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As Cocaine Production Explodes, Colombia Tries to Appease Trump

An important U.S. ally and partner in the war on drugs risks losing economic aid just as cartels are asserting themselves.

Anti-narcotics police officers destroy coca plants in a field near Tumaco, Colombia.

Anti-narcotics police officers destroy coca plants in a field near Tumaco, Colombia.

Photographer: Nicolo Filippo Rosso/Bloomberg
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Tara, a bomb-sniffing dog with the Colombian anti-narcotics police, failed to detect the land mine, and the explosion flung officer Jose Carvajal high into the air. When he tried to stand up, Carvajal found that his legs would no longer obey. “When I looked down, my right foot wasn’t there,” he says. “The mine took my leg off below the knee.”

The 23-year-old policeman was one of a group of officers protecting workers digging up coca, the raw material for making cocaine, near the cartel-dominated town of Tarazá in the northern Andes. U.S. President Donald Trump has effectively threatened to cut off loans and other forms of aid to Colombia if it can’t restrain cocaine production, which has more than tripled since 2013.