Lumps of solidifying coca paste
|In late 2016, Colombia sealed a peace deal with FARC, a left-wing rebel group. While authorities struggle to implement the deal, coca production has exploded. Colombia produces about 90% of the world's cocaine.|
Coca plants grow just two months a year.
Coca leaves are mulched with a weed eater
|The production process is simple and crude. Farmers pick leaves by hand and put them through a noxious process to eventually turn the leaves into paste, which is then sold to traffickers for refining.|
Cement is sprinkled over mulched coca leaves
|Ammonia, sulfuric acid, sodium permanganate, and caustic soda are used.|
The resulting mixture is put into a press and the basic liquid extract of coca paste is squeezed out.
|Noxious fumes emanate from marinating leaves, making breathing difficult. Coca extract is mixed with gasoline to extract alkaloid from the liquid mix.|
It takes about a ton of coca leaves to make a kilo of the paste. Farmers can sell a kilo of paste for about $900.
|The mixture of coca-leaf juice, gasoline, ether, and other chemicals will eventually be converted into coca paste. The paste is extracted after adding a strong acid into the mix that will further precipitate the alkaloid. The liquid coca paste is cooked to remove the water content.|
The last step is called "fritada," or "fry-up." The coca paste residue is placed in water and heated until most of the water content is evaporated.
|The liquid coca-paste residue is then crushed to be packed and sold. It is 40% to 91% cocaine sulfate. Later, the paste is made into cocaine that is eventually sold on the street.|
Cocaine in its purest form is a white, pearly product. Cocaine appearing in powder form is a salt, typically cocaine hydrochloride. Most street cocaine is about 30% pure, the balance being cutting agents.
Coca paste ready for sale