Colombia’s anti-narcotics efforts will face cut backs under the new administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, senior officials confirmed Tuesday during a press briefing in Bogotá.
On the first day of a two day official visit by William Brownfield to Bogotá, the former Ambassador to Colombia (2007-2010) and current assistant secretary for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs told reporters that President Trump’s proposal is to slash foreign aid by 37% and that a return to aerial spraying of coca crops was not on the bilateral agenda.
President Juan Manuel Santos ordered a halt of aerial fumigation in 2015 amidst concerns that the main herbicide, glyphosate, causes cancer in humans.
As a close ally of the United States on anti-drug policies, the decision to stop fumigating large swathes of coca plantations has not affected a long term strategy among both nations regarding the war on drugs. Brownfield’s visit comes after the State Department released its annual International Narcotics Control Strategy report claiming that the country’s illegal crop almost doubled in 2015 to 159,000 hectares from 112,000 in 2014.
The department most affected by this increase is Cauca with 27,000 hectares, followed by Norte de Santander and Putumayo. According to the extensive report, several factors contribute to the surge in coca cultivation since 2014, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla urging coca farmers to plant more “motivated by the belief that the Colombian government’s post-peace investment and subsidies will focus on regions with the greatest quantities of coca.”
The report also claims that the Colombian government reduced its eradication operations in areas controlled by the FARC to lower the risk of armed conflict as both parties negotiated a final peace accord. The final peace accord between the Colombian government and FARC was signed last November.
In response to the sharp increase of the coca harvest, Colombia’s Minister of Defense Luis Carlos Villegas presented a plan to the visiting U.S. official to eradicate at least 50,000 hectares this year and replace another 50,000 with voluntary crop substitution programs.
Brownfield met with President Santos early Wednesday and reiterated the importance of bilateral efforts in the drug war fight, recognizing that interdiction of cocaine heading to the United States is also at a record high. “Our two nations enjoy an excellent relationship, and that is going to continue,” said Brownfield to the media.
Developed by Presidents Bill Clinton and Andrés Pastrana in 2000, “Plan Colombia” has given Colombia more than US $10 billion in counternarcotics aid.
Brownfield’s two day visit to Colombia includes Tumaco on the Pacific coast and its recently inaugurated Strategic Anti Drugs Operations Center.