The United States will support Colombia’s new counter-narcotics policy that puts more focus on crop restitution rather than aerial fumigation, said Colombia’s defense minister on Tuesday.
Colombia in September announced that it would begin a crop restitution program for coca farmers after it banned the use of glysophate in aerial fumigation, until earlier this year one of the main forms of combating the crop used for cocaine production.
The South American country’s Defense Minister, Luis Carlos Villegas, met with US drug czar William Brownfield on Monday and said afterwards he had succeeded in reeling in US support for the less repressive policy.
“We spoke about the new anti-drugs plan and all of its layers, from the eradication of illicit crops to… money laundering and transport,” claimed Villegas, adding that “this plan has received important support from the United States government, which is our principal ally in this field.”
Earlier this month, US Secretary of State John Kerry had already promised to divert US funds for counternarcotics programs to post-conflict programs that seek the effective restitution of coca crops for legal produce.
The objectives of the renewed joint efforts to curb drug trafficking include attempts to “decrease illicit crops, intensify air, ground and naval interdiction, decrease the public security alterations which has stemmed from organized crime, strengthen and modernize the judicial framework to deal with these phenomenons and finally, to add national and international resources,” said Villegas.
The strategy also considered the possibility of new commands to be put in place alongside the Military and the Police to intensify the offense in the provinces of Guaviare, Nariño, Antioquia and Norte de Santander, where activity is particularly alive. The amount of eradication teams is also hoped to increase from 16 to 60 by December 2016.
“A strong cooperation network is needed to fight a criminal network. The collaboration between Colombian and United States functionaries put in place to ensure the implementation of the law, is a strong pillar to defeat criminal networks, said US Coastguard Admiral Paul Zukunft in Bogota.
Colombia is the world’s largest cocaine producer in spite of decades-long international efforts to fight the illicit drug and curb the cultivation of the crop used to make cocaine.