Colombian law enforcement has destroyed more than 100 cocaine laboratories capable of producing about 100,000 kilogrammes of the drug annually, according to the head of the anti-narcotics police. The laboratories were burned down by police commandos.
An operation was conducted over five days in the country's southeastern jungle region, as part of a new government strategy focused on combating cocaine synthesis as well as the cultivation of coca, the drug's base ingredient. "This is a structural blow to the finances of drug trafficking," anti-narcotics police director General Jose Angel Mendoza told Reuters in the jungles of Guaviare province.
Reuters and AFP photojournalists John Vizcaino and Guillermo Legaria accompanied anti-narcotics police on one such mission.
Coca cultivation was up 39 percent in Colombia in 2015, according to United Nations data. Law enforcement in the country confiscated 253 tonnes of cocaine in 2015, up 71 percent on the year before. Leftist rebels and criminal gangs are involved in the drug trade - taxing coca growers, running production laboratories and smuggling the drug alongside Mexican cartels.
In May, Colombian police confirmed they confiscated their biggest domestic haul of illegal drugs — about eight tonnes of cocaine from the Usuga clan, the country's main organised crime ring. Defence minister Luis Carlos Villegas, said at the time that almost 1.5 tonnes of cocaine was "ready to go out to the export market".