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The Cocaine Ties That Bind Colombia and Venezuela

Sep 12, 2018 | 09:00 GMT
A farmer shows cocaine base paste made from coca leaves at a clandestine farm next to the Inirida River in Colombia during September 2017.

A farmer shows cocaine base paste made from coca leaves in a "cambullon" (a small lab to produce the paste) at a clandestine farm next to the Inirida River, Guaviare department, Colombia, on Sept. 25, 2017. The illicit drug trade affects both Colombia and Venezuela.

(RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images)

Colombia and Venezuela share the problem of the illicit drug trade, but the ramifications of such trafficking could not be more different for the next-door neighbors. From the United States' point of view, Colombian criminality and Venezuelan authoritarianism are two looming foreign policy problems that are linked by the cocaine trade and that require vastly different solutions. In Colombia, a spike in rural violence is likely to occur in the coming years as criminal groups contest areas abandoned by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in its peace deal. Some FARC leaders will likely return to a life of crime, exacerbating the violence already occurring. Over the border in Venezuela, government officials -- some under investigation by U.S. authorities in cocaine-trafficking and money-laundering cases -- will band together in the face of increasing internal threats to cling to power and preside over a political and economic meltdown that will...

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