Colombia’s Vice-President and the highest official in charge of counter-narcotics said Thursday his country had not let its guard down after US President Donald Trump questioned the country’s commitment to combat drug trafficking.
Trump’s threat to “decertify” Colombia as a partner in counter-narcotics efforts had already spurred negative responses both from the national government and Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas.
The United States’ president’s comments was the latest in ongoing tensions between the two allies over an increase in coca cultivation registered by both the US and the United Nations over the past years.
The US government seriously considered designating Colombia as a country that has failed demonstrably to adhere to its obligations under international counter narcotics agreements due to the extraordinary growth of coca cultivation and cocaine production over the past 3 years, including record cultivation during the last 12 months.
US President Donald Trump
The rise took place during peace talks with Marxist rebel group FARC, which exercised considerable territorial control over the areas where most coca, the base ingredient of cocaine, is grown.
Colombian authorities teamed up with the United Nations in December last year to embark on a new strategy to curb coca cultivation through crop substitution.
After pressure by US Vice-President Mike Pence, Naranjo had already exposed the alleged results of this strategy.
In an interview with Spanish news agency EFE, the VP insisted the new strategy was already bearing fruit and said it would be “prudent” the relationship with the US’ “most important ally” “does not fracture” over the latest surge in coca cultivation while Colombia is in the middle of a delicate peace process.
What is convenient today, what is really prudent and is ethically necessary, is that a history of a relationship where Colombia is the main and most important ally of the US in Latin America and the hemisphere does not fracture.
Vice-President Oscar Naranjo
“Colombia can prove it has not let its guard down,” said Naranjo, again insisting this year’s crop substitution and forced eradication efforts had achieved the removal of tens of thousands of hectares of coca.
Additionally, the VP stressed “Colombia combats drug trafficking out of political and ethical convictions,” has arrested more than 1,000 alleged drug traffickers and has extradited 800.
Additionally, Naranjo said, Colombia has seized 1,600 metric tons of cocaine since President Juan Manuel Santos came into office in 2010.
The United States and Colombia have been working together for decades to curb cocaine trafficking between the South American country and its ally in the north.