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News > Colombia

US, Colombia Expand Cooperation To Crack Down on Coca Producers

  • U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Colombia’s Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo shake hands as they deliver statements at the State Department in Washington, U.S., October 9, 2019.

    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Colombia’s Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo shake hands as they deliver statements at the State Department in Washington, U.S., October 9, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 10 October 2019

The two officials spoke to reporters before the 8th High Level Dialogue between their countries in which they are also scheduled to discuss trade, as well as their views on Venezuela.

United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Colombian counterpart, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, met Wednesday in Washington to discuss how they can “expand” their countries’ bilateral cooperation in eradicating coca cultivation implemented since the 1970s with little results.

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In remarks to the press at the State Department, Pompeo said that Washington has seen “signs of progress,” such as the reduction of coca plots in 2018 for the first time in six years, but he said that both the U.S. and Colombia should increase their cooperation.

The U.S. government is ready to provide Colombia with US$124 million, according to sources quoted by El Tiempo, in order to increase police presence in the provinces of Nariño, Catatumbo, Arauca, Antioquia's Bajo Cauca and the south of Cordoba.

"The United States has a significant stake in the outcome of Colombia’s crackdown on the production of and trafficking of narcotics. That’s why we join President Duque in setting an ambitious goal to reduce coca cultivation and cocaine by half by the end of 2023,” said Pompeo.

In September 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to remove Colombia from their list of countries who cooperated with drug use, while Colombian authorities were trying a new drug policy more focused on human rights, economic alternative for campesinos and health.

The U.N. then recalled that the U.S. was the main consumer of drugs in the world as U.S. President Donald Trump tried to shift the blame accusing Colombian President Ivan Duque of not taking enough measures to stop the drug flow into the North American country.

Yet the issue goes back to former President Juan Manuel Santos' administration as in November 2016, the government of Santos signed a peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) putting an end to more than half a century of internal conflict over land distribution and rural poverty.

Santos was supposed to provide coca farmers about US$ 400 a month for two years of coca-free farming followed by a one time  US$ 3,000 lump sum to help them start a new crop or business. However, his administration didn't keep up with the pledge or protect small coca farmers and activists who have been killed by paramilitaries hoping to grab their coca production and land ever since.  

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In 2018, the Colombian government also resumed the use of the chemical in widespread fumigations after being halted since 2015 due to unintended contamination of legal crops and water sources.

Resuming fumigation also went against the peace accords signed with the FARC, as it establishes that voluntary eradication in agreement with the communities involved would be favored over mandatory and coerced eradication methods.

In 2018, Santos eventually reached an agreement with the U.S. to cooperate with the aim of reducing estimated cocaine production and coca cultivation by 50 percent by 2023, and current Colombian President Ivan Duque has promised to meet that goal.

“Much more work needs to be done. Today we’ll discuss how to expand our counternarcotics efforts to achieve and sustain the ambitious five-year goal that we set,” said Pompeo.

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