Trump rebukes drug war ally
BOGOTA, Colombia — U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to decertify Colombia as a partner in the war against drugs unless…
BOGOTA, Colombia — U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to decertify Colombia as a partner in the war against drugs unless the South American nation reverses a record surge in cocaine production.
The rebuke for Washington’s staunchest ally in Latin America came Wednesday in the White House’s annual designation of nations it deems major drug-producing or drug-transit zones.
Colombia, the source of 90 percent of the cocaine consumed in the U.S., has long been a fixture on the list, which was unchanged from last year. But not since the late 1990s, when contributions from the Cali cartel funded the campaign of Colombia’s then-President Ernesto Samper, has the country’s commitment to fighting narcotics trafficking been called into question by Washington.
Twenty-two countries were designated by the U.S. as major drug transit zones Wednesday, and only Venezuela and Bolivia were deemed once again not to be fulfilling their international obligations to curb drug production and trafficking. The leftist governments of both those nations are hostile to the U.S.
Yet, in a statement, Trump said he “seriously considered” also decertifying Colombia because of the “extraordinary” growth of coca cultivation and cocaine production to record levels over the past year.
He said he decided against such a designation because the Colombian armed forces are close law enforcement partners with the U.S. He also cited improving interdiction rates and the restarting of forced eradication efforts that were significantly curtailed in 2013, when President Juan Manuel Santos prioritized reaching a peace deal with leftist rebels heavily involved in the drug trade.
Two years later, Santos ended the aerial spraying of chemicals on illicit crops, a program that had been the backbone of almost two decades and $10 billion of U.S. counternarcotics work in Colombia.
But Trump warned that he would keep decertification as an “option” and that he expected Colombia to make “significant progress” in reducing coca cultivation and cocaine production.
Santos’ government said no other country has paid such a high price in terms of the loss of human life fighting drug-trafficking as Colombia, and that other countries, including the U.S., need to do more to address the problem as well. It said Colombia seizes 44 tons of cocaine for every ton that the U.S. has interdicted on its southern border with Mexico.
“Without a doubt, Colombia is the country that has had the biggest success and has most combatted drugs,” the government said in a statement Thursday. “Nobody has to threaten us to confront this challenge.”
Adam Isacson, an analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America, described Trump’s threat as a “huge mistake” that would likely reverberate throughout a region that has long resented the U.S. drug certification process as a throwback to the days of gunboat diplomacy.
“The message to the rest of the region is that no matter how many years you collaborate with the U.S., if you deviate from our preferred strategy for a moment, we’ll publicly humiliate you,” Isacson said. “They’re taking the bilateral relationship to its worst place in two decades.”
The drug certification process dates from the days of President Ronald Reagan’s war on drugs.
A Section on 09/15/2017
Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Trump rebukes drug war ally