Colombia and the United States reached an agreement on Thursday to strengthen their cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking. The two countries hope to achieve a 50 percent reduction in cocaine production and cultivation of its raw material coca by 2023.
The US provides military and economic aid to Colombia to fight the illegal drug industry. Between 2000 and 2015, the South American nation received about $10 billion for military and social programs.
The fresh agreement was made in the VII High-Level Dialogue, an ongoing bilateral meeting between the two nations. US Under Secretary of Political Affairs Thomas Shannon and Colombian Minister of Exterior, Maia Angela Holguin announced the bilateral pact as a five-year "comprehensive anti-narcotics strategy" to reduce cocaine production and coca cultivation.
According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), production of cocaine in Colombia reached 910 metric tons by the end of 2016, while cultivation of coca leaf covered 188,000 hectares. The coca leaf is the main raw material in the illicit drug. It is turned into cocaine using various chemicals and fertilizers.
Upon taking office, President Donald Trump had urged Colombia to do "everything possible" to eliminate drug trafficking and had warned of "bilateral problems" if the South American nation did not reduce the illicit cultivation of coca.
However, Thomas Shannon delivered a more positive message from Trump during Thursday's bilateral meeting. The American president said that the US is "Colombia's best friend and ally."
Shannon did not provide details on how the 5-year reduction goal would be achieved, but he praised the new agreement, saying that both countries "continue to unite" and that with this cooperation they could "one day make Colombia a drug-free country."
The United States also pledged to increase academic exchanges between the two countries, to help Colombia on environmental and human rights issues, and to deepen their relationship in the energy sector.
jcg/ (Reuters, dpa, EFE)