By Anthony Faiola and Lucien Chauvin for the Washington Post

As a farmer eking out a living in Peru’s central jungle, Rubén Leiva grew one cash crop that seemed immune from global cycles of booms and busts. But the coronavirus pandemic has accomplished what neither other international crises nor a U.S.-backed “war” ever could: a collapse in the price of coca leaf, a natural stimulant that is the building block of cocaine.

The great coca crash of 2020 — prices for the leaf in some regions of South America have fallen as much as 73 percent — illustrates the extent to which the pandemic is disrupting every aspect of global trade, including the traffic in illegal drugs.

Lockdowns have sealed regional borders and sharply curbed domestic and international transit, challenging the ability of cartels to move product by land, air or sea. At the same time, the cartels are dealing with global disruptions in the production and importation of precursor chemicals, such as potassium permanganate, that are used in clandestine labs to refine the recreational drug.