Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos will meet with his US counterpart Donald Trump later this month amid increased American pressure on the South American country for a rapid solution to cocaine trafficking.
The two leaders called and discussed the ongoing crisis in Colombia’s neighbor Venezuela and increasingly disintegrated efforts to curb cocaine trafficking from Latin America.
According to the Colombian President’s Office, Trump and Santos agreed to personally meet while the Colombian President is in New York for the UN General Assembly between September 19 and 23.
In Friday’s call, Trump “stressed the importance of Colombia doing its utmost to eliminate the production and trafficking of illegal drugs.”
US Vice-President Mike Pence said on a visit to that “our greatest concern, as President Trump discussed with you at the White House — and we discussed again today — is the dramatic increase in cocaine production, which has now reached an all-time high in Colombia. This worsening crisis requires swift action to protect the people of both our countries.”
Washington DC’s impatience was later stressed by its ambassador to Bogota, Kevin Whitaker, who told Colombian newspaper El Espectador “the coca issue must be resolved, and quick.”
Production of coca has been going up for years and last year spiked with 50% while also the price of the base ingredient of cocaine went up in what appears to be a boom of cocaine consumption.
According to the United States, more than 90% of the cocaine consumed in the North American country originates from Colombia. How much of Colombia’s cocaine is bound to the US, the world’s largest consumption market, is unknown.
As part of a peace deal with Marxist FARC guerrillas, Colombia has embarked on a voluntary substitution plot for coca farmers with the United Nations after decades of joint attempts with the US to forcibly remove coca.
The strategy to eradicate coca by aerial spraying, however, has fallen out of grace in Colombia where rural inhabitants have complained about health effects and the destruction of normal crops.
The UN has also pressured Colombia to abandon the US-led strategy.
Santos went as far as telling the UN last year the US-led “war on drugs” was “possibly more harmful than all other wars combined.”
During Pence’s visit, Colombian Vice-President Oscar Narajo said that since embarking on the new strategy early this year, the Colombian government and the UN have eradicated some 40,000 hectares of coaine of the 146,000 registered by the international organization last year.
However, the efforts to curb coca cultivation have long been met with resistance from drug traffickers, who promote the sowing of new coca fields while others are destroyed.