HomeNewsBriefColombia's Natural Parks Remain Criminal Safe Havens: Report
BRIEF

Colombia's Natural Parks Remain Criminal Safe Havens: Report

COCA / 26 FEB 2018 BY TRISTAN CLAVEL EN

Despite President Santos’ promise to rid Colombia’s natural parks of coca crops, a news report argues that the country's ecologically-rich protected areas remain safe havens for criminal groups looking to produce cocaine and develop other criminal economies.

A total of 17 out of Colombia’s 59 natural parks are home to illegal groups including the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN), dissidents from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC), the Urabeños and the Popular Liberation Army (Ejército Popular de Liberación – EPL), reported El Colombiano on February 25.

Julia Miranda Londoño, the director of Colombia’s National Natural Parks agency, insisted that only certain areas of the reserves were of concern. Still, a total of 5.6 million hectares could be under criminal influence, according to an official report accessed by El Colombiano.

In July 2017, after announcing that the government had successfully rid Colombia’s most extensive natural park, the Chiribiquete reserve, of its coca fields, President Juan Manuel Santos promised that all natural parks would be coca-free by the end of the year. By December 2017, authorities announced that 5,400 hectares of coca had been eradicated in these natural reserves during the course of the year -- more than 10 percent of the national total that then stood at 50,100 hectares.

Courtesy of El Colombiano. See full-sized map here.

In addition to the problematic cultivation of coca crops in nine of the parks, the reserves also host an array of criminal economies that damage the areas’ ecological systems, including mining, logging, or the shipment of weapons and contraband gasoline. Colombia’s Minister for Environment, Housing and Territorial Development Luis Gilberto Murillo said that these illegal operations and government attempts at crop substitution were the motive for recent threats and attacks against “Guardabosques,” the country’s volunteer forest guards, in several parks.

InSight Crime Analysis

Colombia is not the only country in the region suffering from the criminal exploitation of its natural parks and reserves. These protected areas are often difficult to access, offering strategic cover for smuggling of all kinds, and are additionally attractive to traffickers when located along international borders, as are several of Colombia’s parks.

These areas also often overlap with indigenous reserves in the Andean nation, which can further complicate anti-narcotic and security efforts even as the issue of the park's criminal exploitation has grown in importance on the government agenda due to increased coca growing activities.

SEE ALSO: Colombia News and Profiles

The number of coca hectares jumped by 27 percent in natural reserves between 2015 and 2016 to reach an all-time high of 7,900 hectares -- most likely a low estimate -- in 17 national parks, according to the latest report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime's (UNODC) crop monitoring system in Colombia. This figure stands as 5 percent of the country's record total of national coca hectares that year, but it also represents more than a third of Bolivia's entire 2016 coca cultivation area, more than half of which was legally sown.

While government claims late last year that more than 5,000 hectares of coca were destroyed in natural reserves would suggest that the problem is nearly resolved, El Colombiano's latest report serves as a reminder that the issue of coca crops -- and criminal operations more broadly -- in Colombia's natural parks remains.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Tags

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ARGENTINA / 1 OCT 2020

From mostly being a lower-level criminal annoyance, oil theft has spread across Latin America during the coronavirus pandemic as a…

COLOMBIA / 26 JUN 2014

The United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC)'s most recent report on the global narcotics trade has placed a…

COLOMBIA / 29 AUG 2018

Rivers of gasoline flow across the desert border from Venezuela into Colombia’s La Guajira department, nourishing an immense illegal market…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…