Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro, on January 25, 2024, announced a groundbreaking strategy in Timbiquí, Cauca, to transform the country’s illicit cocaine economy. This new approach aims to replace coca cultivation and cocaine production in the Pacific Coast region with legal, economically competitive industries. The focus will be on developing crops like coconut and cocoa, as well as shrimp farming. Petro’s proposal emphasizes the need for industrialization and effective commercialization to make these products viable in both domestic and international markets.
Petro’s Vision for Economic Transformation
During his visit to Timbiquí as part of the ‘Government with the People on the Pacific Coast’ initiative, President Petro outlined a key strategy for transforming Colombia’s illicit drug economy. He emphasized the necessity of increasing the production of legal goods as a substitute for cocaine. Petro highlighted that, for local farmers to reap benefits, there needs to be a shift from exporting raw materials to producing processed goods. As an example, he suggested that selling processed chocolate, rather than cocoa beans, would be more profitable and could effectively compete against coca paste production
Petro emphasized the crucial role of international markets in facilitating Colombia’s transition from an illicit drug economy. He called on the Ministry of Commerce to focus on making Pacific Coast products export-ready. Targeting markets in Japan, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, and California, Colombia seeks to establish a legal economy that supports local communities, including Afro-Colombians, fishermen, and indigenous groups.
With an estimated 40,000 to 60,000 hectares of coca crops on the Pacific Coast, President Petro’s plan marks a significant shift in the region’s economy. He believes this change will foster peace and reduce violence, while also promoting economies grounded in coexistence and solidarity.
Infrastructure Development and Future Planning
President Petro proposed engaging the Armed Forces, especially engineering battalions, in community infrastructure projects such as building aqueducts, schools, roads, and rural bridges. He also called on the National Planning Department (DNP) to prepare a CONPES document that outlines a future vision for the Pacific Coast. This vision will incorporate insights gathered from the ‘Government with the People’ sessions.
The president’s initiative proposes a radical shift in the economic landscape of Colombia’s Pacific Coast, aiming to supplant the illicit cocaine trade with sustainable, legal industries. This approach promises not only economic benefits but also aims to foster peace and stability in the region.