A common drug policy in source countries —forced eradication— has unintended consequences in multiple dimensions. Aerial spraying in particular, has social and environmental costs including, increased violence, deforestation, and adverse health outcomes. However, there is less evidence of the unintended consequences of illicit crop substitution programs, another widely used intervention. This paper illustrates an unintended effect of the largest crop substitution program in the world, namely increased violence against social leaders. Examining the recent Colombian illicit crop substitution program implemented in 2017, this paper estimates the effect on violence towards social leaders employing an event study econometric strategy. The program increased the rate of social leader killings by 481% and the probability of a killing by 122%. The findings reveal a greater effect on municipalities where leaders oppose the expansion of illicit crops, where organized crime does not hold consolidated power, and where there is a presence of illegal armed groups. This study contributes to the literature on antidrug policies by providing empirical evidence of unintended consequences for local communities.

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