Colombia struggles to fight the illegal narcotics trade

Global Business

Colombia has long been considered the U.S.’s closest ally in South America. But remarks made by President Donald Trump has caused controversy in this Latin American nation.

CGTN’s Michelle Begue report.

Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump criticized Colombia, a key U.S. ally, harboring nearly 1.5 million people that have fled from Venezuela.

“I’ll tell you something, Colombia, your new president of Colombia a really good guy,” Trump said. “I met him we had him at the White House he said how he’s going to stop drugs more drugs are coming out of Colombia right now than before he was president, so he has done nothing for us.”

The remarks were considered a surprise attack on Colombia’s President Ivan Duque. Colombia’s Foreign Minister, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, quickly responded in a government video “efforts to contain the illicit crops have intensified on all fronts.”

But government statistics said the administration is failing on most efforts to reduce narcotrafficking. Cocaine seizures and forced eradication of illicit crops dropped when compared to the same period the year before.

According to one drug expert, there are several reasons for Colombia’s failing war on drugs that includes strategies implemented by the previous Colombian administration.

“There was one big mistake and even former president Santos admits it,” Augusto Perez, director of Nuevos Rumbos said. “He suggested to farmers that they would receive subsidies if they stopped producing coca, but what they did was increase cultivation to receive help.”

After taking office, President Ivan Duque pledged a new war on drugs. The plan included aerial spraying with glyphosate to eliminate coca crops. The herbicide was outlawed in 2015 because of health risks.

If statistics are any indication, developing an effective drug policy is complex. According to government experts for every three hectares of coca that are eradicated, one hectare is replanted.

“Especially in Colombia where there is impossible geography,” Perez said. “We can’t build roads in the Putumayo and Amazon regions, so the problem for farmers is, what they produce can’t leave the region and can’t be sold. Narcos solve this issue because they have planes and so they can buy crops more easily.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has since tried to smooth over U.S.-Colombia relations after Trump’s remarks with a phone call to Colombia’s president on Monday. The two discussed joint actions in reducing coca cultivation and cocaine production while increasing the fight against drug trafficking networks.