Colombia’s vice president Oscar Naranjo will meet with his United States counterpart Mike Pence on Friday as part of a week-long visit to Washington.
Naranjo told El Tiempo newspaper that the meeting will focus on three areas in particular: “the fight against drugs and the need for it to be confronted and understood as an integral issue; the progress in the implementation of peace agreements; and Colombia’s role as a key strategic partner of the United States in the region.”
The meeting comes at a crucial juncture of relations between the two countries. US President Donald Trump recently threatened to decertify Colombia as a partner in the controversial war on drugs.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said the war on drugs is “probably more harmful than all other wars combined” when he picked up a Nobel peace prize last year.
Government officials have urged the US government to curb record drug consumption.
UN priority for Colombia
The Santos administration has intensified cooperation with the United Nations, which has insisted that rural development and crop substitution for coca-growing farmers is a better strategy.
This investment program is part of a peace process with the disarmed Marxist FARC guerrilla group after more than half a century of war, which has been an international priority over US drug policy.
The FARC controlled many of the neglected regions where the cultivation of coca, the base ingredient of cocaine, has been breaking records.
The US government has disassociated itself with the historic, but troubled process, and has promoted the forced eradication of coca.
At least nine farmers have died in clashes with police during these forced eradication operations, putting the peace process under pressure.
US policy and peace process
These conflicting priorities are likely to be food for debate between Pence and Naranjo, who urged to re-imagine the US’ drug policy in Colombia considering the human cost.
“We must stop looking at this issue as a simply statistical subject of cultivated hectares,” Naranjo told El Tiempo.
The former police general confirmed Colombia will forcibly eradicate 50,000 hectares of coca before December and remove 50,000 hectares more through voluntary substitution.
On Monday, Naranjo met with the interim head of the DEA, Robert Patterson, to reaffirm their “strong” and “effective” collaboration in the fight against drugs.
“We are talking about extradition, illicit crops, the pursuit of assets and assets of the mafia, and the need to control chemical precursors ,” he told reporters.
The Colombian VP will also meet with National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster and senators of both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.
Colombia and the US have been working together for decades to curb the production and supply of narcotics but almost to no avail.
To curb both crime and violence, Santos teamed up with the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime to implement a peace deal signed with the Marxist FARC guerrillas to seek a reduction in coca cultivation through rural development.
The United States, the world’s biggest consumer or Colombian cocaine, has refused to support these efforts and has insisted on forced eradication of coca crops.