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Colombia, Back As World's No. 1 Coca Producer - FARC Connections

Long after the days of Pablo Escobar and cocaine cartels, Colombia has regained the crown as world's No. 1 producer of coca. It gives further urgency that FARC-government peace talks succeed.

Coca eradication operations in Colombia
Coca eradication operations in Colombia


BOGOTÁ —Colombia has recovered its dubious claim to fame as the world's No. 1 coca producer, supplanting Peru and Bolivia. The ranking is a disconcerting reminder that if and when peace is signed with the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), our next, and very big challenge, will be to dismantle illegal drug trafficking gangs.

Jorgan Andrews, head of the narcotics section at the U.S. embassy in Bogotá, believes the expansion of coca farming is directly linked to the success of the peace talks taking place in Havana, Cuba, where Colombian government and FARC representatives have been meeting for two years now.

Andrews says that coca farmers, whether connected to the FARC or independent, have concluded that those growing the most coca will benefit most from peace.

This perverse logic suggests two things: that the state has failed so far to control the drug trade; and that the FARC, given that they control the most heavily cultivated areas of the country, are complicit with coca producers. The Washington Post reported that cultivation expanded 44% between 2013 and 2014, and is expected to expand more this year.

Several observations should be made here. First, we should reject opportunist calls by people using this report to attack the recent ban on glyphosate (herbicide) fumigation, because the data are from a time when glyphosate was still being sprayed. And although recent reports have come out challenging World Health Organization (WHO) warnings that glyphosate may cause cancer, we should recall that the WHO's report never claimed to be definitive. Doubts persist, and reasonably so, about the dangers of glyphosate, but that is no reason to urge a renewal of spraying.

Instead we should be asking what happened to all the alternative eradication methods announced when spraying was suspended. If those options are not working, as seems to be the case, the government must explain why and propose solutions.

Cocaine is the chief source of money for some of the country's biggest lawbreakers and worst perpetrators of violence. As long as cultivation expands unchecked, Colombia won't really be able to turn the page.

But it is also of vital importance that a peace accord to be signed soon so that the state can gain access to the FARC's knowledge in this area and thus intervene against the structures sustaining the illegal trade. This is one of the biggest potential benefits of incorporating the guerrillas back into civilian life: They can be tasked with effectively curbing the expansion of coca farming.

Solutions must, in any case, come fast, because the world "coca crown" is hardly something Colombia can be proud to wear.

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Livestream Shopping Is Huge In China — Will It Fly Elsewhere?

Streaming video channels of people shopping has been booming in China, and is beginning to win over customers abroad as a cheap and cheerful way of selling products to millions of consumers glued to the screen.

A A female volunteer promotes spring tea products via on-line live streaming on a pretty mountain surrounded by tea plants.

In Beijing, selling spring tea products via on-line live streaming.

Xinhua / ZUMA
Gwendolyn Ledger

SANTIAGO — TikTok, owned by Chinese tech firm ByteDance, has spent more than $500 million to break into online retailing. The app, best known for its short, comical videos, launched TikTok Shop in August, aiming to sell Chinese products in the U.S. and compete with other Chinese firms like Shein and Temu.

Tik Tok Shop will have three sections, including a live or livestream shopping channel, allowing users to buy while watching influencers promote a product.

This choice was strategic: in the past year, live shopping has become a significant trend in online retailing both in the U.S. and Latin America. While still an evolving technology, in principle, it promises good returns and lower costs.

Chilean Carlos O'Rian Herrera, co-founder of Fira Onlive, an online sales consultancy, told América Economía that live shopping has a much higher catchment rate than standard website retailing. If traditional e-commerce has a rate of one or two purchases per 100 visits to your site, live shopping can hike the ratio to 19%.

Live shopping has thrived in China and the recent purchases of shopping platforms in some Latin American countries suggests firms are taking an interest. In the United States, live shopping generated some $20 billion in sales revenues in 2022, according to consultants McKinsey. This constituted 2% of all online sales, but the firm believes the ratio may become 20% by 2026.

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