Colombia’s defense minister expresses concern over U.S. Congress debates over further cutting the budget of Plan Colombia.
According to Minister Rodrigo Rivera, discussions on the federal budget that have begun while U.S. President Barack Obama is preparing his budget proposal for next year have involved cuts to Plan Colombia, the joint U.S.-Colombian plan to fight the cultivation and trafficking of illicit drugs from the Andean nation.
The future of the multi-billion dollar program, which has already seen cuts in U.S. funding, was one of the main issues Rivera discussed with his U.S. counterpart Robert Gates while in Washington on Wednesday, the Colombian minister said.
“It is an issue of concern that Colombia continues to receive the help of the United States, which has been absolutely essential over the past years,” Rivera was quoted as saying by Spanish press agency EFE.
A further cut in the Plan Colombia budget falls within a new U.S. strategy to battle drug trafficking at home though prevention and the treatment of drug addicts, U.S. drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske told Colombian officials on a trip last month.
But according to Bogota, bilateral cooperation “can be maintained and can be strengthened in different ways,” through “prolific” dialogue about common goals to more efficiently combat organized crime and drug trafficking.