Cocaine roots and routes
A coca plantation in Colombia's southern Guaviare region.
This coca farmer, who came to the region as a picker working for a relative, today owns his own coca fields with a seedling production in place.
Inside "La Cocina", the kitchen where coca leaves are processed into coca base.
Acids and gasoline, used in the refining process, have damaged the hands of this "quimico", or chemist.
The farmer's end product is the coca paste or freebase. It is sold to the cocaine producer who will further purify it in more sophisticated laboratories to make 99% pure cocaine.
Anti-drugs police raid a coca kitchen.
A member of the anti-drugs police douses kerosene over coca leaves, which were ready to be cooked to make the base paste.
A mother and child flee a burning coca kitchen that might explode.
Colombian soldiers take a break in a forest clearing that has been planted with coca in the Putumayo region in southern Colombia.
Coca eradicators earn about $250 per month.
Colombian coca farmers stopped by the Ecuadorean army inside Ecuador are forced to return to Colombia.
Police confiscated a bag belonging to traffickers at Bogota's domestic airport which contained 35 kilos of cocaine. They had used a false airline sticker on a flight bound for the San Andrés Islands.
An x-ray scan taken at Bogota International Airport of a smuggler's stomach packed with cocaine capsules.
How do you make a drug out of coca bushes and how does it travel around the world? Powder, snow, coke or just cocaine, in Guaviare they say: mercancía. This means merchandise and says much about this region in Colombia, which so naturally relies on coca like Kuwait on oil.
Somebody grabs the twigs, preferably a whole bunch, holds them tight at the stems and lets them slip through their hands like a rope, not too fast because it hurts, not too slow because they may miss too many leaves. This is how it all starts. Somebody takes a straw (those from McDonald's work well), cuts it in half, puts one end of the nicer half in the nose, points the other end at the line and snorts. This is how it will end. In between there are oceans and a dozen borders to cross and, depending on your point of view, a lot of money or a large problem. The term used is the same: drug traffic. (All images by Luca Zanetti)