Cocaine in Colombia

coca bushThere's no denying it: Cocaine has and always will figure large in Colombia. From Hollywood stereotypes and Pablo Escobar movies and TV shows, to the tragic history of drug-fueled violence that has plagued Colombia for generations, cocaine is a clear and present danger to Colombia. You'll find that the Colombian people really revile their country's association with cocaine. But the good news is that the situation with safety and security is getting better. It is highly unlikely that you, as a tourist, will be involved in any drug-related violence, unless, of course, you go looking for trouble.

That is why Colombia Backpacking and its affiliated websites strongly discourage our readers from buying or consuming cocaine. By doing so, you are helping to fund illegal armed groups that have contributed to untold suffering by the Colombian people. The majority of victims of the drug war have been innocent Colombian peasants caught in the crossfire and turf wars between various armed groups and the government. Furthermore, by buying or consuming cocaine, you are taking a real risk of getting yourself into serious legal trouble that will, best case scenario, see you being forced to pay a hefty bribe to get yourself out of trouble, or, worst case scenario, spending weeks, months, or years inside a Colombian jail. While police in general do not bother tourists, they do on occasion perform random searches of "gringo" looking people in Colombia's big party zones: El Poblado in Medellin, Getsemani in Cartagena, Zona Rosa in Bogota.pablo escobar 

Cocaine is a white powder derived from the coca plant, a shrub indigenous to the Andes mountains. It grows from northern Chile and Bolivia, through Peru and Ecuador, all the way up through Colombia's three Andean cordilleras (the Occidental, Central, and Oriental). The vast majority of raw coca leaf production takes place in Colombia's southern neighbors: Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru. It then is turned into paste or base, and is typically manufactured and shipped via Colombia, often in collaboration with various Mexican drug gangs.

However, don't let Colombia's role in drug trafficking scare you. Drug trafficking has been almost entirely pushed out of touristy areas, and currently largely operates in Colombia's border regions: importation of coca base via the Ecuadorian and Peruvian borders, and exportation of the finished product by air, sea, or land via the Venezuelan and Panamanian borders.

Through the development of the controversial Plan Colombia, Colombia and other Andean nations have taken big steps towards eradicating coca production, including massive aerial spraying campaigns and providing incentives for coca farmers to grow other crops. Yet, Plan Colombia has a significant amount of domestic backlash due to its funding from the United States, as well as social and cultural factors that contribute to coca's acceptance. Take Bolivia for example: Bolivia's current president, Evo Morales, was head of the coca grower's union, and has long called for legalization of the coca leaf, for medicinal purposes. Indeed, the coca leaf itself is legal in small quantities in many Andean nations, and is often used to combat hunger and fatigue.

aerial spraying of coca fieldsCocaine is cheap, plentiful, and fairly easy to find in Colombia. It also has the potential to be extremely strong; it is not at all uncommon to hear of backpackers in Colombia dying from overdoses. So, heed the advice of your friends at Colombia Backpacking: Go out, party, meet hot girls (or cute guys), drink some beer, rum, or aguardiente, but by all means, steer clear of this addictive and potentially deadly drug. Your body, and the Colombian people, will thank you.

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