United States President Donald Trump urged Colombia’s government to resume the aerial fumigation of coca on Thursday as he certified the country as cooperative with Washington DC’s counternarcotics efforts.
In the White House’s annual memorandum on major drug producing or trafficking countries, Trump said that “President Ivan Duque has made early progress in rolling back the record-high coca cultivation and cocaine production levels inherited from his predecessor,” former President Juan Manuel Santos.
Trump’s endorsement of Duque is a 180-degree turn from comments made in March, when he claimed that “more drugs are coming out of Colombia right now than before he was president.”
The two hard-liners have been struggling to execute an effective counternarcotics policy that would effectively reduce the use of cocaine in the United States, the world’s largest consumption market of the popular illicit drug, and production in Colombia that exported more cocaine in 2018 than ever, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Colombia’s potential cocaine exports
Source: UNODC / National Police
The US President expressed his support for Duque’s attempts “to restart a Colombian-led aerial eradication program” that is widely considered ineffective, and a hazard to both public health and the environment.
This progress needs to continue and expand, and my Administration will work with our Colombian partners to reach our joint 5-year goal to reduce coca cultivation and cocaine production by half by the end of 2023.
US President Donald Trump
Duque has gone at length to align his policies with that of his erratic US counterpart, but is held back by the courts and Congress, where his government coalition is in the minority.
The Constitutional Court last month upheld strict 2017 conditions that would allow the resumption of aerial fumigation using glyphosate, a herbicide that is increasingly considered carcinogenic.
Duque has said he has been moving forward to resume aerial spraying, but his administration reportedly has yet to begin complying with any of the court’s conditions in order to be able to do so legally.
The Colombian president’s opponents in Congress proposed legislation earlier this month to ban glyphosate and effectively force Duque to follow the counternarcotics recommendations of the UNODC rather those of the US government.
The UN’s counternarcotics agency for years has dismissed the repressive strategies preferred by Duque and Trump, and is cooperating with Colombian authorities to reduce drug trafficking through crop substitution and rural development programs, a strategy widely considered more effective.