Colombia will not get a respite with the War on Drugs despite another frontline with the fight against coronavirus. On June 1, same day that the nationwide lockdown is scheduled to enter a new phase according to the government, the U.S Army’s Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) will arrive in the country as part of a regional counter-narcotics operation by U.S Southern Command.
A company-sized unit has been assigned to Colombia to support security forces with logistics and intelligence gathering within so-called “Future Zones” defined by the Ministry of Defense. The 800-strong force will be deployed to Colombia for four months. “The mission of SFAB in Colombia is an opportunity to demonstrate our mutual commitment against drug trafficking and support regional peace, respect for sovereignty and the lasting promise to defend shared ideals and values,” writes U.S. Southern Commander Admiral Craig Faller in a U.S Embassy statement.
Minister of Defense Carlos Holmes Trujillo emphasized that “at no time will there be any transit of foreign troops or participation in military operations. Military operations are carried out exclusively by Colombian troops.” The presence of foreign military in a host country is part of long-standing bilateral agreements on security and cooperation, claims Holmes, yet the numbers of troops and length of stay have raised concerns among Congressional representatives that Colombia is being used as “transit” for a larger hemispheric operation against the Venezuelan regime of Nicolás Maduro.
After a surge in coca production since the signing of the 2016 Final Accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrilla, the government of President Iván Duque has pledged to eradicate manually 130,000 hectares this year and up from 98,000 the previous year. The U.S government has insisted that in order to reach objectives established by the government aerial spraying with glyphosate must be approved by Congress after lawmakers banned the method citing public health and environmental hazards.