Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | August 12, 2010

Ecological Paradise + Cocaine Production = Environmental Wasteland

An ecological paradise: waterfalls of crystaline water. The sonnets of crickets. Palm buds you can pick off the trees and put right in your mouth. Look, over there, that toucan bird!—Its wings, such colors, emerald green, yellow like the summer sun.

But the pay here is all around the cocaine industry. Deforesting to plant. Picking the leaves. Washing them off and mixing them in chemicals, sulfuric or hydrochloric acid, alkaloids, kerosene, and finishing off with potassium permagranate or ammonia water.

Mother Nature weeps here: the pots used for the chemicals are washed in the river and they leave a phlegm that you want to scoop off.

About 80, maybe 90, families live here in thatched adobe houses. At first, you think how exotic are those huts they live in, with that beautiful deep red paint they extract from flowers. Up close, you see the malnutrition of the children, you hear talk of the mother who died in labor last night.

Mothers also have other reasons to weep: Their boys, some as young as eight, make a few pesos uncovering the landing strip for the one-engine planes that come to bring the chemicals and take back the cocaine powder, and this makes mamás weep because everyone knows this is the start of the chain … what will it lead the boys into? They’ve heard of mules, of addicts, of jobs that come with guns. For now, however, the anxiety is about papá, he’s had this cough, likely from inhaling chemicals in that small room all day.

Raise the hands up to the blue of the sky … This is the life we were born into.

Other planes, sometimes, appear for a sliver of a moment, they are a rarity though; they snap photographs; they fumigate the coca leaves, and then, the whole family weeps: the corn, the yucca and the banana plants also wilt and die.

So the coca boss tells the farmers to move the planting further into the jungle, into the thick of the trees, and into the hilly mountainous terrains, and to cloak the coca plants under yucca and banana leaves. To fool the man taking the photos from above, the boss says; the man who will return to the American Embassy, and from behind the gates, determine the “statistics.”

Extinguishing the purity of this place … because cocaine consumers in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere, where the white stuff goes hand-in-hand with what’s fashionable, with the Kate Moss, the Lindsay Lohan, the Hermes Birkin bag, bring in $3 to $5 billion a year into Colombia, maybe more, it’s hard to track.


  1. Sad. Despite the money spent in the war on drugs the number of Cocaine paste/base producing installations grew from 5,690 in 2005 to 9,341 in 2008 (64% increase – According to the 2010 World Drug Report of the United Nations Office on Drug Crime) . While the estimated average farm-gate production cost of a gram of cocaine paste is $0.8 in a third world country like Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, the average selling street price is $64 per gram in first world countries like the United States, Germany or the United Kingdom (UNODC 2006). Most of the drug business’ profits don’t go back to producing countries, most of them remain in the US and Europe where the richest and most powerful drug dealers are highly undercover first world countries’ citizen. LEGALIZING ALL drugs is the only way to put an end to this awful billion dollar business. As established, the drugs business and the war on drugs are responsible for a devastating human cost that far outweighs the damage caused by drugs alone.

  2. This is exactly the sort of blog I also would like to run and this was really an outstanding post, scaling a huge international problem down to the misery of the very place from where it starts and make the people involved stand out.

    Congrats, Paula !

  3. beautiful writing about the misery, I like this Paula.


  4. Sad.

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