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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a joint press conference with Colombian President Gustavo Petro
Blinken said that the US strongly supports 'the holistic approach the Petro administration is taking' on drugsImage: Guillermo Legaria/Getty Images
PoliticsColombia

Blinken discusses drug trafficking in Colombia

October 4, 2022

Top US diplomat Antony Blinken says the two sides are "largely in sync" in their approach to drug trafficking, but some differences remain.

https://p.dw.com/p/4HhqG

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Colombian President Gustavo Petro on Monday for talks on measures to tackle drug trafficking.

Colombia is the first stop on Blinken's weeklong tour of Latin America.

After his meeting with the Colombian president at the Casa Narino palace, Blinken said that the US strongly supports "the holistic approach the Petro administration is taking."

"On both the enforcement side but also on the comprehensive approach to the problem which is so necessary, I think that we're largely in sync," Blinken said. But there were no indications of new agreements on the issue.

Petro, in stark contrast to his predecessor, has initiated a policy to offer an olive-branch leftist guerrillas and drug-traffickers ­— as long as they lay down their weapons and cease illegal activities.

Fighting drug trade

Colombia is the world's leading cocaine producer, and the United States is its principal market.

Blinken said the Biden administration and Colombia's newly elected government would work together by sharing intelligence on drug trafficking and increasing maritime narcotics surveillance. The two countries are also collaborating on rural development programs.

Leftist former rebel Petro at the UN General Assembly last month called US-led efforts to curb drug trafficking "a failure." He denounced the punitive approach towards the drug trade most nations take, saying that it harms small farmers in developing nations. 

Colombian President Gustavo Petro speaks during a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken
Petro has advocated for rural coca farmers to be granted land titles so that they can be easily integrated into the legal economyImage: Guillermo Legaria/Getty Images

Petro has advocated for rural coca farmers to be granted land titles so that they can be easily integrated into the legal economy. He said the government plans to purchase arable land worth $7 to $14 billion (€7.12 to €14.23 billion) to redistribute to small farmers. He suggested US aid for this project.

Colombia's battle against cocaine production has been complicated by the arrival of several armed groups who have taken over the rural areas.

Petro also wants stricter action against white collar criminals profiting from drug trafficking, while dissuading law enforcement from harassing poor farmers cultivating coca for their livelihood.

The president said he also intends to manually destroy "industrial sized" coca fields run by organized crime.

Topics of immigration, Cuba raised

While talking about immigration the US secretary of state praised Petro's administration for housing more than two million displaced Venezuelans.

Colombia gives temporary protected status to Venezuelans for 10 years. Blinken called this  "a model for the region — indeed, a model for the world."

Petro also brought up the subject of the inclusion of Cuba on the US list of state sponsors of promoting terrorism.

"That is called an injustice and while in my opinion it isn't up to us, it should be corrected," he said.

Cuba facilitated peace talks between Colombia and the now demobilized FARC guerrillas in 2016.

Blinken continues trip of Latin America

The next stops on Blinken's Latin America are Chile and Peru, which also have relatively new leftist leaders.

On Wednesday, he will meet Chilean President Gabriel Boric, a 36-year-old former student protest leader who came to power in March. He is also scheduled to meet Peruvian President Pedro Castillo, a former union leader who is the son of peasant farmers, in Peru on Thursday and Friday.

The top items on Blinken's agenda include US concerns about democracy, immigration, human rights and climate change, according to the State Department.

ss/nm (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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