Colombia to purchase 10 helicopters from US

United States Defense Minister Leon Panetta announced his country would authorize the sale of ten helicopters to Colombia, including five state-of-the art “Blackhawks,” to help in the fight against illegal armed groups.

Panetta released the statement during a press conference alongside his Colombian counterpart Juan Carlos Pinzon, following their official meeting Monday at the Tolemaida military base.

The helicopters are to intended to “strengthen Colombia’s armed forces against the FARC,” Panetta said.

The meeting between the two defense ministers in Tolemaida marked the first step of Panetta’s Latin America tour, which will also take him to Brazil and Chile. After Tolemaida, Panetta is due to fly to Bogota to meet President Juan Manuel Santos at Colombia’s presidential palace, Casa Nariño.

In 2001 the U.S. and Colombia signed “Plan Colombia,” a military cooperation program that has lead the U.S. to contribute a reported $8 billion to the fight against guerrillas and drug trafficking since then.

Since 1996, Colombia has purchased nearly $3 billion worth of arms and equipment from the U.S., according to the Department of Defense.

Following a meeting last week between Pinzon and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Colombia opened the possibility of purchasing unmanned drone aircraft from the Middle Eastern nation.

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