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Satellite Surveillance Reveals Guerrilla Drug Trade

The extent of the drug trade in guerrilla-controlled jungles in Colombia has come under scrutiny from above:

The FARC’s [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] commanders in Cuba say they are moving away from the drug trade, as well as their use of child soldiers and extortion, which led the U.S. and European Union to label the group a terrorist organization. But here, coca’s prominent role in financing rebel operations is openly discussed among guerrillas who frequently cite the FARC’s so-called Law 002, which they say gives them the right to tax coca producers.

The Colombian government says the rebels have taken advantage of the negotiations in Cuba to increase the size of their harvests. Coca cultivation in Colombia jumped 39% in 2015 over the previous year, the United Nations reported this month, citing nationwide satellite imagery.

The idea of using satellite photos for surveillance is surprisingly old. In his 1933 novella The Prince of Space, Jack Williamson gave readers a taste of the future:

He turned to the desk, picked up a broad sheet of cardboard.

"I have a color photograph here."

Bill studied it, saw that it looked like an aerial photograph of a vast stretch of mountain and desert, a monotonous expanse of gray, tinged with green and red.

A photograph, taken from space, of part of the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. And see!"

He pointed to a little blue disk in the green-gray expanse of a plain, just below a narrow mountain ridge, with the fine green line that marked a river just beside it.

"That blue circle is the first ship that came..."

Via WSJ.

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