Every gramme of cocaine snorted by a drug user causes the destruction of four square metres of valuable rainforest, said Francisco Santos Calderon, who appealed to people to consider the impact on the environment before indulging in the illicit narcotic.
Santos was addressing a drugs conference being held by the Association of Chief Police Officers in Belfast about the damage that cocaine use in Europe and the US inflicts on his country.
He said 300,000 hectares of rainforest are destroyed each year in Colombia to clear land for coca plant cultivation, which is largely controlled by illegal groups such as the left-wing guerilla organisation FARC.
Land mines used to protect crops and processing labs are responsible for about 900 civilian deaths in Colombia this year and FARC and other narco-terror groups are also involved in the kidnapping of people like French politician Ingrid Betancourt, who was held for more than six years before her release earlier this year. Santos himself was kidnapped and held by a cocaine gang for 18 months in the 1990s.
He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “If you snort a gramme of cocaine, you are destroying four square metres of rainforest and that rainforest is not just Colombian — it belongs to all of us who live on this planet, so we should all be worried about it.
“Not only that, the money that you use to buy the cocaine goes into the hands of FARC, of illegal groups that plant mines, that kidnap, that kill, that use terrorism to protect their business.”