Colombian Defense Minister Gabriel Silva said that his government will ask U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who arrives in Colombia Tuesday night, to “maintain solidarity and cooperation” between the two nations, Caracol Radio reports.
According to Silva, the visit of the U.S. secretary of state, who will meet outgoing President Alvaro Uribe and presidential candidates Juan Manuel Santos and Antanas Mockus, “is a gesture of continuity, of recognizing the government of President Uribe, and to examine the advances in the fight against terrorism, and to tell the country and the coming government, regardless of who it is, that the United States will continue collaborating,” with Colombia.
One of the advances Silva highlighted is that Colombia “has reduced the production and export of coca.”
In April it was reported that Colombia had reduced coca production to its lowest level in eleven years, from 81,000 hectares in 2008 to 68,025 in 2009.
According to Silva, the decrease in cultivation has cut the amount of revenue earned by Colombian cartels “by more than one-third” since 2002.
A key component of Colombia’s strategy to combat coca production has been the use of aerial fumigation to kill coca crops. The fumigation has largely been funded through the bilateral “Plan Colombia” agreement, which in the future will take on “more of a state-strengthening [focus] and not so much on counter-narcotics efforts like fumigation,” U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg said in February.
During the visit Clinton, who will be accompanied by her husband, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, is expected to meet with President Uribe on Wednesday to discuss her nation’s bilateral agenda with Colombia, with a focus on security, drug trafficking, politics and the economy.