Colombia reached a record high last year, according to a UN report. The potential output of the drug has increased by 24% compared to the previous year. Bloomberg reported that cocaine is poised to overtake oil as Colombia’s most lucrative export by the end of this year.
Bloomberg’s figures show that in 2022, Colombian cocaine exports brought in $18.2 billion, while oil exports earned $19.1 billion. Critics of President Petro argue that his policies are directly benefiting drug traffickers and accuse him of potentially turning Colombia into a narco-state. Senator Miguel Uribe Turbay of the opposition Democratic Center party voiced his concerns on social media, stating, “We have to prevent Petro from turning Colombia into a narco-state.”
In response to these criticisms, President Petro defended his policies, stating that the fact that cocaine revenues are closing in on oil earnings highlights the “sad reality” that oil extraction does not generate as much revenue as cocaine production. He emphasized his commitment to building a productive Colombia.
The shift in Colombia’s leading export from oil to cocaine underscores the evolving dynamics of the country’s economy and the influence of the global market. While some view this trend with concern, it is clear that addressing the complex issue of drug production and trafficking requires a multifaceted approach that considers both economic and social factors. President Petro maintains that his policies are aimed at addressing the underlying causes and creating a more productive and sustainable future for Colombia. However, the challenges of combating drug production and its associated criminal activities persist, requiring ongoing efforts and international cooperation.