BOGOTA – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson praised on Tuesday the progress made by the Colombian government in fighting illicit coca cultivation and cocaine production in the country.
Tillerson made the remarks during a joint press conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on the first day of his visit to Colombia.
“The president gave me a very good report of the steps that are being taken and progress that is being made. We are quite encouraged by what we hear and we will continue to work with Colombia to support these efforts,” Tillerson said after his meeting with Santos.
He said that the anti-drug fight was “a shared challenge” for Colombia and the US, and that they would continue to work together “to undermine the trans-criminal organizations” which are “devastating” for citizens of both countries.
On Feb. 2, US President Donald Trump threatened to cut financial aid to countries that do not help prevent drugs being smuggled into the US.
During a visit to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Trump asked about the roles Colombia and Mexico were playing in the fight against the trafficking of drugs such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines.
CBP’s Acting Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan told the president that there had been “a significant improvement in our dialogue and in our effectiveness with Mexican law enforcement and the military in the last year,” without mentioning Colombia.
Since Trump took office in January 2017, the US has asked Colombia to combat its drug trafficking problems and warned of potential bilateral problems if the surge in illicit coca cultivation was not properly tackled.
Tillerson attributed the increase in coca cultivation in 2016 to the peace talks between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), but stressed that the historic peace agreement signed in 2016 that led to FARC’s disarmament had allowed for counter measures to be taken.
Santos said that between 2017-2018, 54,000 hectares of coca had been forcibly eradicated.
The Colombian president added that the government aims to eradicate 115,000 hectares of coca by the end of 2018.