Colombia’s president-elect Ivan Duque said Monday he welcomed United States President Donald Trump’s support for his agenda for a “head-on fight against drug trafficking” in a phone call where Trump also congratulated Duque on his electoral victory.
“Today I received a call from the U.S. president where he congratulated us for the results achieved in the last elections and also his commitment to support our security, justice agenda, our agenda of a head-on fight against drug trafficking,” Duque told reporters.
Duque’s statements came after the White House announced the cultivation of coca crops in Colombia had risen by 11 percent in 2017, and cocaine production increased by 19 percent.
James Carroll, acting director for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said in a press statement Monday, “President Trump’s message to Colombia is clear: it must reverse the record growth in cocaine production.”
Earlier on Monday Duque spoke with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. According to Pence, the conversation focused on “the need to move decisively to cut drug production and trafficking,(and) the humanitarian crisis and authoritarian conditions in Venezuela and committed to continue to press for the restoration of democracy.”
Duque was elected on the ticket of the Democratic Center, the party founded by former president Alvaro Uribe, who is currently under investigations over links with paramilitary groups and at least three massacres.
Duque supports the U.S. militaristic approach to the war on drugs. During the campaign trail, he vowed to reinstate the forced eradication of coca plantations and the aerial spraying of pesticides over coca-growing regions.
These two policies have been challenged not only by current president Juan Manuel Santos but also by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Last year Santos embarked on a coca substitution and economic development programs with U.N. support.
According to Petro, Colombian farmers are forced to plant coca crops because they are unable to access legal markets and live in areas where they receive no state protection or assistance. During the campaign, he proposed to enable coca farmers to exchange their plots of land for more fertile terrain in areas with access to the legal economy.
Colombia has a long history of spraying pesticides, mostly glyphosate, over vast coca-producing regions. In 2017 Colombia’s Constitutional Court prohibited this practice, arguing it threatens local communities and the environment.