On August 7, 2010, Juan Manuel Santos was inaugurated as the fortieth president of Colombia, following a failed attempt by former President Álvaro Uribe to run for an unprecedented third term in office. Uribe was first elected in 2002 on a platform of law and order and turned to the US for help in dealing with the country’s perpetual cycle of violence by tipping the military balance in their favour. Under Plan Colombia, the US has committed around US$7 billion in foreign aid, most of it to the military, to root out illegal drug trafficking and the guerrilla protectors that allow it to blossom. Largely intended to eradicate the growing of coca, Plan Colombia funded crop spraying on a large scale. Since the early 2000s coca production has declined dramatically – with the security situation improving as well – and Peru has now surpassed Colombia in coca production. However, coca farming has also adapted, for example by being planted in smaller areas, and the people who suffer the most from Plan Colombia have often been the impoverished farmers whose food crops have been sprayed alongside the coca plants and who have received no compensation from the Colombian government. Under Uribe drug-related crime declined and Santos has vowed to continue his predecessor’s hardline security policies.

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